It’s finals time and understandably it’s tricky to think about anything else when your stress levels are through the roof and the timetable of exams is relentless. I’m sure the last thing you want to do is write your CV, after three years or more of hard study (and probably partying) before you sit your last paper. But reality is calling, and if you haven’t already, right now is when you need to start making your first tentative steps towards your post-uni life. So while you wait to get your results in July, get cracking on crafting your perfect CV to get you one step onto the career ladder – and closer to your dream job. If you had a CV before – shred it and put it in the recycling. You need to start from scratch.
Don’t worry – it’s easy to make mistakes on what’s likely to be your first proper CV. Just remember that actually, there’s no such thing as the completely perfect resume – writing CVs is an art as well as a science.
But you can get as close as is humanly possible to ticking all the boxes recruiters are looking for if you follow these CV tips below…
Start by using the right keywords for the role you are targeting to get past the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and in front of a real person. Recruitment databases use many different algorithms, but they all rely on candidates sending user-friendly CV templates and titles with relevant keywords. Basically, you need to make it easy for people to find you.
Look at job descriptions and online jobsites to identify the best keywords for the sector you’re looking at and the specific position you’re interested in, then scatter these liberally throughout your CV. It helps to have a ‘key skills’ section to make sure they’re all there.
Make sure you understand what your best assets are and how they relate to the role you’re applying for. Don’t just put down your job history with a list of responsibilities. Identify your competencies, then think of ways in which you can illustrate them. Maybe ask your closest friends to honestly tell you what they think you excel at. Tell them to hold nothing back!
4. Write a great profile
This is basically your sales pitch and is often the ‘make-or-break’ element, given how little time most recruiters have to read the CVs of each candidate. What’s your USP? What sets you apart from the competition? What are the things you’ve done professionally and personally that you’re most proud of? Get it all down.
5. Tell your story
Use strong, active verbs in the past tense to describe your professional experience to date in the first of two distinct sections. Firstly, an overview of what you were hired to do and your career trajectory, no matter how small you think the job was – whether a Saturday job, part time bar work or something more vocational. Think scope, scale and context. It’s vital to include internships too.
Next, write between two and four points about your achievements – these can be stories about how you added value (you sold more Jägerbombs in the student union bar than anyone else etc) and ways in which your employer benefited from paying you to be around. Measure the results as much as you can, preferably with specific values or percentages. Make sure you include relevant skills gained from your degree too – you haven’t just spent years of your life for nothing.
7. Keep education simple
Only mention courses you completed successfully and make sure professional training and development is relevant and succinct. If something didn’t work out, or you dropped out or failed, DON’T put it on your CV.
8. Keep extra-curricular stuff relevant
It’s great if you can garland your CV with unusual or high achieving activities. Well done on that bronze medal! However, if your preferred activity outside work is socialising, gaming or sitting on the sofa watching the TV, probably best to leave it off. Be active and show some personality!
9. Length and format
Keep it one page if you can (especially for professional services and finance), two pages MAX. Less implies you’ve no life experience, too long, and you’re unable to communicate succinctly or you’re just showing off! It must look great in print, so sort your fonts (sans serif – ideally 10/10.5pt) and ensure it all looks neat and tidy with consistent spacing.
Finally, make sure you tailor your CV for each and every position you apply for. After all, you’re an individual who deserves the best start in your working life, right?
So make sure you treat each application in isolation and give it the love it deserves. And when you’ve got your new CV sorted the interviews will roll in. You’ll be first class in getting interviews and that job you’ve always dreamed of…
– Huff Post