Does the perfect graduate CV exist?

Realistically, there’s no such thing as the perfect CV. Graduate CV writing is an art, and is an extremely subjective process about which industry professionals frequently disagree.

We’ve used ‘How to Write the Perfect Graduate CV’ as the title of this article primarily because it’s snappy, but also because it’s a popular phrase that graduates search the internet for – and it might even be how you ended up here.

Similar thinking applies to graduate CV writing itself. You need to make it easy for people to find you, and you need to make it succinct, effective and straightforward.

But a better title for this article may well be…

10 Tips to Writing a Graduate CV

There will be over 36 million graduates in the UK this year. That’s a lot of competition in the job market. And with the number of people graduating only getting higher, you’ll want to ensure that you really stand out from the crowd when your turn comes to secure your dream job.

That said, here are five of our most effective graduate CV writing tips to help you get started on writing your perfect CV. (We’ll share 5 more tips later this month, so check back).


1. Use Keywords

Start by using the right keywords to sneak past the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Recruitment databases use many different algorithms, but they all rely on candidates using standard CV templates and titles with good keyword population.

2. Research

Look at job descriptions and online job sites to identify the most relevant keywords for your sector, such as investment banking or law, and the position you’re going for, then scatter these throughout your CV. If you’re struggling to fit them all into your previous roles and experience, you might want to add a ‘key skills’ section so you can cover them all.

3. Follow a plan

Make sure you understand what your strengths are, and that they relate to the role(s) you wish to apply 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 and tailor them to the job you’re applying for.

You’ll need specific examples to call upon at the interview stage, so you might as well make a note of them in the process and add some relevant ones to your CV.

4. Write a great profile

This is your business case, and is often a ‘make-or-break’ element of the CV, given how little time most recruiters allow per candidate. Do you have a unique selling point? What sets you apart from the competition? What are the things you’ve done at work that you’re most proud of?

Think of this section as your ‘elevator pitch’ in selling yourself and skills to someone.

5. Tell your story

Use strong, active verbs in the simple past tense and describe your professional experience in two distinct sections. First, an overview of what you were hired to do, and then your career trajectory at the firm. Think scope, scale and context.

6. Results-focussed

Next, write four to eight bulleted achievements. These are stories about how you specifically added value, or 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.

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, you dropped out, or you failed, keep it entirely off your CV.

8. Keep extra-curricular relevant

It’s great if you can differentiate your CV with unusual or high-achieving activities. Well done on that silver medal! However, if your hobbies outside work are going to the local bar and binge-watching Netflix – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it’s probably best to leave those off your CV…

9. Triple check

Make sure there are no typos. Apparently 97% of hiring managers reject on the basis of two typos. These kinds of mistakes are a clear window into the quality of work you’re likely to do once employed, so there really should be no excuse for making avoidable mistakes.

If you’re getting to the stage where you’re word blind and you’ve looked over it too many times, ask a trusted friend or relative to look over it for you.

10. Ask a graduate CV writing expert

If writing your own CV from scratch is too daunting or if you just haven’t got the time, contact the expert graduate CV writers at City CV for help.

Find expert graduate CV writers

Still concerned about the quality of your CV even after fine-tuning it? At City CV, we are proud to offer an award-winning CV writing service that will help you get ahead of the crowd and create a sense of confidence that you will take with you up to interview level.

Find out more about our graduate CV writing service.

Join our next webinar on June 30th at 12.30pm. Find out more and sign up for ‘Get Job Ready: Creating a Winning Graduate CV’.