Graduation ceremonies and parties are in full swing across the UK. It’s lovely to walk around any university city and see all those caps, gowns and proudly-beaming students and parents. But now you’ve got that hard-earned certificate, what next?

If you’re off travelling or going on to further study – great, make the most of the experience. But, if you’re searching for your first graduate role, we can help.  After all, having worked hard for your degree, you don’t just want any old job – it has to be the right one.

Over 400,000 UK students will graduate this summer and it’s not unusual for companies to receive 80 or more applications for each graduate vacancy. The competition is fierce: one top tier bank hires only 2% of their 250,000 applicants. But, if you know how to market yourself, you’ve already got a head start on many of the other candidates.  

Take a few minutes to read these three practical tips.

dream graduate job, first graduate job

1: Work out what employers are looking for in a graduate CV

This depends on the role and industry sector. When we’ve helped our graduate clients secure jobs with top-tier firms, banks and the Big 4, we’ve found they need an impeccable academic record. That means at least a 2:1. Any extra academic achievements – scholarships or awards – you can highlight on your CV will be a big differentiator.  

If your academic record isn’t quite that stellar – don’t despair. There are lots of opportunities out there and we help graduates from all disciplines and universities secure their target role.  

On top of a degree, all graduate employers are looking for well-rounded candidates with broad extra-curricular achievements and work experience. I hear this time and again from every industry leader, from investment banking and management consulting to marketing, engineering and the public sector. Graduates without any outside interests or work experience are unlikely to be selected for the top graduate programmes.

Start pulling together notes of all your work experience. It doesn’t have to be high-level or glamorous. You’ll have learnt valuable skills in any part-time jobs or volunteering you’ve done. Then, look at any interesting activities – sports, hobbies, travels, involvement in university clubs and societies you’ve been involved with.  Pull out any achievements and highlights.

Take a careful look at some job ads that interest you. Where are the overlaps between your transferable skills and those listed in the person specification? Whether you’re working on your CV, covering letter, application form or LinkedIn profile, always be thinking about how you can demonstrate the competencies sought by your target employers.

2: Make sure your CV is professional – but not boring

A CV is a marketing document not just a tedious list of qualifications, experiences and clichés. It definitely needs to demonstrate transferable skills and show how you are a perfect fit for the role, with concrete examples, facts and figures. If you can also show some personality on your CV, you’ll stand out.

Your CV and covering letter should be company and role specific. The CV also needs to be keyword optimised and formatted to get past the ’CV Robots’ (ATS) and generate interviews. Avoid unusual designs, text boxes and quirky fonts because they increase the chance of your CV being automatically screened-out before it even gets in front of a human.

The same applies to your LinkedIn profile. It should be an interesting read, focused on achievements and results and keyword optimised. Remember, this isn’t Facebook or Instagram – your online brand should be as professional as your CV.

Finally, make sure all your marketing documents – CV, covering letters and LinkedIn profile – are checked (and checked again). Research suggests that 97% of hiring managers reject CVs on the basis of only two typos.

3: Don’t think you can just wing an interview, especially your first Graduate job interview

The biggest mistakes candidates make in interviews is not researching the company and not preparing for the type of questions they’re likely to be asked. Read up on everything you can find about the employer. Not just the obvious stuff on their website, but annual reports and media commentary.

For general ‘tell me about yourself’ style questions, prepare – and rehearse – your personal story. It’s your chance to shine, so make sure it’s succinct and relevant to the role. Depending on the job, you’re also likely to be asked technical questions or competency-based scenario questions (these often start with ‘tell me about a time when you…’). Again, preparation and practice are key.   

The graduate job hunt can feel daunting. But stay focussed, follow our tips and you’ll get there. And, remember, if you need any advice we have graduate packages and a team of experts to help you every step of the way.