You’ll never get a second chance to make a good first impression. When it comes to getting a job, you might think that means mastering your handshake, or perfecting your body language for an interview - but all that is fruitless without a first-class CV. Your resume is what’s going to get you a foot in the door, and with masses of applicants for graduate jobs, you’re going to need one impressive boot in there to stand out from the crowd.
Whether you’re going in for a one-off role at a small business, or applying for something more in-depth, like a Npower Graduate training scheme, the way you put yourself across in writing is crucial. Before you go drafting up a masterpiece, remember that it’s not just about content. It’s unlikely a hiring manager is going to have time to thoroughly read through your work - in fact they decide in just a few seconds whether yours is making round two or going straight in the reject bin (brutal, but the truth!).
Your credentials are just one ingredient in the perfect potion - so what else do you need to be the crème de la crème of the CV crop?
Simplicity is key
We’ve established just how quickly the HR department determine your CV as a yes or no, so the last thing they want to see is a complicated history of your life. White space is just as important as the copy, and concise, well-formatted layouts are much more likely to catch a hiring manager’s eye than cluttered details. Put yourself in their shoes: they just want to see the relevant skills put nice and clearly in front of them, without wasting time scouring paragraphs.
Be a storyteller
In order to jump out from the rest of the bland CVs - with their recitations of standard industry phrases and keyword skills - yours is going to need some colour. And how else better to do that than tell a story? Don’t just describe what you did in your past jobs; explain how you made a difference: the situations you’ve faced, actions you’ve taken and results you’ve made. Our minds are naturally tailored to tune into something with an engaging beginning, middle and end; much more so than a bog-standard CV.
Show your love for the company
You’re never going to get anywhere if you send the same CV to everyone; you must tailor each one to the company you want to work for. Once you have a core CV, you can edit and add relevant skills and goals, catering them to the intended industry and cutting out irrelevant bits. Do your research and you’ll know exactly what your employer wants to hear.
Be billboard bright
Once you’ve researched your intended company, it’s much easier to jump out at them. Always put your most important points at the top - if your header is great, the employer is likely to read on. Define precisely who you are and the position you have in mind, being hard-hitting and concise, just like a billboard. You have mere seconds to shine out, don’t waste them.
Be professional, but don’t be stiff
“Be yourself” is wonderful advice in countless situations, and it’s great advice for writing a CV, too. However, it should be taken with a pinch of salt. Employers don’t really care about your hobbies and interests (unless they’re absolutely relevant), especially when it comes to graduate jobs. What they do want to see, however, are glimpses of your personality in your writing. Formal business writing tends to wipe away everything that’s unique about you, so while it’s definitely advantageous to slip a few buzzwords in there, never forget, a human will be reading it.
Beware of the red squiggle
This is an obvious, but vital point - spell check is your friend. Spelling and grammar is crucial when it comes to CVs. Think about it - if you’re a hiring manager, stuck between two applications, and one hasn’t bothered to fine-comb their final CV for errors - your decision is made for you. If spelling and grammar isn’t your forte, you can always ask a friend to go through it - two heads are better than one, after all.
Go for graphics
Depending on the graduate jobs you’re applying for, this creative take on the standard black and white CV can propel you from the rest of the bunch. Sure, you might have the most desirable qualifications; but if an employer is looking for someone creative for an art/design job - how do they know without seeing your work for themselves?
Smash it with a cover letter
Like yin goes with yang, and fish goes with chips; no CV is complete without a covering letter. Always try to address the employer at hand, even if it means contacting the company to find out - it’ll make a huge difference to your application. This is your chance to delve deeper into the specific position you’re applying for: explain why you’re perfect for the role, what your future career plans are (specific to the position at hand) and most importantly, why they should consider your application.
9. Think like an employer
What can you do for my company? What have you done before? Can you do it again? Always remember who you’re writing for, and what particular reasons they should hire you. Why do you stand out from the crowd? What’ve you done to shine out? Lay it all out crystal clear, and be sure to avoid fancy fonts. Typefaces such as Georgia or Times New Roman are perfect for CVs; Comic Sans, on the other hand, will send potential employers running!
10. Clean up your CV regularly
Your CV is like a plant: you must water it regularly to keep it fresh and prevent it from aging. Don’t list every job you’ve had since college - it’s not necessary. Instead, keep everything relevant and up-to-date, decluttering complicated career summaries and backing up the important stuff with numbers. Avoid long-winded “me” focused intros and get straight to the point: your future employer (and your future self) will thank you for it.