How to Bulletproof Your Graduate CV for Hiring Managers in 2021

By jp4,

Why Is Crafting a Professional CV Important for Graduates?

Guest Blog Written by

WikiJobProviding Interview Tips & Practice Aptitude Tests since 2007!

Leaving university and entering the wide world of work can be daunting enough, but if you have studied for years to be the perfectly qualified candidate for the graduate programme that will kickstart your career, you want to be sure that your graduate CV does you justice.

Your graduate CV should be the greatest hits of your capabilities, work experience and qualifications, presented in an easy-to-read manner that summarises why you are the perfect candidate.

There are some problems that graduates can face when they are completing a CV, such as a lack of direct work experience, an overly generic document or too much irrelevant information. However, with the right strategy, these problems can be avoided.

If you are looking to the future and want to make sure that your CV shines among the other applicants, then following these tips will help.

10 Tips for Improving Your Graduate CV

1. Structure

Having the right structure for your CV is important. Recruiters will receive potentially hundreds of CVs for open graduate programmes – and they want to be able to find the information they need quickly.

This means you need to ensure that the details you are presenting are shared in a straightforward way.

No long paragraphs of dense and small print; instead, look to create short and to the point sentences. Bullet points are a great idea as lists are easier to read.

Make sure that your layout follows a straightforward structure – an introduction, which can be a summary of key skills and achievements, followed by an outline of relevant work history and details of study and qualifications.

Think about the font and point size too – fancy colours and elaborate fonts distract from the information you are trying to convey. Formatting is important.

Always remember that you are aiming for conciseness, not length. It is perfectly acceptable for a graduate CV to be just one A4 page long.

2. Tailor It to the Job Description

You are not a generic candidate – and your CV should not be generic either if you want to score that job.

When you are looking for a graduate role, you can find a lot of information about what the recruiters are looking for in terms of qualifications, skills, experience and aptitude.

This information should be used to tailor your CV – providing recruiters with all the information they need to see that you are the perfect candidate for them.

EY, for example, provides a comprehensive list of skills and attributes that it wants to see from graduate applicants, so a bit of research on the company will be really rewarding.

For example, if the job role requires someone good at people management, then highlighting your competency in working alone will not be relevant.

3. Achievements, Not Duties

A laundry list of all the responsibilities you had in a role is not helpful. If you worked as a customer associate in a retail environment, it will be obvious that one of your duties will have been serving customers.

What you want to focus on is what you achieved during this employment. So, if you managed to increase sales on a particular item by 25%, mention that instead.

Focus on what you have accomplished, not what you had to do.

4. Include Metrics

A great way to hone in your achievements is to provide metrics and statistics.

Numbers really help to drive home your successes, so if you can provide data in your CV, this is a great option.

This might be in work experience, as in the example above, but it can also be in your academic achievement. If you scored in the 95th percentile in a test or exam, provide that detail (if it is relevant to the job description).

5. Avoid Cliches

It might seem like a good idea to encourage a recruiter to choose you by describing yourself as hardworking and reliable, but you can bet that they have heard this from all the other candidates applying for that position.

Cliches are boring and overplayed – and in most cases are seen as just space-fillers rather than important information for the recruitment team.

6. Include Voluntary Work Experience

One of the common stumbling blocks for recent graduates is the lack of relevant work experience.

If you have been lucky enough to complete an internship in your chosen industry, that should provide a wealth of examples you can use – but if not, there are other things that you can use.

Voluntary work is still work experience, so if you volunteered as part of the Student Union or were involved in any events, you can use this here.

In some cases, any work experience that you might have had, even a summer job in a local supermarket, can have relevance for a professional graduate CV – it just needs some creative thinking.

7. Include Hobbies and Interests

While a good recruitment process aims to remove bias and ensure that the best candidates are chosen, hobbies and interests can still have value when added to your CV.

You can demonstrate your uniqueness, especially if you have an unusual hobby like falconry or an interest in baking – and there might be some experience or competencies that you can use as examples in your CV too.

  1. Look for Professional Development Opportunities

Filling gaps in your knowledge or experience might not be necessary if you can leverage experience from other things, like taking a gap year to travel or work abroad, for example.

However, if you know that the graduate opportunities in the industry you are excited about need specific skills that you do not possess, then why not look at online courses.

You might also be able to find internships or voluntary experience opportunities in the industry – and whether paid or unpaid, the experience will help you understand not only what the job is actually like, but also give examples needed to complete that CV.

9. Use Professional Language

In any correspondence with a company, especially regarding a job role, professional language is important.

A great way to make sure that you are using appropriate language is to mirror what is used in the job description.

This can be down to specific words used and include phrasing specific to the employer or the role – and this can help you hit the right note in terms of tone, but also ensure that your experience and qualifications match what they are looking for.

10. Spellcheck

If you have created a perfectly structured, informative and tailored CV for your desired graduate role, the last thing you want to do is send it to a recruiter without checking for errors.

Check for spelling and grammatical errors and ensure that the layout is clear and easy to read.

You have spent the time crafting this document, so don’t send it on before ensuring that it is the perfect representation of your skills, attributes, qualifications and experience.


Your CV is a summary of who you are in a professional capacity, and with some care, it can be a simple document that contains all the relevant information that makes you an ideal candidate for a role in your chosen industry.

While it might seem laborious and time-consuming to create a new CV for each application, remember that you can make things easier for yourself by making a master list of all qualifications, all competencies and all experiences that you have, so you can use the most relevant in the bespoke CV you are creating.

Tell the recruiter your story through your CV and give them the information they need to make the right decision about your application.

You can find more information about careers as a student or recent graduate of Staffordshire University on the Careers Studio Blog, along with links to workshops and career fairs locally.

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