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Head of Graduate team, Soraya Pugh, speaks to CITY A.M. - Pushing your CV ahead of the rest

October 19, 2011

​Donata Huggins asks FreshMinds how it sifts through thousands of graduate resumes:

Submitting your CV to a recruitment agency can be a depressing business when you’re looking for your first big job in the City. You’re up against thousands and thousands of people, the majority of whom will never make the cut. Anyone who has ever submitted one will have wondered how the agency screens out candidates. We decided to find out how: we put three graduate CVs in front of Soraya Pugh at FreshMinds Talent and asked her to sort the wheat from the chaff.

“We’re a niche recruiter,” Pugh explains, “we’re focused on finding Britain’s next business leaders, so we look for exceptional graduate candidates.” This means the consultancy holds the academic bar high. One of the CVs we showed Pugh did not offer an undergraduate degree from Oxbridge or a redbrick university, so was automatically ruled out. Regardless of the fact that the candidate had gone on to get a Masters in finance from Queen Mary University in London.

With one CV down, Pugh said there was room to work with the other two, but each had their own problems. The first – while offering impressive work experience – failed to demonstrate any evidence of City know-how. Pugh says: “This is a really common problem for arts grads, they would benefit from using their extracurricular interests to demonstrate some knowledge. Simply listing an interest in the financial papers, keeping a hobby trading portfolio or taking a free online Excel course could really help these people.”

The final CV, despite making the cut on great academics and stacks of City sophistication, could have been improved by better-targeted work experience descriptions.

“City employers love numbers. Candidates should write down the size of the budgets they managed in university societies, percentages of increased sales at part time jobs. Just think how much more powerful ‘increased sales by 30 per cent above target sounds than ‘exceeded sales target.’”


The standard format works best: education first, then work experience, and finish off with extracurricular.

Keep it to one page: You don’t need to list everything, give the agency a snapshot of you. Soraya Pugh says: “One page gives the reader an impression of the whole person at one glance.”

Save precious space by cutting off your references and the breakdown of your university grades. If the employer is interested in you, they will request that information at a later stage.

Always use bullet points to describe the skills you gained in each job. It is much clearer and easier to read.

You can read the article here.

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