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The 10 Commandments of the graduate CV

There are a plethora of templates out there that promise the perfect CV structure. Although despite this, sadly the résumé holy grail has mostly been lost to the overwhelmingly creative.

With thousands of graduates entering the market each year, you want to stand out from the crowd, but you should do this in the right way. Let your experience and achievements show your skills, not an overkill of buzz words and questionable formatting.

When looking for someone to fill a position, you can look at hundreds of CVs, with increasing difficulty, for the necessary information. As a general rule, the person looking at a good CV should be able to glance at it and, in two minutes, know what questions to ask and what your skillset is. Your CV is a snapshot – a condensed version of you that should make the hiring party scrabble to pick up the phone and call you straight away. It’s not meant to read like Shakespeare, and there are some pitfalls that should be avoided at all costs.

With the combined experience of many hiring heads and professional resume hunters, we have condensed the 50+ gripes from CV browsing to present the 10 Commandments to perfecting your CV:

  • Take away the face. No selfies, mugshots, power stances. While a photo is compulsory for some European CVs, with the spotlight currently on subconscious bias it’s definitely a dying trend.
  • Quantify, quantify, quantify. How many people did you call for that University fundraising project? How many lines of data did you crunch? What percentage did you increase sales or membership? Include that information.
  • Don’t try to schmooze the recruiter. The hiring manager or recruiter will never be a ‘hero-seeker’. Your cover letter should be direct and tailored for each application, not a meandering stroll through the annals of history.
  • No funky shapes, fonts, colours or graphs. Formatting your CV is not the same as choosing your Myspace background. Choose a structure for bold and italics, size 12, and stick to it. No comic sans ever.
  • One page. One page to rule them all; one page to find them. Or two; two works. Keep it concise and use a few well-chosen examples which demonstrate your experience.
  • Check your final version. And then double check it. Seeing your tutor’s/mum’s notes in the margins of your document questions how much of it is actually you. Silly spelling mistakes could be the only thing between you and the next person.
  • It’s seduction, not harassment. Give just enough detail to prompt the questions you want to answer in the interview.
  • Punctual. Motivated. Diligent. All good words, but what do they actually communicate about you? Instead of the overused adjectives, fill your CV with verbs that really show that you’re all of the above; e.g. researched, analysed, coordinated, reported.
  • Beware of the bells and whistles. Extracurricular information is great, if it’s relevant. You completely organised a charity trip up Kilimanjaro? Amazing! Elaborate about the skills you obtained from this. You like gummy bears and watching football? Leave it out.
  • In the immortal words of the Black Eyed Peas: Don’t lie. Stretching the truth in any way will only get you in an awkward situation somewhere down the career path. It also may mean that you end up in a role that you are not equipped and not suited for.

So there you have it; a power CV checklist to live by. The key is simplicity and letting your experience speak for itself.

Check out our useful CV template here.

If you are after more advice from CV formatting to interview preparation, look out for more tip and tricks and join the network for access to expert career guidance from the Freshminds’ Candidate Managers.