CVs and job application

Making an impression at an interview is a great step towards getting a job, but first you have to make an impression with your CV. That means if your CV is dull, full of mistakes or doesn’t tell a story about you, then you might end up being overlooked and won’t even get as far as an interview.

Resumes can take as much planning and preparation as an essay or project write up. Here we cover the basics of how to tackle online applications, structure a graduate CV and put together a covering letter. Maybe you’ve got some gaps in your background, don’t know how to deal with your extracurricular activities, or you’re stuck in dissertation writing mode and can’t fit everything on two sides of A4? Find tips to highlight your best self and writing advice to showcase your skills without wasting space.


Writing CVs for different types of graduate jobs

Whether your target is a graduate scheme with an investment bank or a vacancy for a graduate managing a small business write a CV that is right for the job that you are looking for.

First of all, you need to understand the different types of CV for graduates. There are two major types of CVs.

  1. The traditional CV – sells your track record and

  2. The skills-based CV – sells your potential


1. The traditional CV

These are the widely used CVs. It is text-based, clearly laid out and follows a classic structure, name at the top, references at the bottom, etc. and it shouldn’t be more than two pages at the most.
So what exactly do you include in this type of CV?


i. Personal details

Your personal details are always on top of your CV. At least state your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, marital status, nationality, date of birth and place of birth. Nowadays it is usual, at least, if you are using it in a professional way, to add your LinkedIn and Twitter account.


ii. Studies

 State all your relevant studies and courses that you have taken. Start with the last study you were doing or all still doing and work in a chronological way back. State the name of the educational institution, diplomas/degrees you have obtained and the dates.


iii. Work experience

Write your work experience and employment history, again in reverse chronological order. Start with your present or most recent position, and work backwards. For each position, describe your major duties and achievements, beginning each point with an action verb (e.g. 'Achieved', 'Increased', 'Won'. Keep to the point and stressed what you've achieved. Remember to keep your career goals in mind as you write and as you describe your duties, emphasize those which are most related to your desired job.


iv. Knowledge of languages

In your CV, state what languages you speak and for every language indicate a level (in writing and orally) the best lay out is as follows: fluent, good, moderate for oral skills and good, moderate for writing skills.


v. Interests and other activities

Lastly, state all issues you think are important but have not shown up in your CV yet. Think about hobbies, interests and other relevant topics that say something about you. Do not forget to state your other activities, if you have done any administrative functions or voluntary work, you state this as well of course. Use the last part of your CV to make it as personal as possible.


2. The skills-based CV

If you want to draw more attention to the skills you have developed than to the events that have made up your life, then perhaps consider constructing a skills-based CV.
These CVs often include a personal statement or career objective near the beginning. For example: ‘Motivated and academically gifted chemical engineer seeking to use his industrial experience in a technical sales career’. Only do it if you feel comfortable with approach. The rest of the CV must contain considerable evidence to back up any such assertions.
Another common feature of this type of CV is including a list of key achievements. Only do this if you feel that it's the most effective way to package your message. The main problem with these CVs is that they can run the risk of sounding phony or pompous if badly composed.

  • Write your name and contact details at the top.

  • This type of CV is well suited to people starting out in their careers, so you may want to state your job search objective clearly.

  • Write between three to five separate paragraphs, each one focusing on a particular skill or accomplishment, and each one with a relevant heading.

  • List these 'functional' paragraphs in order of importance, with the one most related to your career goal at the top.

  • Within each functional area, emphasize the most relevant accomplishments or results produced.

  • Add in a brief paragraph showing your work experience after the last functional area, giving dates, employer and job titles only.

  • Include your education in a separate section at the bottom of the CV, again in reverse chronological order.

General tricks and tactics for a great graduate CV

  • Give the most space to the most important facts of your life, be they part-time jobs or degree course modules.

  • Make sure you can account for any chronological gaps in your CV – you may get some awkward questions otherwise.

  • Concentrate on your personal contribution to whatever it is you're writing about and stress achievements and outcomes.

  • Don't waffle! Include only relevant information, but take care to explain yourself clearly. If the employer has provided any guidance on length, make sure you meet the requirements. The standard length of a CV in the UK is two full pages, but this may vary internationally.

  • If you're e-mailing your CV, give it a sensible name – your own is always a good choice – not just 'CV.doc'.


Top tips to prepare your cover letter

Your cover letter gives you an opportunity to expand on things you were unable to in your CV. So we’ve listed top tips on how to make the most of writing your cover letter.

  1. Keep it short and sharp
    Ensure you have researched the company and job role properly and that you are able to portray this knowledge in your cover letter. However, make sure your letter is concise and you’re not rambling on about why you should have the job.

  2. Adjust your writing style
    A good cover letter is written in a formal, professional style, but not too formal that it’s difficult to read. Make sure the letter fits the style of the organization and job role you are applying to.

  3. First paragraph
    Start your cover letter briefly explaining who you are, the role you are applying for, and where you found the job vacancy advertised. Don’t include too much information in the first paragraph as this information is detailed later on in your cover letter.

  4. Second paragraph
    In this paragraph detail why you have an interest in the job role and any background knowledge which will support this.

  5. Third paragraph
    This is where you explain what skills you have, the qualifications which specifically apply to the job role, and what you can offer to the employer. It is important you don’t repeat yourself from what you’ve written in your CV!

  6. Conclude your cover letter thanking the employer for their time and mention that your CV and references are attached (if applicable).

  7. Proof read
    Grammatical errors in a cover letter give off a bad first impression and can make the difference between you or another candidate being selected. It’s a very simple thing but will make a big difference!