10 Things To Avoid In A Graduate CV

By Andrew Arkley on 22-06-2018

Writing a CV as a recent graduate can be overwhelming - you’ve spent three years studying a subject and now need to summarise what you learnt in a couple of pages. To help you cut it down, we’ve chosen 10 things you should avoid on your graduate CV.

1. Focusing on education

School and university have been your main focus for the past 17 years but now it’s time to start thinking about the world of work. Writing an academic biography is an important thing to avoid on your graduate CV. If you don’t have much work experience to talk about, emphasise how your degree has helped you develop important industry skills like giving presentations and working in a team.

2. Writing an essay

A CV should ideally be one or two pages. After all those essays at university, it can be tricky to sell yourself and your work experience succinctly. Being able to keep your CV concise and informative is a great writing skill, so be strict with yourself and just keep in the really important stuff.

3. Underselling yourself

Underselling yourself is one of the top three things to avoid in a graduate CV. Just listing your skills isn’t enough – tell your prospective employer why each one is useful and relevant to the job you are applying for. Any experience, no matter how small, can be useful in an application so really show off the skills you learnt during your time at university (even if it was from behind an SU bar!).

4. Lacking confidence

Underconfidence is something to be avoided at all costs, whether it’s on your CV or in a job interview. You may know exactly what skills you have but if you don’t use confident body language and vocabulary, you won’t convince anyone. Read through your CV and swap “I think” with “I know”, or “could be useful” with “will be useful”.

5. Writing like an academic

After years of writing academic papers and essays, this can be a hard habit to break. Read through your LinkedIn feed to pick up career-focused language and edit out any long, woolly sentences that could confuse your reader.

6. Forgetting keywords

The language you use is vitally important. Using keywords and phrases from the industry or job specification shows you understand what they’re talking about and what they want from you. Employers will likely have to read dozens, if not hundreds of applications for a single role so make it easy for them to skim read your CV and find the skills they want to see.

7. Not using your university’s careers department

If you’ve never stepped foot in your careers department, now is the time. Sit down with your CV and a professional and see what advice they can give you. As well as helping with your CV, they can usually offer assistance with your job search and will likely have lots of interview tips to divulge.

8. Lacking the X-Factor

Have a read through your CV - is it boring you? If the answer is “yes” then it’s definitely going to bore your employer. Trying throwing in some interesting examples of things you did during your work experience and use some fun language.

9. Boring formatting

While we’re often told not to during our time at school and university, many employers definitely do judge a book by its cover. Instead of predictable paragraphs and the overused Times New Roman on your CV, opt for a more modern style with bullet points, shorter sentences and a clean font.

10. Only writing one CV

If you haven’t quite made your mind up about which career path to take and are applying to multiple industries or areas in a field, consider writing a separate CV for each job you apply for. Each opening will have different requirements so ensure your CV is tailored to match.

Hold your head high, show off your skills and get cracking on that CV. Once you have a job you won’t have to do this again for a long time – how’s that for motivation?


Andrew Arkley is the founder of PurpleCV, one of the UK's leading CV writing providers - with over 15 years’ experience in HR and recruitment at a senior level and having conducted thousands of interviews, he knows precisely what it takes to land a job! Andrew has personally written over 3000 CVs and since its inception, PurpleCV has grown rapidly to encompass a UK-based team committed to providing market-leading CVs for any jobseeker or individual.


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