When writing a graduate CV, you must take time and care to ensure that all the content reads and looks perfect. You don’t want to fall at the last hurdle by choosing the wrong structure, using an unclear layout or going overboard with design.
The way your CV looks is almost as important as the content it holds. If it’s flawlessly written yet distracting, messy or unclear, it’s just as likely to end up on the rejection pile.
And remember, recruiters only spend around 10 seconds scanning each CV, so you need to make it as easy as possible for them to find the key information. Not sure what the rules are? Don't panic.
We’re here to help you create a professional-looking CV that is easy to read and digest, quickly — here’s what you need to do:
Get the structure right
It’s important to choose the right structure for your CV, placing the most important information higher on the page. A traditional structure tends to focus more on your personal profile, skills and previous experience, but a graduate CV differs slightly. The recommended structure goes as follows:
- Contact details
- Personal statement
- Key projects/achievements
- Hobbies and interests - optional
As you're applying for a role after university, it’s best to place your education above your experience (unlike a traditional CV). This is because you may not have much previous experience to shout about and your degree is likely your biggest selling point at this stage.
Keep it short and sweet
You want your CV to be as short and sweet as possible, containing only the most relevant information. It should be no longer than two A4 pages, but better still if you can keep it to one.
If you want to save space, you can cut out optional sections like ‘hobbies and interests’ or cut down on contact details — trust us, employers don't need to know your relationship status and full address just yet!
Put thought into your formatting
How you format your CV could make or break your chances of being invited in for an interview. There are several things you should do when formatting your graduate CV. These include:
- Using bullet points to break up the text, particularly in the employment history section
- Use small paragraphs, because big chunks of text are off-putting
- Use bold or underlined sub-headings to clearly lay out all your information and break it up into sections
- Reduce your margins to make more room for content, but don’t go over the top — there should be some white space left on the page
Choose the right font
You also need to consider what font you use! You want to choose one that is easy to read, so it’s best not to choose anything unclear or distracting — or, of course, the dreaded Comic Sans. The best fonts for a CV include Calibri, Ariel or Times New Roman. These are easy to read and look professional.
You also need to make sure your font is the right size. It can be tempting to make it smaller to fit in more text, but this can make the page too busy. It’s best to stick with font size 10 or 12 where possible.
Keep your design simple
It can also be tempting to pick a quirky or bold design to help you stand out from the crowd. But you know what they say — sometimes, less is more.
If you’re applying for a creative, media-based or digital role and want to showcase your skills on your CV, that’s great! It’s just important to make sure the design doesn't distract from the actual content or make the key information harder to read. Aim for balance — and if in doubt, keep it simple and choose a traditional CV design.
Make sure you get your design, structure and format just right
It’s important to remember that the key to a great CV is relevant content, paired with a clear and concise layout. If it looks crowded or hard to read, the recruiter simply won’t waste their time.
Follow the advice above and you’ll create a well-structured, easy-to-read CV that will get you noticed!
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.
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