You drank enough coffee to give yourself the shakes, stayed awake for two hellish days finishing your dissertation, and you walked across a stage wearing a cape and a stupid hat. You are now a graduate, and it’s time to get a job.
The first thing you need to do is scour your social media accounts. I work part time at a recruitment agency, and you wouldn’t believe how deep we delve into your Facebook timeline. Employers often do the same. Either delete content that you wouldn’t want your interviewer to see or update your privacy settings. I’m not saying that photos of you drunk and covered in glitter aren’t funny, but they don’t make you seem especially responsible.
When writing or updating your CV, there a few things to remember:
Keep it concise. Generally, your CV should be one page for an entry level position. A long CV doesn’t make you seem highly experienced, it just sends the person reading it to sleep. Few people want to hire someone who thinks that accepted conventions don’t apply to them. You can keep your CV focused by avoiding repetition. I once read a CV in which the candidate informed me of his ‘communication skills’ in five different places. This wasted a huge amount of space, and it made him seem boring.
Customise your CV. If you’d send the same one to Goldman Sachs and Oxfam, you’re doing something wrong. Different job descriptions and company mission statements emphasise different traits, and you have a limited amount of space to demonstrate them. If the advert highlights communication skills and sales experience, draw attention to these qualities. Many people spend some time compiling a highly detailed master document, which outlines all the experience they’ve had and all skills they’ve developed. When applying for positions, they use the job description as a guide for which sections to include.
It’s fairly common for graduates to use dramatic formatting and colour to stand out. Unfortunately, CVs are often printed in black and white. Coloured ink is more expensive, so some offices just don’t use it. If you’ve used a coloured background, please remember this. Yellow might pop against a dark blue background, but grey doesn’t stand out against a slightly darker grey. It can make your CV incredibly difficult to read and, unless you’re applying for fields like graphic design, it doesn’t really help.
Proofread. There’s nothing worse than reading sentences like ‘I have great attention too detail’. Check, check, and check again. When I spot basic errors in an application, I close the document and move on. If the candidate can’t be bothered to put the effort in, then neither can I. I’d only make an exception to this if I was aware that they suffered from dyslexia or were still perfecting their English. This may seem unfair, but you need to remember that employers and recruiters receive enormous numbers of applications for each role.
Use keywords. A prestigious company may get hundreds of applications for one position. To help filter them, they may use Applicant Tracking System software (ATS) which looks for keywords that the employer has specified. However, don’t just regurgitate the job advert word for word. I can’t emphasise enough how obvious this is. You might get past the software, but a person will see straight through it.
You don’t need explicitly relevant experience to have a chance. As a recent graduate, it’s possible that the employment history you have is focused in the service industry. Don’t be afraid to talk about this. If you worked in Marks and Spencer for three months, great! You have sales experience, you’ve managed stock, and you’ve definitely dealt with difficult customers. Likewise, hobbies can be very relevant to a job. For example, if you’re applying to work for a charity that assists the homeless, mention any volunteering you’ve done. Also, it’s worth considering the industry you’re trying to break into. In most applications, stating that you like watching TV and playing video games is a bad move. But if you want to work as a production runner, or a game developer, these interests are essential.
Putting together a CV can make even the most accomplished graduates feel horribly unqualified for every job in the world. Remember that a job description is often more like a wish list than an outline of the minimum expectations. Good luck!
- By Philippa Coster