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How to write a graduate CV

In another blog I have written about the optimum length of a CV for those with plenty of experience. However, I am often asked by University leavers to answer the question of how many pages a graduate CV should be?

Surprisingly the answer is almost the same – 2 or 3 pages. If you are a fresh graduate and have a CV any longer than that, then I would stake my lottery winnings* on you having included too many paragraphs about your team work and customer service skills developed while working part time in your local cafe, or detailing all your swimming badges gained while at Junior school.

Building bridges with your future employer
If you are applying for a job relevant to your degree then make your CV relevant to your CV, as it is this detail that your future employer will definitely be looking for. I recently saw the CV of a Graduate geotechnical engineer, who on further questioning turned out to have detailed experience of mud logging and soil analysis, slope stability software knowledge, (SLOPEW), and a fabulous final year study on geotechnical engineering relating to bridges and tunnels. This young hopeful had omitted all this vital detail and included detailed accounts of his brass band playing and passion for football, watching TV and socialising with his friends.

Blow your own trumpet
Think about what your future employer is looking for. If they are looking for someone who can have a good night out with his mates, name all the football teams in the Premier league and play the trumpet then you are in with a chance. But in my humble opinion, I would imagine that in the face of stiff competition for a graduate position as a junior Geotechnical Engineer working for an engineering consultancy, then the person reading your CV will be more interested in your Geotechnical expertise.

Graduates often think they haven’t got much to put on their CV. Wrong! You have just spent at least the last 3 years, learning how to survive on pot noodles, and even do your own washing, but more importantly hopefully you have devoted some of the time to gaining relevant and up to date knowledge in your area of study. So don’t just quote your degree title, university name and grade, give your reader some relevant detail to get their teeth into. List your modules, include details of special studies, and write with passion about your relevant area of particular interest .

Love at first sight
Most CVs are judged very quickly and within the first few paragraphs, so a strong relevant opening statement on your Resume is key. Again I’m talking specifics, name drop the software you have used, and the name of your degree here. If you are a chemical process engineering graduate with knowledge of FEED and P&IDs then get these keywords in the opening statement, as these are the little nuggets that will provide the magic ingredient to encourage the hiring manager to read on.

These keywords are also absolutely essential to ensure that your CV is found in a search of a database of similar CVs, for more information on this I have written another blog article about how to optimise your CV for an online job board which will give you good insight into this.

By the way if anyone sees a job requiring a PhD in pot noodles please let me know. I probably have one or two candidates for this one.

*  Re the comment about staking my lottery winnings, incase you’re wondering how much I won, the answer is a big fat zero, I just included this for literary and dramatic effect.

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  • Graduate Career Tips

    Really good advice Rowena and fully agree with all of this. a CV is a great chance to tell potential employers what you have to offer and alot of grads miss that and play down their achievements. I would lean towards a CV of 2 pages rather than 2-3 though. If you are interested in top tips for how to write a great CV or other graduate advice then please do visit our site thanks

  • Faizan

    I read a lot of articles on writing a CV, but this is genuinely good content and funny as well. I like the bit about PhD in pot noodles bit, wish I could get one of those :)

    Thanks for the good article

  • Fresh Graduate Resume

    You are right, Graduates often think they haven’t got much to put on their CV. But that is Wrong. There is so much to put in that piece of document that will make almost any fresh graduate compete favorably with other candidates. As a fresh grad, years back, I had gotten a job in a position I knew nothing about, despite the number of qualified participants that applied. Most times, it’s not you qualification that matters but your attitude.

    Nice write up, I must say.
    I hope someone gets to learn.


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