CVs And Cover Letters
As a recent graduate, we understand that you’re still recovering from writing your dissertation. 10,000 individual words painstakingly and begrudgingly typed out by your own hands. But this is no time to rest, you need to fire up the laptop, load your word processing software and get typing all over again. Your CV won’t write itself.
However, for many graduates, writing a CV is unknown territory.
Your dissertation, essentially, was just like a big essay (and you wrote dozens of those on your course). You also had a dedicated dissertation supervisor sat there to help you, to explain the structure and content to you and to guide you every step of the way. But now you’ve left university it’s different. You’re preparing your CV and you’re confused about what to write; you may have nobody there to help you.
That’s why we’ve decided to step in and help you by writing this useful and thorough guide! It will show you how to write a top notch CV that is polished to perfection. And at a time where graduate jobs are more competitive than ever, this is something you really need to get right. So let’s begin!
Getting started with your CV
There are a few key things to remember when you start writing your graduate CV:
- Your CV needs to be very clear and very concise,
- Your CV must have good, consistent presentation, and
- Your CV should always represent yourself truthfully.
With that in mind, let’s look at the content you need to include in your CV:
1. Personal and contact details.
At the top of your CV you should include a section with your personal details and a way for people to contact you. Give potential recruiters your full name, date of birth, email address, telephone number(s) and your postal address. If you have a “safe for work” blog or website, feel free to include the URL (especially if it demonstrates that you have in interest in the field you’re applying for.)
2. Education and Qualifications.
List all of your education and qualifications in a neatly formatted table. There is no need to list every single one of your GCSEs, but you should add the number of GCSEs you achieved at each grade (for example, 10 GCSEs at grades A-C). Remember to include the name of the establishment at which you studied too.
3. Work Experience.
Some students work part time, some have held down a full time job before university and other have never worked at all. Use this section to discuss your experience of employment up to now. Include details of your roles and discuss your responsibilities too.
If you have carried out any voluntary work, make sure you include this too. As a side note, you could look for some unpaid work experience in local businesses while you’re looking, especially if they’re related to the field you want to work in. These can be added to your CV and will impress potential recruiters.
If you have any interesting skills that set you apart from your peers you should add this here. This could include any computing skills or foreign languages you’re fluent in, specialist courses you’ve taken or things you’ve learnt in your own time.
5. Interests and Achievements.
In this section you can add a list of your hobbies and discuss what really interests you. Do you love something that is related to the job you’re applying for? Write it here if so.
You should also list your achievements in this section too. Perhaps you won an award at university, or received special notice for one of your extra curricular activities? These all strengthen your CV, it’s what potential recruiters look for.
In this section you must include at least two references, you need to list the contact details of people who can vouch for you, and who are happy to write you a ‘glowing’ statement.
A former university lecturer or supervisor is fine to include as a reference. You could also ask previous employees, or colleagues from any recent volunteer work you’ve undertaken. Never ask neighbours or family members for references, it looks highly unprofessional!
List your referees’ names, telephone numbers and email addresses, but importantly: make sure you have their permission first!
Your CV should be roughly two sides of A4 paper. Keep every section you write to a bare minimum, get straight to the point and keep your writing concise, avoiding lengthy sentences. Potential employees will ask you for more detail if they decide to interview you.
Use headings to separate each section of your CV and use lots of white space between sections to ensure it is easy on the eye.
In some word processing software packages, you can select a CV template, or a blank template with a font and colour theme. This can be a very good idea, as it will keep your CV looking consistent and professional. However, for potential employers, it can be tiring to keep looking at the exact same template over and over. If you can, take the time to make your CV stand out by designing something a little different, which shows off your personality (albeit in an understated way!) For example, you may choose to find a graphical icon and matching divider off the internet and match these to a colour for headings. Or, if you have the skills, you may design something a little unique in Photoshop or a similar graphical suite.
Proofreading is very important, I’m sure your lecturers at university discussed the importance of proofreading, spelling and grammar at length with you on numerous occasions? That’s because it IS important: it’s something we reiterate.
Remember: the more care and attention you put into your graduate CV, the better this will reflect on you. Your future boss will be impressed – if you put a lot of thought and detail into your CV they will assume you’ll do the same with your work too. These are very enviable skills in the workplace.
Adding a cover letter to your CV
You’ve completed your CV and polished it to perfection, but don’t hit that send button just yet! You now need to draft a cover letter.
What is a cover letter?
You send a cover letter to support your CV. It tells potential employers, in a clear and succinct manner, why you are ideal for the job on offer.
Use the cover letter to sell yourself: show why you are the ideal candidate for the role and communicate the relevant skills you can bring to the team. Use this as an opportunity to show you’re genuinely interested in the company and provide the recruiter with honest information about why you’d like to work for their organisation.