5 Tips for Creating an Impeccable Graduate CV and Cover Letter

When searching for graduate jobs, you know that your CV is the first chance you have to make a great impression on employers. Your cover letter is an opportunity to expand on this and to explain briefly why you are a good fit for the role. Together, these two documents are crucial in getting you through to the next stage of the recruitment process.

Competition is fierce and you will struggle to get far with your graduate job search if your CV and cover letter aren’t impeccable. Let’s take a look at five tips to help you get started.

1. Every application should start with research

Recruiters receive hundreds of graduate CVs and it’s not hard for them to spot generic applications. To stand out, you should ensure that you tailor your CV and cover letter to the role and company you are applying for.

There’s been plenty of occasions when we’ve received an application for a graduate sales role and the opening line of the CV says they are looking to start a career in finance… Naturally, these applicants don’t receive an invitation to interview.

To tailor your CV and cover letter effectively, you’ll need to do some research. Start with the job description and highlight the key skills and qualification that the employer is looking for. If the employer is named, you should then have a quick look through their website to learn more about their values and company culture. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you have a real interest and enthusiasm for the role.

2. Get your personal profile right

The top half of your CV, and certainly your personal profile, is the most important for grabbing a recruiter’s attention. With so many CVs to go through, it’s impossible to read every one completely which means it’s important to win and keep their attention as quickly as possible.

Your personal profile should be concise (no more than 5-6 lines) but packed with relevant information and key skills. You should cover:

  • Who you are
  • Your USPs (avoid clichés)
  • What you’re looking for

3. Expand on your education

When applying for a graduate role, recruiters will be interested in your degree and what skills it has given you. Rather than just listing your university and degree, mention any modules or projects that are relevant to the role you are applying for.

This is particularly important if you don’t have a lot of work experience to draw on. You’ll want to demonstrate that you have the right skills for the job and use examples to back these up, so use your experience at university to do this.

4. Showcase your hobbies and/or personal projects

Recruiters will want to learn a bit more about your personality and a great way to show them this is through your hobbies and passions. These will often help you to stand out from other graduates and offer another opportunity to showcase your skills.

This being said, if your hobbies are completely irrelevant to the role/industry and don’t showcase the desired skills (e.g., leadership, communication, teamwork, etc.) then it may be better to leave them off your CV.

5. Don’t neglect your cover letter

It’s great to spend time focusing on and perfecting your CV, but don’t neglect your cover letter. Be careful not to turn your cover letter into a replica of your CV where you simply repeat the same information that is available there.

It doesn’t have to be long, but your cover letter is your opportunity to expand on your skills and add a bit more detail about your experience/education. What’s most important is that you demonstrate a keen interest in the role and company you are applying to.

Bringing it all together

If you follow the five tips above, you should be in a strong position to see your applications progressing and receiving invitations to interviews. It takes time and effort to tailor your CV and cover letter but doing so will massively boost your chances of success. Good luck with your graduate job search!

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