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If you're applying to competitive and specialised graduate jobs with leading companies, you need a CV that sounds and looks as professional as possible. Here's our top tips for creating a professional graduate CV that will beat the competition and land that dream job. We've put together free professional CV templates for students and graduates, click the button below to download!
The language you use is in your CV is key to projecting a professional persona, here's how to nail the tone of voice, language and grammar to ensure your CV gives off an experienced and polished tone.
Be consistent with your tone of voice
You either want to write your CV in the first or third person. Whilst both forms are acceptable, writing in the third personal is generally the most recognised and accepted method, and comes across more professional. Whichever person you use, make sure you're consistent throughout your CV.
Here's a quick refresher of how to write in each person:
When writing in the third person, you want to remove references to yourself altogether, beginning sentences with adjectives rather than first person pronouns, for example: "A highly capable physics graduate". Don’t refer to yourself as 'he' or 'she', although this is using the third person, it will sound odd on your CV.
When using the first person, you want to refer to yourself with the pronouns 'I' and 'myself' in your CV, for example "I looked after the short- and long-term funding requirements of business clients".
It’s also important to write in the active voice (recruited and trained 10 staff members) rather than the passive (10 staff members were recruited and trained by myself). The active voice gives a more impactful and direct delivery.
Use grammar checking software
To ensure your CV is mistake free, use a grammar checking software - Grammarly is a great free digital writing tool that corrects spelling mistakes and makes suggestions on how you can enhance your vocabulary. It's important though not to rely on spell-checkers, make sure you've read over your finished CV a few times and if you think it's perfect, ask a friend or family member to check.
Don’t go crazy with the thesaurus!
Whilst it's good to use synonyms if you find yourself repeatedly using the same word, make sure you're not getting too thesaurus happy and do this for every sentence. Whilst you may think this will help you sound highly sophisticated, it can often lead to sentences not making grammatical sense and your CV not reading well - if you don't know what a word means, don't use it.
The same goes for semicolons, no-one really knows how to use them, so it’s best to avoid them completely in your CV if you're unsure.
Use dynamic verbs
Using dynamic verbs where possible on your CV helps put emphasis on your achievements and demonstrates what you will be able to achieve at their company. For example writing, 'I was responsible for system developments' sounds ambiguous, whereas '0devised and implemented new systems' sounds more impressive and clear.
The personal profile section of your CV is your first chance to impress an employer, here you want to include important qualifications, specialisms, the types of businesses you've worked for and the type of opportunity you're now looking for. You want to summarise your skill set and give a quick insight into your experience in a direct, straight to the point and professional manner. We've put together a professional profile template so all you have to do is slot in your own information!
Begin by stating your area of expertise, the length of experience you've had and your degree. Tailor this to the job/industry you're applying for and highlight your most impressive previous experience. "Enthusiastic and challenge-driven Software Programmer with one year's industry experience and a 1st class Computer Programming degree from the University of Leeds."
You then want to describe the type of company and environment you're looking for, tailoring this to the role you're applying for. It's important to list any skills you'd like to develop in the role, as this shows interest and a drive to improve. "Now seeking a dynamic and fast-paced environment to enhance coding knowledge and develop information systems."Tailoring your skills and experience is key to creating an excellent professional profile, here's our top tips for how to tailor the rest of your CV to each graduate job application.
Creating a section or group of bullet points that lists your core industry relevant skills is a great way to immediately show an employer your suitability to the role. If you're applying to a specific role such as Software Developer or Engineer type roles be sure to list any coding or programming software you know how to use and the level, for example Python (Advanced), SQL (Advanced).
Unlike with more creative roles, your interests and hobbies section should be less of a focus with more specialist and professional roles. Whilst it's still an important section to include - helping to show part of your personality, you don't need to go into a lot of detail. You want to highlight your more sophisticated and industry relevant hobbies and interests, whilst you may enjoy watching Love Island and shopping, this isn't going to help with the professionalism of your CV.
Here's some good examples of hobbies and interests to include that help keep a professional tone:
- Brain activities such as chess or puzzles are a good hobby to include, especially when applying to technical or analytical based roles; they show you like to problem-solve and overcome challenges.
- List if you like to read any relevant industry magazines or books e.g. The Economist / Financial Times / Bloomberg Businessweek / National Geographic / The Spectator / The Week. This shows you have an interest in the filed and like to keep up with current affairs.
- If you've volunteered for a charity/community event/University event, include this on your CV, it shows excellent event-planning, managing and fundraising skills.
- Include if you participate in a sporting activity. Whether you're an avid runner or part of a team sport, sport demonstrates a lot of transferable skills such as team-working, determination and communication abilities.
Have a look at our top tips for answering the 'What are your hobbies and interests'interview question.
Unlike with more creative roles, the look and design of your CV is less a focus, but it is still an important part of your CV. Here's a few top layout tips and ways to design a CV that both attracts an employer and keeps a professional feel.
Your CV should be no longer than two sides of A4 and include plenty of white space. While it may be tempting to list every previous job you’ve had and all your hobbies, this is going to make your CV look crammed. Be sure to only include your most relevant and impressive information.
Make sure you have clear gaps between sections, that all your bullet points and features align, and that text isn’t too close together, you want to make your CV as attractive and engaging for employers to read. Find out more about how an employer will read your graduate CV here.
With more creative roles you can experiment more with fonts, however, to create a professional looking CV stick to these tried and tested fonts:
Whilst you want to stand out, don't make your design features distracting or over the top - stick to one or two colours and a couple of design features. You want to include graphics that help create a put together and professional impression, helping to reinforce what you're saying on your CV.
Have a look at our free professional CV design examples below for design inspiration.
Or don't fancy creating your own CV format? You can download our free templates!
Use our professional CV tips and templates and start applying to graduate jobs today!
Applying for a more creative graduate role? Check out our creative CV guide with templates here!