The job market is competitive, especially if you’re applying for roles in Business, Marketing, Finance, HR or Administration. While competition is high, there are plenty of ways you can give yourself the upper hand when applying for roles, including making sure your CV is as strong as it can be.
A good CV can boost employability as it will get you invited for more interviews and inevitably heighten your chances of being able to secure the dream role.
How to write a good first CV
Below are our top ten tips on building a great CV.
- Use temporary or part-time work to build work experience – Part-time jobs during your studies and temporary roles during your university breaks give you a great experience in the working world, and they’ll look impressive to future employers as you’re showing that you know how to balance work and study simultaneously. These roles could be in hospitality, student mentoring or retail, the industry isn’t important, what is important is the work ethic and dedication this demonstrates. It also demonstrates your capacity for team work and that you’ll have an understanding of workplace etiquette.
- Highlight your extracurricular activities – Were you part of a society? Did you play a sport? Perhaps you were part of a club? All of these show employers that not only are you able to dedicate your time to studying, you put yourself out there and committed to doing something you’re passionate about also. The commitment and teamwork developed from being part of a society looks good to employers and lets them know there’s more to you than just the academic. If your activities tie into the job you’re applying for that is even better, make sure you highlight that. for instance, if you were part of the university newspaper and you’re applying for journalistic roles, show this off.
What to include in your first CV
- Personalise your CV for the job you’re applying for – Make sure you tweak your CV to be most applicable for the role you’d like to get. To do this, you could think about and highlight modules of your degree that tie into the role. Perhaps you have done a finance module in your business degree and you’re applying for a role with an invoicing element, make sure you let the employer know this. Make sure you tailer your personal profile at the top also to make it clear why you’re interested in the role you are applying for- unfortunately your CV isn’t a one size fits all type of document.
- Volunteer – Volunteering opportunities always stand out on CVs as it demonstrates your commitment. Similar to being able to work alongside studying, volunteering demonstrated excellent time management. Further to this, it shows you’re happy to get involves in things without selfish motivation which creates a great impression. You can further gain invaluable skills in communication, perseverance and altruistic behaviour which are all appealing to employers.
- Utilise your relationships with university tutors for references – Your tutors and lecturers are professionals in their field and often have great networks. Also, they are able to provide you with references which can be really beneficial and you can add these to your CV. Having a glowing reference from someone in that position is likely to show employers you can be trusted.
What to put on your CV if you have no experience
- Add internships or placements – Internships and placements are a fantastic way to develop the soft skills you have learnt within your degree in a real world setting. These usually connect to what you want to do (e.g. marketing) and only last a week or two, so are very easy to fit in to breaks without a huge amount of commitment. As above, your university lecturers may be able to support you in finding industry placements, or if not, the university often has partnerships you can explore. Demonstrating to employers you have taken the time to further yourself in the industry shows commitment to the field and that you’re not just applying to anything.
- Keep track of your academic achievements – Your CV is your opportunity to show off, so make sure you are including all your important academic achievements. This could be a place on the dean’s award, high grades in a certain module or a particularly successful dissertation. Don’t feel you’re showing off, employers like to know about your academic prowess and it will help you move forward.
- Network – This one wont necessarily be written on your CV but will be as important as what is physically written. Your CV lets employers know about you, but if they have already met you at Networking events you have even more of a chance to make an impression. Networking helps you get your foot in the door, but also puts you in front of people who may be able to help you later down the line. Networking on social media is great, but more valuable will be meeting potential employers face to face. You could do this at industry meet ups, job fairs, conferences, expos and specific industry groups (e.g. Bristol Creative Industries for those looking for creative roles). You can also reach out to people in the industry directly to ask for advice or to chat to them about specific work-related questions.
- Use your breaks wisely – This ties into the work experience/placement/temporary work, but there are other ways you can make your breaks effective also. You could use the opportunity to travel and explore new cultures if you’re able to. You could try volunteering programmes abroad or work somewhere like camp America to further boost employability. The location isn’t important but having experiences like this on your CV shows your willingness to push yourself out of your comfort zone and excellent planning skills.
How to improve your CV
- Find online courses to add to your CV – This is often overlooked and can be a huge benefit when applying to roles. Many industries will have specific courses employers look for. For instance, for marketing roles employers value Google Garage qualifications for CIM qualifications, or for Project Management employers look at Prince qualifications. Researching what your potential employers will be looking for in terms of qualifications and undertaking these courses will hugely boost your CV and put you first in employers’ minds. There are lots of free online courses and workshops on the internet too, so it’s worth having a good search for the most appropriate.
Alongside the above top tips, structure of your CV and making it presentable is key. There are loads of guides online to aid you with this, but generally, you’ll want personal profile, education, roles (in reverse chronological order), extracurriculars and skills. We would advise no photos and no more than 2 sides of A4. Remember, employers will be reading a lot of CV’s, so structure and presentation can be as important as content in making sure they remember you.