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Graduate CV Example & Writing Guide

Ready to hit the working world running? Here's how you can write a graduate CV that turns recruiters' heads.
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Graduate CV Example & Writing Guide
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Going into the world of work can be extremely daunting for a graduate. Will you find a job? Are there any prospects in your field and what does the future look like? These are all common concerns for graduates, and just like you managed to complete your education, you will face and succeed in this challenge too!

We would suggest that if you are looking for a graduate role, you should reach out to employers and your connections. Some employers offer graduate schemes while others may need a bit of encouragement. The start of the process, though, is to deliver a CV to employers that gets you an A+ and we are here to help you do just that!

Here at Resume.io, we have all the resources you need, including a selection of CV examples and writing guides. With our help and expertise, you will create a graduate CV that will showcase your skills and experience in the best possible way, highlighting exactly why employers should not want to miss out on you. This guide, along with our graduate CV example, will discuss the following:

  • What the current job market is like for graduates
  • How you can write an effective CV, how to format it and stand out from competitors
  • The most appropriate sections for your CV and what these should contain
  • How to make a great first impression
Expert tip

If it’s time to land your first job as a graduate, you can find more tips in many of our profession-specific CV examples. Many of the samples even include chapters about how to write a CV with little work history. Resume.io is a resource for job seekers of all experience levels and that includes you!

What is a graduate?

A graduate is someone who has completed a period of study, usually a degree. When you graduate, there are several paths you can go down. You can join a company that has a graduate scheme already set up. This can make it a little easier, as you know the company will accept candidates without experience. However, there is often a lot of competition for graduate schemes, especially in competitive markets. Graduate schemes are worth considering, as you will get all the training you need to build up your expertise and knowledge in your chosen job.

The other options are to join a company at entry level, which means you will only get on-the-job training, and you might be on a low salary. For instance, if you completed a degree in HR management, you would leave University and start as an HR administrator and work your way up. The main difference in these options is that with a graduate scheme, you finish and walk into a role at the level you studied, usually with the same salary as an experienced employee. You don’t need to start from the bottom.

Statistical insight

How much do graduates earn?
Graduate salaries are wide ranging, and it will depend on the industry you are employed in, as well as your location. The average salary, according to ISE (Institute of Student Employers), is around £30,500, although this is mainly for large organisations or those offering graduate schemes. Don’t be disappointed if you are offered a much lower salary, as this is quite a high figure, and should not be the expectation. If you start your career on around £26,000, that is reasonable.

Graduate job market and outlook

There are literally hundreds of large organisations that actively recruit graduates, with some of the most well-known brands being huge graduate employers.

Graduates are often an attractive prospect for employers as they bring strong academic knowledge and a fresh perspective. There is also the added bonus of being able to mould the graduate to fit into the company culture, something that is difficult to do with experienced staff with a few years under their belt.

There has been concern about the future for the graduate job market since the Coronavirus pandemic took grip across the globe. However, statistics show that there really isn’t much to worry about. Almost half of UK employers are planning to increase graduate hires next year.

There is some healthy competition out there for graduate roles though, which is why it is vital that you create a graduate CV that will shine brighter than your competition. That is why this guide, together with the CV examples will come in extremely useful.

How to write a graduate CV

Before you plunge right in and start writing your graduate CV, we would suggest setting time aside to focus on the general format. 

This will make it much easier to write and will ensure your CV sets you apart from the others. Making sure your CV contains all the necessary elements is imperative. These include:

  • Your CV header – containing your name, and other personal details, such as your contact details
  • Summary – a brief insight into your experience and career plan
  • Employment history
  • Skills section
  • Education – the main section for most graduate CV’s

Consider the person you are writing the CV for. Who is likely to be reading it and why would they want to take you forward? With graduate schemes, it tends to be the managers that make the final decision on which candidates to take forward. With other entry level jobs, it is likely to be a recruiter.

Each graduate CV should be tailored to the job you are applying for. Make sure you have a good understanding of who you would be working alongside in the role, if possible. Remember that taking on a graduate is not the same as hiring an experienced candidate. A graduate is a long-term investment. If they decide to hire you, they are in it for the long-term. This is great news for you, but make sure it’s somewhere you really want to work and learn from. Find out about their values and get feedback from other employees to find out if it’s truly the right organisation before you apply. Use our CV template as guidance throughout. 

These are some tips for how to write your graduate CV:

  • Make sure you tailor your CV to every job you are applying for. It may only need a few tweaks here and there, but this is a vital step in the process.
  • Consider the layout and design of your CV. Make sure it’s nothing outlandish and stick to the same font throughout.
  • Use keywords where appropriate and take your time to ensure your CV conveys the right message.

Choosing the best format for a graduate CV

In most cases, the CV format is reverse chronological with the employment section at the top, under the summary. However, you may want to change this for your graduate CV, unless you have experience that you think is relevant. If not, stick to summary, then education and skills. The reason for this is that employers hiring graduates are mostly interested in their qualifications. They will usually have a set criterion they expect you to have. For instance, they may only hire graduates with a 2:1. The education section is primarily the one of interest, so it makes sense to place it at the top.

If you are applying for a graduate role in a bank, for instance, and you have previously worked in a financial institution, then of course, it may be a consideration to put your employment at the top. It is really a judgement call. If you have staggering academic achievements, versus a little work experience, then education would probably be the best choice to start your CV.

Make your decision based on what the employer is looking for in the job spec, what their main essential criteria is and develop the right CV format to suit you.

CV summary example: who are you?

When the hiring manager picks up your CV and starts reading, they don’t know you. You are completely fresh and new to them. Therefore, the first couple of paragraphs (i.e., your summary) is their introduction to you. 

 Think of the format of your CV as an essay. You start with an introduction, your main content, and a conclusion. This is where you want to tell the reader where you are in your career and what you are looking for. If you have a degree with any exceptional achievements, for instance a merit pass, this is the place to mention it. You want to stand out, and who said there’s anything wrong with blowing your own trumpet a little?

The summary is where you sell yourself and entice the reader to want to learn more about you. You should refrain from describing yourself in the first person (i.e., using ‘I’, or your name), just stick to the achievement. For instance, ‘Achieved a first-class master’s in Engineering with a merit pass. Received an award for ‘outstanding academic achievements.’

We have designed and developed some extra material for you to help you create your summary. Don’t worry if you’re still stumped for ideas, as you can take a look at the related student CV examples. The college student CV example is a good example for how to format your CV. You could also take a look at the internship CV example for an idea of how to write your CV if you are looking for this kind of work or to get onto a graduate scheme.

There is often a tendency to duplicate the content from the rest of the graduate CV sample, but this is not the way to approach your summary. Instead of duplicating it, simply condense the main points into a couple of short sentences. Get to the point quickly, and highlight your main academic achievement, any significant awards and your future career interests.

It can be difficult for graduates to find the confidence to talk about themselves in their CV, it is only natural to feel that it comes across as boastful. However, this is not the way the hiring manager will view it. They are looking for candidates with confidence. You can be confident in your abilities, without coming across as overly confident. It is all about getting the balance right. You will find the summary from our graduate CV sample below.

Adaptable summary CV example

Graduate Civil Engineer with extensive knowledge of structural components, technical competence, and an in depth understanding of engineering theory. Passionate about civil engineer, particularly environmental, rail and road, and a desire to join an organisation that offers challenges and opportunities to progress.

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Employment history sample: the journey continues

As a graduate, you will either have no experience or little, so the employment history section may be a bit sparse. This causes some candidates to get into a full-blown panic, as they don’t know what to write and they are worried it won’t be sufficient.

The first thing to remember is that as a graduate, the hiring manager is not expecting you to have a wealth of experience. In fact, any experience will be a bonus. Don’t worry too much about this section, but if you do have any experience, make sure you fill out this section. Even if it’s experience that is not in keeping with the sector you are looking to join.

As mentioned early, you may want to place your employment history further down, with the education section after your summary. The education section should be in reverse chronological order, with your most recent employment first and work your way back.

You should never write about your experience in paragraphs, always use bullet points to describe the most important aspects of the role. Don’t list every single duty, just the most significant.

It is always more enticing for a hiring manager to read a graduate CV sample that has some substantiated claims, rather than just a list of your responsibilities. For instance, ‘managed and organised daily workloads for a team of 5.’ If you can substantiate claims, you should try to do it, as it will make your CV more alluring, which is the ultimate goal.

You will find a graduate employment history CV sample below.

Adaptable employment history CV example

Intern, Paco Engineering, Edinburgh
Mar 2021 -  Sep 2022 

  • Responsible for reviewing and checking project drawings
  • Developing detailed CAD designs
  • Resolving design issues as necessary
  • Compiling reports and ensuring accuracy
  • Liaising with colleagues, and contract civil engineers

 

Intern, BCC Engineering, Edinburgh
Mar 2019 - Sep 2022 

  • Supporting the Project Manager with day-to-day management
  • Developing proposals for technical services
  • Supporting the tender process, together with the Project Manager
  • Committed to Continuous Professional Development.
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CV skills example: standing out from the crowd

The skills you possess, along with your education are the key elements of a graduate CV sample, especially if you have little experience. You can highlight those skills that are most relevant to the role, and you may want to place this before your employment history.

Use a combination of hard and soft skills and remember to use keywords. You will find these on the job description, and this will help ensure you don’t get immediately rejected by an ATS.

Expert tip

Avoid generic buzzwords
Recruiters read the same buzzwords on CV time and time again, and it gets quite monotonous for them! Avoid generic phrases such as ‘able to hit the ground running’ or ‘can work under pressure’ and replace them with something more meaningful and interesting, such as ‘strong communicator with the ability to lead teams of up to 50 staff members.’

If there is anything that makes you unique, make sure you mention it. Stand out from the crowd and be proud to do so!

Adaptable skills section CV example
  • Ability to Work in a Team
  • Leadership Skills
  • Fast Learner
  • Communication Skills
  • Engineering
  • CAD Software
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Graduate CV education example

The education section of your CV sample should be by far the most straightforward. After all, this is where your main selling point is. You can put your education at the top under your summary, if you feel that this is the most significant. You should state your most recent qualifications (including your grade) and work your way back to the earliest qualifications. There is no need to mention all your qualifications from high school, if you have a lot of other, more recent qualifications. 

Any certifications you have achieved, or other training should also be mentioned, and the more recent the better. Most employers want to see that candidates are focused on continuous personal development, and what better way to prove this than by showing them that you have completed a number of recent training courses, workshops, webinars etc. Below you will find an education CV example you can adapt for your own purposes.

Adaptable education CV example

University of Edinburgh, BSc Civil Engineering, Edinburgh
Jun 2018 - Aug 2021

Modules include:

  • Engineering geology
  • Civil and architectural engineering • Geology
  • Geomechanics
  • Structural mechanics
Copied!

CV layout and design: first impressions

At the end of the day, your main priority is to achieve an interview from your graduate CV. The content is of course, the main element of any CV, but the design and layout should also be a priority. Your CV should be easy to read, with clear, concise language. Refrain from using any jargon, as you don’t know what knowledge the hiring manager has, they may not understand the jargon.

If you consider how you will structure and design a presentation for university, you should take the same approach with your CV. Keep it simple, sleek, and easy-to-read and you can’t really go wrong with the design. Our CV templates can help you put together a professional format in just a few clicks.

Key takeaways for a graduate CV

  1. Decide the order for your graduate CV before you get started. If your employment is limited, consider placing your education at the start, under your summary.
  2. Tailor your CV to suit the job you are applying for. It should not be a one-size fits all approach; you should ensure you make tweaks to each application.
  3. Use keywords throughout your graduate CV, you will find the most relevant keywords on the job description.
  4. Use our online CV template and CV examples to create a graduate CV quickly and without fuss.
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