How to Make Your Graduate CV Stand Out from the Crowd

Time and time again I work with graduates who think that because they don’t have much work experience they can’t have a great CV. THIS IS NOT TRUE!

A stand-out CV is not just about experience, it is about what skills, knowledge and potential you can bring to a role. Graduate recruiters know that most students will have sketchy job experience. Usually this is a few part-time jobs or summer internships at most. This is not a problem though if you put some effort into thinking what ‘selling points’ you do have that will help to distinguish you from other applicants.

Think about it. Graduate recruiters spend a lot of time looking through CVs and often see the same old thing. If you can make your CV stand out from the crowd in some way, then you can grab their attention and help get your nose in front of other candidates. Here are some easy ways to achieve this:


Create an attractive and well-formatted CV that is pleasing on the eye

People are often scared about using colour in a CV but if this is used sparingly, in the right way, then this is an easy way to inject some life into a CV. Bolding key headlines or achievements is also a way of drawing attention to critical information. Above all though, make sure that your CV is well formatted with all paragraphs and bullet points in alignment. Also, make sure that there is plenty of spacing between paragraphs and sentences as you want to make it as easy as possible for recruiters to quickly read what you have to offer.


Grab Attention with the Top Half of your CV

If recruiters don’t like the first part of your CV, they are not going to waste any more time looking at the rest of the content.

Therefore, you need to be smart about how you grab attention. Think about the role you are applying for and make sure that you identify the top 3 qualities that you have that are most relevant for the role in question.  Then, create 3 bullet points at the top of your CV that highlight these skills and knowledge. Each bullet point could look something like this:

Strong financial knowledge: practical experience in a part-time bookkeeping role and 18 months remaining of degree focused on corporate and investment finance.


Highlight Academic Projects

Providing detail of academic projects that you worked on, either individually or in a team, if often a great way of demonstrating the skills and knowledge that you have. Make sure though that you give some specific detail about what you did making sure that this is highlighting relevant things about your areas of knowledge.  Something like this could work:

INVESTMENT ANALYSIS: Working in a group, performed range of investment analysis to predict the major factors that would influence the supply and demand of iron over the next 5 years. Researching a specific company (FMG), required to identify risks, strengths and company exposure to the price of iron. Analysed annual reports, Bloomberg trading data, periodicals, and share information to support arguments made.


Include Positions of Responsibility

At college or university you may have been involved in groups, societies or other things where you had a role or a position you can talk about.  This may seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things but if you were involved in running a group or making decisions then you are demonstrating the kinds of skills employers look for.

Think about other aspects of your life, including sports teams, community involvement, hobbies, or other group projects. Are there things you were involved with here that demonstrate team working, good communication, organisational skills, decision making, using initiative, problem solving or leading people?  These are just some of the key qualities that graduate recruiters want to see in individuals.

A word of warning though: don’t ever write bland statements on your CV like ‘excellent team worker’ or ‘strong communication skills’. Anyone can write this but what evidence is there that this is true? Try instead to give specific examples that demonstrate this by referring to actual things you have done in your personal, student or work life.