University promises so much: opportunities, success, fortune. But transitioning from school into the job market isn’t easy. It’s usually your CV that wins the interview, so one of the most important steps in a successful job search is preparing a standout CV. Here’s how to approach writing a graduate CV that’ll make an impression on even the toughest recruiter:
Tip #1 – Understand what it takes
Time – You can write a CV in around two hours, but it’ll probably show. If you want to write a good CV, you’ll have to commit. A stand out CV should take you between 8 and 20 hours, or more.
Cost – A quality graduate CV writing service should cost $200-$400. Less than that and the writer will likely only spend 1-2 hours working it, will expect you to do a lot of the writing yourself (e.g. here’s our template, you fill it in), and will probably not have industry expertise or lived experience as a hiring manager/recruiter.
Effort – The more effort you put in, the better your CV will likely be, but you still need the right CV tools, templates and peer reviews – that’s where our Top 10 CV Tips will help.
Tip #2 – Know what a good graduate CV needs
As a graduate, you may not have much work experience, and that’s ok. But you want to be sure that you’ve got the basics covered. It might seem obvious, but a great graduate CV needs to have:
- Perfect spelling and grammar (we recommend using Grammarly).
- Matching job titles to the role you are applying for (we’ll get to that later).
- Personal value propositions (we’ll get to that later).
- An emphasis on transferable skills (we’ll get to that later).
- Evidence rather than adjectives.
- Search optimised keywords (we’ll get to that later).
- Contains achievements related to the selection criteria.
- 2-4 pages long.
- A clear CV structure (refer to the free CV template provided).
Tip #3 – What not to put in your CV
- Fluffy adjectives.
- Fake skills/experience.
- Irrelevant skills/experience.
- Full address.
- Fancy graphics and formatting.
You don’t need to have your full address on your CV (just the closest city centre and postcode for where you want to work). Referees are generally required when you reach a milestone in the recruitment process, so supply those when asked and no need to write “references available upon request” – this is a give-in. We don’t need to explain why fake skills are on this list!
Tip #4 – Learn how to read a job ad
A job ad contains a wealth of information that many people skim over or even ignore. The best CVs are those that are reverse-engineered from the job ad, then personalised and substantiated with evidence. How to read a job ad:
- Highlight the requested skills/experience (aka selection criteria).
- Prioritise the selection criteria.
- Determine if it is worthwhile investing the time, cost and effort in the job application.
- Highlight keywords and phrases.
- Create personal value propositions for each selection criteria using matching keywords and phrases.
- Use their values and keywords in the professional value proposition / executive summary
An example of selection criteria identified in a job ad is below:
Tip #5 – The most important part of your CV….
… is your job titles. Your titles and headlines need to match the target job title. Try to include any common variations (research Seek for this). Be thoughtful about the titles and even if it is not your designated job title, feel free to include it if it describes your role functionally, i.e. is descriptive of your professional responsibilities.
Tip #6 – Prepare your personal value proposition (PVP)
The PVP, or personal value proposition, is at the heart of your personal brand. It explains what you do, convinces people you can do it, and impresses managers and recruiters with its clarity and succinctness. Your PVP is your elevator pitch and how you introduce yourself in interviews, business networking, your LinkedIn and your CV. A PVP promises value to the prospective employer. There are two types to insert into your CV:
- Professional Value Proposition: This is your professional experience boiled down to a single sentence focused on a single profession.
- Competency Value Propositions: These are one-liners describing each of your key competencies.
Our best personal value proposition framework is:
For more on preparing the perfect PVP, see here.
Tip #7 – Showcase your transferable skills
Seemly unrelated roles to the one you are applying to will likely contain transferable skills relevant to your next role. Create competency value propositions for each of these. Some examples of notable transferable skills are customer service, conflict resolution, teamwork, research, and working under pressure.
Tip #8 – Showcase your technical skills
If your role is technical, like an engineer or scientist, a Technology & Technical Skills Table can provide a quick clear snapshot of your technical skills and experience for recruiters and hiring managers. It typically contains the tools and technologies you have used and your technical skills.
List the names of the skills/technologies under categories, then add years of experience and a self-assessed competency rating of 3-5. When self-assessing your skill level, it’s always best to be humble. You don’t want to have a higher rating than the interviewer would give themselves. If you only have academic experience, put a * next to the years.
Tip #9 – Tailor CVs for job applications
The perfect CV is the one that clearly addresses the selection criteria with PVP and makes the candidate not look like a risky hire. We’ve taught you how to read a job ad, and this is where highlighting key terms in the job ad comes in handy. Your headline, specialisations, and specific job titles should mirror the ad itself. Remember to add keywords from the ad and the company vision/values into your CV, and emphasize how you meet selection criteria.
Tip #10 – Use your new CV effectively
So, you’ve picked the job you feel is worth applying to and sent your new CV in. Now,
- Be prepared for a surprise phone interview.
- Know your personal value propositions by heart.
- Prepare stories for each selection criteria using the STAR framework.
- Submit customised one-page cover letters which act as mini selection criteria.
- Call or email first to connect with your potential employer/recruiter. This builds trust, demonstrates a heap of soft skills and gives a face to your CV.
- Nail that interview! To prepare check out what not to say in an interview here and download our free interview preparation guide, see
If you’d like some personalised feedback on your graduate CV from CV Writers, we offer a free CV review service here.