Tips for a good graduate technical CV
While many large IT employers use online application forms, some still prefer the personal touch of a CV and covering letter, particularly smaller organisations recruiting for specific technical positions.
Tailor your CV for each graduate job
Your CV should always be tailored for each graduate job you apply for. Recruiters will quickly pass over a general ‘CV for all seasons’ that isn’t properly targeted. The best CVs have a clear and logical structure. You need to capture the reviewer’s attention with facts and information that show you meet the minimum requirements and have the right skills for the job.
Outline CV structure for IT jobs
For a graduate technical CV you could use the following structure:
- Personal details: name and contact details.
- Educational background and academic details – you may wish to list the names of key modules you have completed on your degree course that are particularly relevant to the job.
- Basic information on relevant courses/qualifications you have completed in addition to your university studies.
- Relevant technologies and skills, including brief information on your level of experience.
- Supporting information, including work experience, relevant projects and general skills that support your application.
- Further interests: include activities that show off general skills and show that you are a well-rounded human being. (Read what Jade Daubney, graduate talent scout at ThoughtWorks, has to say about this at the bottom of this article.)
Use bullet points to organise your information and keep your points clear and concise. Check out our example one-page technical CV for inspiration.
Highlight your technical skills
On your CV include key technical skills (programming languages, platforms, systems, etc) that are relevant to the job, but do more than just list them. Indicate your level of ability and include brief information on how you have applied each skill.
Use examples from university, work experience and home projects. (Important note: if you include links to web projects, make sure the content of such sites is suitable for viewing on a company’s network!)
Not all computer science and technical degrees cover the same content, so it can be helpful to provide brief information about modules and projects that you have completed, particularly if they are relevant to the job.
If you’ve taken the initiative to get some additional computing and technical qualifications make sure that you include these on your CV.
Promote your personal interests
People tend to neglect the personal interests part of their CV, but this is the only section where recruiters can get to know you. Recruiters expect a CV to really show how much you love the tech industry. They put as much, if not more, emphasis on reading this section as the education section on a CV. You should use this to show them how passionate you are.
The CVs that include things like hackathons, codejams and meetups are the ones that grab some recruiters’ attention. You should also include any online courses and any tech blogs you read. All of that is as important as your degree. What you do in your own time tells them a lot about your natural motivations. These activities are the things that nobody tells you to do, so seeing this is as vital as seeing what you studied.
Don't exaggerate in your CV
Don’t overcook your abilities and experience. The person reviewing your CV will have substantial technical experience and will quickly spot any flaws and inconsistencies in the information you include. You may also be tested on them at interview.
Some technology employers recruit graduates from all backgrounds into technical positions, so in this case tell an employer why you would be suited to a technical role. Include examples of any technical skills you have gained and how you have been able to pick up new skills quickly, and highlight what transferable skills you would bring to the company.
Promote your soft skills
While technical skills and aptitude are obviously essential for a technical job, graduate employers view behavioural competencies with equal importance.
Recruiters will want to see that you have the ability to:
- communicate well
- work with others
- complete tasks on time
- adapt and pick up new skills quickly
- think commercially
- be innovative
If you have examples of when you have done a job well or solved a problem in a smart or new way, include a brief example on your CV or in your covering letter. Your interests and activities outside work are also useful indicators of how well you will fit into a team.
Assess your accuracy
Details matter. Before you send out your CV and covering letter you should always check through the text with the same rigour that you check your code. Check:
- your spelling and grammar carefully
- that what you have written makes sense
- that you’ve included the information the employer wants – evidence of skills, etc
- that you haven't left another company's name in your CV
It’s easy to let glitches slip through. IT employers look for smart, professional people, who can develop high-quality technical solutions. Use your CV and covering letter to demonstrate that you fit the bill.