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Leadership experience on your graduate management CV

How to big up your leadership experience on your graduate management CV

You want a graduate job in a managerial role. You’re convinced you've got what it takes to be a great leader. You've only got one problem – how do you persuade the graduate recruiter reading your CV?
You'll need to describe your responsibilities and explain what you brought to a project.

Recruiters for graduate management schemes look for people who deliver excellent results to budget and deadline while supporting and developing their teams. Once you've grasped that idea, it shouldn't be too difficult to write a CV that showcases your leadership potential. If you want to get to the next stage in the management recruitment process you’ll need to cover two bases: what have you achieved as a leader, and how did you do it?

What did you do? Choosing the best bits for your management CV

Imagine you were on two society committees at university. One was a film society with over 100 active members and you were the president. The other was a small, declining book club with an apathetic committee and you were the secretary. You only have space to elaborate one of these on your CV. Which do you choose?

It may seem like an easy question – the film club, obviously? Not necessarily. It’s not very impressive that you ran a large film society if you did little more than flick the TV switch and order the pizza when you were there. But what if you made a big impact at your book club? Perhaps your enthusiasm re-energised the team and boosted morale. Perhaps you spearheaded a publicity campaign and managed to reverse the fall in membership. Which piece of experience seems more interesting now?

As a general rule, focus on results, rather than the scale of the projects you’ve been involved in. Employers don’t want managers who are content to sit back and oversee an already successful team or department – they want people who will try their hardest to improve standards and who will be resourceful when the going gets tough.

With every CV entry, write down what your responsibilities were and explain what you brought to the project or organisation. Don’t talk about ‘we’ or ‘us’ – make sure you highlight what changes you made, what positive feedback you received and what results you achieved in each case.

DON’T SAY: I was on the book club committee at university.

DO SAY: I was the secretary on my university’s book club committee and I organised a publicity campaign that contributed to a 20% rise in membership.

How did you do it? Highlighting your leadership skills

We’ve covered the ‘what’. It’s now time to look at how you achieved your results. Was it your negotiation skills or just sheer pester power (determination, resourcefulness and resilience) that helped you land that sponsorship deal, for instance? Go back over your CV adding in extra detail. It may help to write down a list of the skills and attributes you think a good leader should have. Examples could include:

  • Organisation
  • Decision-making
  • Listening
  • Business acumen

Try to go beyond the obvious when drawing out your leadership qualities. You’ll probably have held a number of part time jobs, worked on projects or joined societies where you weren't in a position of responsibility. But you can still use these to highlight your leadership skills. Your commitment to athletics could testify to your dedication and competitive spirit, for example. If you've ever fund-raised for an organisation or planned a gap year you can use that to show that you have an entrepreneurial streak, which is very important in business.

If you’re still struggling for inspiration, check out this useful guide to the top skills wanted in trainee managers.

Revising and consolidating your management CV

Make sure you've spelt out any acronyms to avoid confusion. For instance, if you tell employers that you helped out with RAG (Raising and Giving) at university, they may assume you were involved with some kind of sewing society, as opposed to a fundraising group. CVs should be no longer than two sides long; make sure you’re as concise as possible. Wage war on blank space and waffle. Putting ‘references on request’ rather than including contact details is one way to cut down on unnecessary wordage. Any space you save can be used to highlight more of your leadership skills. Finally, get someone to proofread your CV. Typos and grammar mistakes are very unprofessional.