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Writing CVs for different types of graduate job

Whether your target is a graduate scheme with an investment bank or a vacancy for a graduate managing a shop, write a CV that is right for the job.
Many graduate recruiters hate CVs that are wacky or pompous.

Before you rush to download template CVs, here's a big warning: recruiters hate spam CVs – so you'll need to adapt your job application according to your skills, the employer, the market in which it sits and the role on offer.

First of all:

1) Read below for the basic differences between types of CV for graduates.

2) Get more specific information particularly about job applications within particular graduate career sectors.

3) Use this site to research employers – go to the employer hubs for tips on applications and interviews with leading graduate employers.

4) And then download your sample CV and adapt it using our tips below.

Style 1: the traditional CV – sells your track record

Most CVs used by students and graduates fall into this category – a chronological or reverse-chronological account of your life and education. Within this structure there are endless opportunities to customise and target the information.

  • Write your name and contact details at the top.
  • If  you are are applying speculatively, state your job search objective clearly.
  • At this stage of your career, details of your education may be of most interest to potential employers. Unless you have loads of relevant work experience (or if you'd rather not give your grades too much prominence!), list your education at the top of the CV, in reverse chronological order. List any professional qualifications or training you've undertaken separately.
  • Write your work experience and employment history, again in reverse chronological order. Start with your present or most recent position, and work backwards.
  • For each position, describe your major duties and achievements, beginning each point with an action verb (eg 'Achieved', 'Increased', 'Won'. Keep to the point and stressed what you've achieved.
  • Keep your career goals in mind as you write and, as you describe your duties and achievements, emphasise those which are most related to your desired job.

Style 2: the skills-based CV – sells your potential

If you want to draw more attention to the skills you have developed than to the events that have made up your life, then perhaps consider constructing a skills-based CV.

These CVs often include a personal statement or career objective near the beginning. For example: ‘Motivated and academically gifted chemical engineer seeking to use his industrial experience in a technical sales career'. Only do it if you feel comfortable with approach. The rest of the CV must contain considerable evidence to back up any such assertions.

Another common feature of this type of CV is including a list of key achievements. Only do this if you feel that it's the most effective way to package your message. The main problem with these CVs is that they can run the risk of sounding phoney or pompous if badly composed.

  • Write your name and contact details at the top.
  • This type of CV is well suited to people starting out in their careers, so you may want to state your job search objective clearly.
  • Write between three to five separate paragraphs, each one focusing on a particular skill or accomplishment, and each one with a relevant heading.
  • List these 'functional' paragraphs in order of importance, with the one most related to your career goal at the top.
  • Within each functional area, emphasise the most relevant accomplishments or results produced.
  • Add in a brief paragraph showing your work experience after the last functional area, giving dates, employer and job titles only.
  • Include your education in a separate section at the bottom of the CV, again in reverse chronological order.

Style 3: the combination CV: aka the great British compromise

You're perfectly free to create a CV which includes elements of both traditional and skills-based types. Focus on the major aim of the exercise: to produce a CV that meets your needs. And if this means a wholly original hybrid, fair enough.

How off the wall can I be with a graduate CV?

Just occasionally you may feel the need to produce a CV that is radically different from everybody else's. This is only recommended if wackiness or 'creativity' is appropriate behaviour in the eyes of the organisation that you are approaching. Chartered accountants, for example, are not in this group but maybe advertising agencies are.

General tricks and tactics for a great graduate CV

  • Give the most space to the most important facts of your life, be they part-time jobs or degree course modules.
  • Make sure you can account for any chronological gaps in your CV – you may get some awkward questions otherwise.
  • Concentrate on your personal contribution to whatever it is you're writing about and stress achievements and outcomes.
  • Don't waffle! Include only relevant information, but take care to explain yourself clearly. If the employer has provided any guidance on length, make sure you meet the requirements. The standard length of a CV in the UK is two full pages, but this may vary internationally.
  • If you're e-mailing your CV, give it a sensible name – your own is always a good choice – not just 'CV.doc'.