Applying for jobs after graduation is a nerve-wracking process. Add in the fact that you have little to no relevant experience and crafting an impressive curriculum vitae (CV) and cover letter becomes even more stressful. While it can be a disheartening task, don’t worry – there are ways to maximise the skills and experience you have to catch the eyes of recruiters. For this reason, we’ve created a CV and cover letter writing guide for recent graduates to help take the stress out of applying for your first big job.
How to write a graduate resume/CV
When writing a graduate CV, it’s easy to dwell on the fact that you may not have as much relevant experience under your belt as you’d like. One way to remedy this is to focus on your qualifications instead – list the relevant skills and knowledge that you’ve developed during your studies. If you’ve got technical skills relevant to the job, list them; if you have proficient knowledge in specific software, include that too. It’s also a good idea to look through your work history for any transferrable skills that you’ve gained from other jobs which you can apply to your desired role.
Categorising your CV/resume
Contact details: be sure to include this section at the top of your CV so recruiters are able to contact you. List your name and make it stand out – use a larger font size or bolden it to make sure hirers know who you are. Include your email address, phone number, home address or city of residence and a link to your LinkedIn profile (more on this later).
Personal statement: this is where you provide recruiters with a brief snapshot of your key skills, achievements and experience. Aim to specify who you are, what you can bring to the company and what your career goals are.
Education and qualifications: if you’re concerned about your level of work experience, this is the perfect space to emphasis all the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired throughout your degree. In reverse chronological order, list institution name, dates of study, degree name and classification, any relevant course history and relevant projects and dissertations. Include any achievements, such as academic awards or committee roles. If you’ve got an impressive weighted average mark, make sure to include that too – recruiters do take an interest in high grades. Listing experience and achievements from high school is touch-and-go – as a rule of thumb, only briefly include it if it’s relevant to the job.
Work experience: this can be the most difficult section to write, especially if you don’t feel like you’ve had enough relevant experience. The secret is to focus on the transferrable skills that you’ve picked up from previous jobs and relate them to the role you’re applying for. If you’ve got any paid work, internships, placements or volunteer work under your belt, do include them. Format them by job title, company name, dates of employment, duties, skills and achievements. Focus on the relevant knowledge developed throughout your work history – even if the job itself isn’t relevant, look for skills and abilities learned at that occupation that can be used in the role you’re applying for. Transferrable skills are your friend, so emphasise them to show recruiters that you meet the job requirements.
Hobbies/interests: if you utilise this section effectively, you can further show off your suitability for the job. Listing relevant interests and hobbies can be a great way to interest recruiters. For example, if you’re looking to get into the publishing industry, mention that you like to read and write in your spare time. Those who are looking to get into animal welfare could note that they like to spend time with animals, whether that be playing with their own pets or animal-sitting for other people.
Additional info: this is the place to list any skills or talents that could give you the edge over other candidates. Mentioning fluency in a foreign language is always impressive, especially if you’re looking for work with companies that have a global presence.
References: believe it or not, don’t actually list them! Wait until the recruiter asks you to provide them in the next stage of the hiring process. If you must include them, list their name, job title, company name, relationship to you and contact details such as address, phone number and email.
Things to consider while creating your resume
Proofread your CV: get a word-savvy friend or family member to cast an eye over your CV before you submit it. Even the smallest spelling or grammatical mistakes can make your résumé appear unprofessional to recruiters.
Pay attention to your formatting: make sure your CV is well formatted, with consistent bullet points and legible font in 10 or 12-point size. Don’t go over the top with photos and colourful designs – stick to a template that gives your résumé a professional feel.
Provide details of your LinkedIn profile: recruiters are increasingly turning to LinkedIn to help facilitate the hiring process. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, now might be a good time to set up one – it’s a great way to network and put yourself out there to potential employers. Include the link to your profile in the Contact Details section of your CV.
Use keywords in your résumé: you might be surprised to learn that your CV actually goes through multiple filters before landing in the hands of a recruiter. Hirers use applicant tracking systems to sort and rank résumés on the basis of keywords, casting out CVs that don’t fit the job description. It is crucial that you include these words in your CV so it passes through this initial filtering process. To do this, identify the required qualifications and skills mentioned in the job listing and include these keywords – with some filters, the keywords may literally be the required qualifications. If a job listing specifies that candidates need a Bachelor degree, the filter will only include applicants who have listed a Bachelor degree on their CV. It’s also important to look for jargon words, too – if there’s technical terms in the job description that you have experience with, make sure to list them on your résumé.
Try to avoid the following in your CV
Go beyond one page: résumé length can be a contentious issue – many people argue that one page is too short, while others believe two pages is a sure-fire way to have your CV ignored. For entry-level jobs, one page is enough to list all your qualifications, work experience and other information. Two-page résumés are typically the domain of seasoned workers, so don’t feel that you have to pad out your CV with information that isn’t relevant to the job.
Include irrelevant hobbies: recruiters don’t care that you like to socialise with your friends in your spare time. Keeping your hobbies and interests section relevant and appropriate can be a great asset to your résumé, so don’t undermine its importance by including unrelated information.
Waffle on about high school: if you’ve got tertiary credentials, your secondary education will have little influence on recruiters. Don’t include high school details on your CV unless it shows you have proven experience in a specific field – recruiters are interested in your recent qualifications and knowledge, not the academic award you won for an unrelated subject back in Year 9.
How to write a graduate cover letter
It’s important to remember that a cover letter isn’t a regurgitation of your CV. Instead, it’s an opportunity to expand upon your résumé and highlight why you are the best fit for the job. Use your cover letter to express your interest in the role or other employment opportunities within the company and sell yourself by outlining any relevant skills and knowledge that you have. It’s also a good idea to show that you’ve researched the company you’re applying to.
Creating a cover letter template
Contact details: in a cover letter, you need to include the details of not only yourself but the person you’re writing to. In the top right-hand corner, include your name, email address , phone number and the date on which you wrote the letter. Save the top left-hand corner to write the name of the company and the contact person’s full name.
Reference line: this will be appreciated by the reader, who will know what the letter is about before reading a single world. Formatting it along the lines of ‘Re: Application for Junior Assistant position’ will suffice.
First paragraph: it is crucial to make sure that you’re addressing the letter to the correct person. Try your best to get the name and title of the letter’s intended recipient; if not, addressing them as Sir or Madam will do. Start your paragraph by explaining that you are contacting them in regard to a job listing or potential employment opportunities. Express your enthusiasm to work with the company in a certain role and detail the relevant qualifications and skills that you have.
Second paragraph: this is where you sell yourself to the reader. Expand upon your first paragraph and explain why you are the best candidate for the role. Take a sophisticated approach by mentioning the benefits of your qualifications and experience rather than simply listing them. Show how the skills you’ve acquired throughout your degree, combined with your experience from previous jobs and placements, match the requirements of the role. Don’t forget to mention how these skills will help you contribute to the greater good of the company! Express the reasons why you’re seeking employment at this business – make it clear that you’ve researched their work and share their business values.
The end: finish off your cover letter by reminding the reader why you are the ideal candidate for the job. Reference any attachments, such as your CV, and indicate when you’ll be making follow-up contact with the company.
Cover letter tips to consider
Research the company before writing your cover letter: having insight into the company’s work and value system is crucial. It will ensure that you’re applying to a company that can enhance your career goals, while also affirming if you’re the right person to take on the advertised role.
Proofread your cover letter: it’s essential that you produce a grammatically sound cover letter. Keep in mind that simple spelling mistakes could end up being the deciding factor between you and another exemplary candidate.
Avoid the following in your cover letter
Recycle your cover letter: while it may seem like a drag, don’t use a generic cover letter for every job application. You need to personalise every cover letter to ensure it adequately addresses the role you’re applying for. Relevant qualifications and skills will alter according to varying job requirements and you need to make sure that your letter reflects these differences. Creating a basic cover letter template is a time-saver, but take great care to ensure that you’re including relevant information for each different job application.
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