Step-By-Step Guide To Build a Graduate CV

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 19, 2022 | Published November 9, 2021

Updated November 19, 2022

Published November 9, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Related: How to Write a CV for a Job Application: Step by Step Guide

The first step to building a professional career after graduating can be to create a CV. A CV is a detailed document highlighting your professional and academic history and is an opportunity to illustrate why you are a suitable candidate for a particular job position. By knowing how to write a graduate CV, you can improve your employability and promote your educational background and current skill set. In this article, we discuss what is a CV, explore what to include, learn how to write a strong CV, and understand the various CV formats.

What is a graduate CV?

A graduate CV is a longer version of your resume and summarizes your academic history, teaching and research experience, awards, honours, and any relevant work experience. You can create a basic CV to act as a base document you can use when submitting a job application. This may help you customize your CV quickly according to the job posting. Typically, you update your document as you gain a new skill set or experience. Try to emphasize the skills and most relevant experience to ensure that they're easily noticeable by the recruiter.

Related: What Is a CV? (With Template and Example)

What to include in a CV

There are various ways to present your CV, but you may add the following key elements:

Contact information

The most essential information includes your full name, contact number, email address, and location. Make sure to add the email address you regularly use, as this can be one of the primary ways recruiters contact you. Beneath the contact information, consider adding a link to your online professional profile. It's important to be active in professional online platforms, regularly showing interest in the field in which you're looking for a job.

Personal statement

A strong personal statement is very important for a graduate with limited to no work experience. Your personal statement explains to the employer why you want to work for the company and highlights the one most important information that emphasizes why you're the perfect candidate for the role. You can also conduct some research on the employer and express your admiration for their products or services, their history, or the company's culture.

Related: Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for Graduate School

Important skills

Graduate CVs lack any employment experience, but you can start your document with a list of your best soft skills. You may determine your skills under the following types:

Soft skills

Soft skills are personal qualities that enable you to interact effectively with other people and improve your connections in the workplace. There are many online aptitude tests that can help you learn about your core strengths. You can develop these skills during your education process, volunteering experiences, or internships. Problem-solving, time management, communication, and teamwork are examples of soft skills.

Self-taught skills

These are skills that you have learned to upskill yourself during your education or period of unemployment. This means learning or improving a technical skill on your own by studying resources and practising autonomously. Teaching yourself particular skills can save you money on courses and certifications. Some self-taught skills may start as a hobby and grow into a career activity.

Employment history

If you have no work experience, you may mention the skills you have gained during extracurricular activities at the college or university. Describe the courses and projects where you developed these skills and any personal results achieved. If you have volunteering experience, you can fill a section on the soft skills you have gained during that time.

Education information

Including your education and highlighting any relevant skills shows your employers that you may qualify for the job position. For a graduate CV, you can list your education in reverse chronological order, with your post-graduate degree qualifications first, followed by your undergraduate degree, and your high school diploma. Each area of education may include the institution's name, dates you studied there, qualification type, and your grade.

Hobbies and interests

Listing your hobbies and interests gives the recruiter an insight into your personality. You can include any extracurricular activities you did during your education. You can use this section to detail any team or individual achievements and awards you received, and the strengths you've developed during this time.

Additional information

You can use this section to include any qualifications that may not add much value to the particular job role. But these attributes are worth mentioning as they add interest to your character profile, such as having a clean driver's licence or having first aid training. You can add anything under this section that might highlight your employability and make you stand out.

Related: How to Write a One-Page Resume (With Tips and an Example)

How to write a strong graduate CV

Here is a six-step process that can help you create an impressive CV:

1. Choose your story

You can choose any experience from your life to showcase your story in your CV. For example, you can choose to focus on:

  • your high academic achievements

  • understanding and promoting diversity

  • the many internships that helped you choose your career

  • your conviction to be in this field of work

  • how proactive you are about gaining the skills to make you successful in this job

Even if you wish to convey most of these stories in your CV, choose one or two to be part of your primary story. Being sure about your story helps convey a stronger message and increases chances for your employability.

2. Structure your CV

Think carefully about how you wish to group your experiences and extracurriculars. You can group your key experiences and achievements in various sections, such as media experience, key internships, or volunteering achievements. Make sure that the experiences you choose portray how you may be the right candidate for the job. Group those experiences under the key skills and behaviour mentioned in the job posting.

3. Use the employer's language

Analyze the job description of the employer's job posting to understand the language the company uses. You can use similar terminology and expressions in your CV when explaining your prominent skills and experiences that showcase that you're the perfect candidate. You have a higher chance of obtaining an interview when your relevant skills are clear for the recruiter.

4. Make yourself the centre

Always provide enough context to your story about the company you've worked for and tasks you've completed. Make sure to highlight your contributions and showcase the scale of your achievements. To effectively do this, you can provide the background of the tasks, the steps you took, and the specific results you achieved to complete those tasks.

5. Create talking points for interviews

The recruiter may ask you about anything from your CV at the interview, so it's a good idea to add enough talking points to your CV. For example, you can write about the interests and activities that inspire you. It can be easier to talk in-depth about subjects you like when asked and make yourself a memorable candidate.

6. Make unemployed periods part of your story

Employers may notice gaps in your CV, but you can use a skill-based CV format to make the gap period less visible. If you wish to address the gap period directly, do so in the additional information section and use a positive tone. For example, if you had to take a year off because of illness, state it briefly and focus on what you achieved during that year.

Different CV formats

Depending on whether you want to highlight your skills, experience, or a combination of the two, you can use any of the three formats below:

Chronological CV

This is the commonly used CV type and is the most traditional one. A chronological CV lists your work history in order of date, with the current position at the top. You can include a brief career summary and highlight your most relevant technical skills before detailing your work experiences. For this CV format, list your education first in reverse chronological order.

Skill-based CV

This format can be the best configuration for a graduate CV as people with little to no work experience tend to use this format. You can display your skills under separate headings, and below each one, you may write about the experiences that helped you achieve those skills. You can also add a paragraph addressing any formal work experience you have. Typically, the section related to your education comes after the skills and work experience segments.

Related: Writing a Resume With No Experience

Combination CV

This type of CV combines the elements of chronological and skills-based CVs. Combination CVs are useful if you want to highlight your personal qualities and the work experiences you have. It can emphasize your skills and work experience as well. There are many CV templates online that you can use to present yourself professionally.

Related articles

Top Extracurricular Activities to Improve Your Resume

Explore more articles