7 Expert CV Tips to Land Your First Job After Graduation - 5 min read

Hey soon-to-be graduates. Are you on the hunt for that perfect first job? Securing the first one is no joke! Not to fear—you can make your CV shine by following a few simple strategies to stand out from the crowd and land your first job. Get your career off to a positive start with these 7 expert CV tips from Melanie Huettner, recruitment officer at SThree—a global staffing service specializing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), located in Munich.

Write the Perfect CV

Ok, so you’ve found the perfect job. Now it’s time to write the perfect CV. You want it to stand out from the others, right? Here’s how…

Tip #1: The Buzz on Buzzwords

If you’re sending the same CV to every job you’re applying for, STOP! It’s super important to tailor your CV towards each one individually. Here’s why:

Did you know that most companies use machines to scan CVs? Yeah, that’s right. Think about it—if a company has 20-25 job listings and 100 applicants apply for each position, that means 2000 to 2500 CVs to read through. Human resource teams simply don’t have the time to go through every CV individually, so they rely on machine learning.

These machines are looking for buzzwords—terms and phrases which can typically be found in the job advertisement. If your CV doesn’t include the right buzzwords, your profile may never be seen, even if you’re perfect for the job. Let’s take a look at the job requirements for a financial analyst:

Sample job advert from Danish company, IFU.

If you were writing a CV based on this example, you would want to include buzzwords and phrases like “prepared investment portfolios for clients,” “validated and controlled financial input,” “prepared quarterly reports,” etc. But it’s important to be honest—if you don’t possess many of the skills listed in a job advert, move on to something you’re more qualified for. You don’t want to waste your time, nor theirs.

But don’t anticipate all companies to implement machine learning. According to Melanie, “our team of five looks through each individual CV. We pre-define buzzwords for each available position and use a red marker to circle each word. Our list of candidates gets narrowed down based on how many buzzwords they include in their CV.”

Tip #2: Keep it Short and Sweet

We live in a world where we’re bombarded by information every second of every day. If content doesn’t catch our eye within the first three seconds, we swipe left or keep on moving. It’s no different for recruiters. No one wants to read through a 3-4 page CV—BORING!

“I will never read through more than one page of a CV if the first page isn’t compelling.”

Melanie Huettner, recruitment officer at SThree

Keep it short and make it pleasing on the eye. If you’re applying for a creative role, you’ll want your CV to reflect that (e.g., include more visuals). Or, if you’re applying for a more traditional role, you’ll want to showcase a simple, yet professional CV, but never BORING! Here are a few examples:

Creative CV sample
Source: Guru

Professional CV sample
Source: novoresume

Melanie states, “I will never read through more than one page of a CV if the first page isn’t compelling.”

Tip #3: Wow Them With Your Pearly Whites

Include a natural-looking photo. Notice I don’t say “professional photo.” It really depends on what you’re applying for. Applying for a creative role, such as a social media manager, is completely different than applying for a financial analyst position. In the latter, you would probably be better served with a more professional picture, but in creative roles, you can be a bit more playful. No matter what, you want to showcase your personality. Got a great smile? Show it! Have kind eyes? Exploit them!

This CV screams, “don’t hire me!”

Tip #4: Brand Your Tagline

Brands use catchy taglines all the time. Why can’t you? I mean, you can’t think of Nike without considering “Just Do It.” What’s yours?

Think of your description as your tagline. No one has time to read a book so make it short and get to the point. Most importantly, make sure the description is specific to every job you apply for. For example, if you’re applying for a business management job, focus on your leadership skills, or if you’re applying for a social media manager position, focus on your storytelling skills. And make sure your description includes at least one buzzword or phrase from the job advert.  

Tip #5: Spell Check the SH*T Out of It

Most recruiting officers skim through CVs. According to Melanie, “if I notice a single typo in the CV, I throw it out. To me, if the applicant isn’t willing to double-check his CV for errors, he’s probably not very interested in our company.” So, make sure to submit an error-free CV.  

“If I notice a single typo in the CV, I throw it out.”

Melanie Huettner

Tip #6: Keep it Real (and Relevant)

Showcase your relevant experience (and not just job experience). We get it—you’re fresh out of uni and might not have much on-the-job experience yet, but you can still impress recruiters. Include those two-week internships, month-long volunteer positions, and part-time jobs while studying. Recruiters are looking for diverse candidates who demonstrate both drive and passion. Melanie says “we realize recent graduates don’t have much job experience. But if they demonstrate initiative and drive, we are curious to learn more about them.”

Tip #7: Order is Everything

I can’t stress it enough—the order of your CV is everything. You need to think—what is going to get me the job? If your educational background is more impressive than your job experience, place it first. Or, if your internship experience is more relevant than your part-time employment, point it out.

To catch the recruiter’s eye early on, you’ll want to entice them to keep reading. Showcase what’s most important first, followed by your skills and interests. If there’s still room, feel free to brag a bit…state your accomplishments, conferences attended and certificates received. Companies want to hire motivated employees who are continually striving to learn.

According to Melanie, “we hire based on a feeling. We want to ensure the person we hire will fit into our company culture. When I look for new candidates, I’m not just interested in their work experience, I’m interested in their skills and interests. I’m looking for keywords like “team player,” “collaboration” and “communication skills.” If this can’t be demonstrated on the first page of their CV, it’s highly unlikely I will keep reading.”

Final Thoughts

Never underestimate the importance of a strong CV. It’s a vital door opener to land your first job after university. Remember: it should be tailored towards every single job you apply for. Stay tuned for more career advice from Lix as you begin your journey into your new career. And be sure to check out our Expert Guide on writing the perfect cover letter.

Did we miss anything? If you have some CV tips to share, please leave us a comment.

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