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How to write an epic CV for graduate jobs in tech
Successful graduate job applications include a well written CV, personalised for each specific graduate program. Here are easy tips for your graduate tech CV.
Writing your CV is a key part of launching your career. It may seem pretty daunting to condense your life and skills into a couple of pages but think of it this way – this is the professional equivalent of your social profile. It is your opportunity to show potential employers what you are like as a person and worker, what you’ve learned so far and hint at the great things you could be capable of in the future.
Unfortunately there is no one-size-fits-all CV that you can send to multiple employers. This is especially true in the field of tech where there are such a huge variety of roles available across an ever broader range of industries. Recruiters, whether they are agencies or whether they work in the talent centre for the company you want to work for, can identify generic CVs immediately and may not even bother to read them if they feel they aren’t tailored to the job in question.
That being said, you don’t really want to be writing your CV from scratch for every new role you apply for – ain’t nobody got time for that! What we suggest is to use our guidelines below to create one or more ‘starting point’ CVs. This will decide the layout of your CV, all the formatting, the structure and the main wording and gist of the content. When applying for different roles you’ll use this CV as a first draft and edit it to align with the different requirements of each role and company.
Remember, if you want to apply for vastly differing role-types it may be handy to have a few versions of your ‘starting point’ CV – for instance, a technical CV could look completely different to one that is for a non-technical role. It may seem like a lot of work but in the long run, it will save you time and when you land your dream job, it will absolutely have been worth every minute!
Before you begin drafting your CV, you will need to decide what approach you want to take. Do you prefer to stick to the tried and tested traditional format where you give a chronological or reverse chronological account of your education and experience? Or do you want to really put an emphasis on your skills and achievements?
Seeing as you are just starting out in your career, we suggest the traditional format or a hybrid of the two, which is also a possibility. Especially if you are after a more technical role, your skills will be a key part of why you are hired and probably the main area of discussion in any interview, so think about the type of job you are looking for and design your CV accordingly.
Structure is vital to any good CV. It should have a logical flow throughout and recruiters should easily be able to find the information they need. The last thing an employer wants to do when they have a large stack of CVs to go through is to be sifting through a confused jumble of text trying to find your key skills or previous experience. If they can’t pinpoint what they want in 30-seconds to a minute, you can rest assured your CV will be skipping the “Yes” or “Maybe” piles and going straight into the “No” pile.
It’s brutal but think about it from the employer’s point of view as well: Google allegedly receives around one million CVs in a year! Not all companies will have that much volume to contend with but it’s still precious, salaried time that goes into reviewing CVs so recruiters have become adept at being able to pick out the better ones after just a quick glance.
Here’s a structural format you could use for a graduate technical CV, as well as some tips to help you with each section:
You don’t need to include a photograph of yourself, your gender or your age/date of birth. All you need here is your full name and your contact details.
Educational history and details
The general format here is to go reverse chronological, starting with your most recent university degree and moving backwards. If relevant, include key modules you have completed in your degree.
Relevant courses/qualifications completed in addition to your university degree
Be succinct and remember relevance is paramount. If you did a course that would probably have little or no importance to a potential employer, leave it out.
Relevant technologies and skills, including soft skills
This being a technical CV, your skills are important and a recruiter’s eyes are probably going to skim over most of your CV to settle here. Make sure you align your skills as much as possible to the role you are applying for. If the relevance isn’t obvious, provide a brief explanation.
Don’t forget to highlight soft skills that may be relevant to the job as well. Excellent verbal and written communication skills, the ability to present and pitch ideas to small or large groups, the ability to work well within a team, being comfortable with taking the lead and making informed decisions – these are valuable insights into what kind of employee you would be. Where possible and as briefly as possible, highlight a situation where you’ve demonstrated the skills above to the benefit of a project or previous job.
Relevant work experience and projects worked on
Again, include only what is relevant to the job you are applying for and do this in a reverse chronological format. Include a brief description of what your responsibilities were and, importantly, what you achieved. If you have any metrics that you could use to backup your claim, or if you have a link you could provide to showcase your work, add it in.
This is where an employer can get to know you. You have limited space to work with so make sure you give a sense of the person you are and your interests in as few words as possible. Considering the technical nature of the job, if there are any interests specifically related to technology, these would be ideal to include as it shows that your passion for tech isn’t limited to your education or your future career; that it is something you engage with for the pure enjoyment of it. This section also gives the employer an idea if you would fit into the culture of their work place so it is advisable to do some research on this to see if you can align this section accordingly.
Personal statement (optional)
This should be used to highlight why you’d be perfect person for the job. It should be short and punchy – either in the form of bulltet points or a snappy paragraph. This can appear either at the very start of your CV if you think it will really catch the eye of the employer, or right at the bottom to leave the recruiter with a lasting impression of you.
Other handy tips
Probably the two most important and useful words to remember when putting together a CV, are relevance and research. You’ve already heard the word ‘relevant’ mentioned several times above. Research is just as important as you need to put in the time and effort to look up the company you are applying to.
Look up the role, the company environment, any details they may share about the interview process and any preferences they may have for the format in which you apply. If you research properly, this will come through in your CV and the recruiter will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to familiarise yourself with the company and the role.
When you are researching the role on offer, you will come across key words that are used in the job posting that you should try to echo in your CV. Obviously subtlety is important here – plagiarism isn’t advisable! You want to show that you know what is required of the role and that you have what it takes to carry out the tasks required of it. Peppering your CV with a few similar words here and there should suffice.
Your CV should be one to two pages max. Recruiters probably pay 60 per cent of their attention to page one and 40 per cent to page two – anything more than that is generally ignored or skimmed over at best. This means that you should place any key information a recruiter requires on that all-important first page.
Use strong language to paint yourself in the best light. Words like “built”, “developed” and “created” are better than “assisted with” or “helped with”.
However, a word of caution to accompany the above. Everything you put in your CV must be 100 per cent true. If you did only assist with a certain project, you should use that wording. Employers will find it very easy to catch out those who ‘fattened’ up their CVs with false or enhanced claims. Especially where technical knowledge is concerned, all it takes is a few well-asked follow-up questions and if you don’t know your material inside and out, it will be obvious to a skilled professional that you had exaggerated on your CV and this will take you out of the running faster than you can say “call-back?”
Look and feel
Your finished CV should look clean-cut, well organised and easy to read. A few tips to ensure this:
- Fonts: Only a maximum of two fonts on your CV. You may want a different font for your headings but don’t mix it up too much. Using more than two will make your CV look messy and disorganised.
- Sections and headings: Break up your CV into logical sections as per the suggested structure above, or similar. Each of those points should be presented in a separate section of its own with a clear heading.
- Whitespace: A CV with zero whitespace is a definite no-no. Seeing a flurry of words on a page with nothing to break it up is very off-putting to a recruiter. The sections and headings you use will help to space out your CV in a way that gives the eye a break as it travels through the length of the document.
- Creativity/distinctness: Most recruiters want a CV that looks just the way they expect it to. You may be tempted to take a risk with an out-there CV but this should only be done for a creative role or a company that is known for valuing different ideas and perspectives. Even in those circumstances, use the adage less is more as a guide. When in doubt, the better option is always to play it safe with a traditional CV.
- Colour: As with the note on creativity, the use of colour is encouraged mostly for more creative roles. You can still use some colour but the finished product should look clean, tasteful and professional. Also, ensure you print out your CV both in colour and in black-and-white to see how the colours and fonts come out. Recruiters may use print-outs, so are less likely to bother with a CV that prints badly.
- Consistency: With all the points above, ensure you are consistent throughout your CV. Using a different font on most of your headings but forgetting on the rest won’t look good. Neither will using one kind of bulleted list in one section and another in a later section. All of these may seem insignificant but will affect the overall look and feel of your CV and can distract the eye of the recruiter.
Format and naming
Check first if the recruiter has any preference on what file format you should use for your CV. If no preference has been named, it is up to you. Ensure you label your CV file properly – be wary of calling it simply ‘CV.pdf’ as that is a sure fire way to ensure it gets lost or ignored once it reaches the recruiter. A handy label would be CV – Your Full Name – Job Title
Check, check and once you’ve done that, check again
Employers will not be impressed by a CV with typos and mistakes. Make sure you check the wording, grammar, punctuation and spelling within your CV several times before you submit it. It is always good to get a close friend or relative to look through it as well as a final proofread as you’ll get another perspective on it as well as another set of eyes to pick up mistakes you may have missed.
LinkedIn and other professional job sites
Use your updated CV to join and update your professional networking sites to ensure your profile is out there reaching a wider network of potential employers.
If you haven’t already taken the plunge, you can apply for graduate programs and browse employers here at GradAustralia. Graduate positions are available all year round, but remember that the peak recruitment season for graduates is in March. If you don’t want to miss out on graduate programs, sign up for the latest updates with GradAustralia.