What Makes a Stand Out Graduate CV?

Written by Scott Harrison

Writing a CV as a recent graduate is quite daunting, as many templates and guides are designed to highlight your relevant experience. That’s the point right? You don’t have any yet, so therein lies the challenge. There is a temptation to lament about your time as hockey captain at high school, or your time volunteering on a farm in Kenya one summer. However, whilst these may all be valid inclusions in some form, they are not the crux of what an employer is looking for. Graduates need to focus on their relevant experience and qualifications and highlight their career goals and aspirations.

Mission Statements

Many CVs begin with a mission statement or summary of key skills and attributes. Graduates should use this space to provide a clear and concise statement outlining their career plans and focus. This helps employers understand what your expectations are, and position you as someone who has taken the time to plan and research the roles you are applying for.

Demonstrate Results

Everything on your CV can show how you operate in a working environment and can be used to your advantages. Your position is not what is selling you, the achievements during your time in a role say more. For example, see the differences in the way a summer job can be portrayed:

Head bartender, XYZ Bars. Led a team of 5, organised shift rotas, responsible for stock control and weekly beverage order.


Head bartender, XYZ bars. Whilst leading a team in a busy seasonal business I achieved the following

  • Introduced an employee reward program and helped increase staff retention
  • Saved 8% on staffing costs through more efficient rotas
  • Managed stock control to decrease waste products and save in excess of $5,000 over a 2 month period.


If you are lucky enough to have some experience through your studies or through internships, they need to be a highlight of your CV. If they are not the most recent, you can move the content around to highlight these more clearly, for example under headers such as “Relevant Experience”, and put the remaining information under “Other Experience”.

Hiring managers are inundated with CVs, so to make your stand out use short and concise sentencing, avoiding lengthy explanations of irrelevant material. For example, if a thesis or dissertation is relevant to the job application you can include its title and highlights if it isn’t, consider a more simple and shorter overview such as “I completed a dissertation on the……….”.

Use Keywords

Recruiters and talent acquisition managers use a variety of tools to find, sort and assess CVs and candidate profiles. Using keywords in your CV help you move up the list. Think about the core competencies and skills the role demands and incorporate them into your opening statements, cover letter and experiences.

And Finally…

Don’t be afraid to have different CVs for different applications. Taking the time to fully research a role and the company enables you to tailor your CV for maximum effect. This also includes providing different referees, for example, varying subject tutors or personal referees from associated industries.