Just getting started? 4 things recruiters look for in entry-level CVs

CVCongratulations! You have completed your studies and now the time has come to start that all important job search.

This can be an incredibly daunting prospect, so how do you sell yourself to prospective employers when you lack any experience?

While recruiters will generally look for a concise, well-written CV that they can confidently present to the hiring manager, there are a few other things you can do to stand out from the competition.

Here are the four key things that recruiters look for and elements you should consider when writing your CV:

1.    A tailored approach 

If you have a CV with no work experience, then you should focus on your skills gained from your time in university, part-time roles and extra-curricular activities, rather than the experience you don’t have.

But first, it’s essential to review the job advert and identify the relevant skills and qualifications that the recruiter is actually looking for. This may include elements such as attention to detail, time management capabilities and customer service.

In order to tailor your CV to the job, it is essential to include the skills from the job posting on your CV. The key is to make sure the recruiter can see that this is not a generic CV and that you possess skills relevant to the job they are advertising for. Not only does this showcase your suitability, but it’ll show them you’re serious about this application and have taken the time to personalize your application.

2.     Honesty 

We’ve all seen the interview episodes of The Apprentice where CV’s are heavily scrutinised and the truth comes out, to much embarrassment from the candidates. But that’s simply because honesty and integrity are hugely important to employers.

Of course, it’s important to demonstrate your best qualities — you shouldn’t be afraid to present your successes! Because of this, it can be tempting to exaggerate skills and capabilities.

But do keep in mind that the recruiter is not expecting a CV filled with experience aplenty. It’s much better to be honest from the beginning and focus on the skills you do have, rather than the ones you want or don’t have.

3.    Proactivity 

One of the most desired qualities sought by recruiters are graduates who demonstrate motivation, initiative, passion and the drive to do a good job for their employer.

To prove this, try to show how you’ve gone the extra mile in your CV. This might be taking on extra educational projects, studying vocational courses and qualifications, or a side project you’ve got going on. You can also consider any occasions where you have volunteered or performed charity work. Although these opportunities may not have been paid, they will add value to your CV — and you’re bound to have gained some valuable transferrable skills whilst doing them.

Concerned you haven’t any impactful ‘extras’ to add to your graduate CV? There’s no time like the present to start. Log on and take an online sector short course, start your own blog or consider taking on some freelance work. Everyone starts somewhere, and employers will appreciate that you’re actively trying to build upon your skills and experience.

3.    Facts and evidence 

When writing a CV, it’s important to keep it factual and evidence based, whilst avoiding generic and sweeping statements.

By focusing on key results and achievements — for example a university project you performed particularly well in, a high exam result or a stand out milestone from a personal project or extracurricular activity — you can show employers the real value you could bring to their team.

For example, instead of merely listing ‘blogging’ as one of your skills, you might say that you ‘grew personal blog to 5,000 page views per month in just 6 months’. This gives a much broader view of your capabilities and brings the CV to life for the recruiter.

4.    Professionalism 

No matter how CV trends change over time, one thing will always stay the same: professionalism is key. Always make sure you use professional language, and, while a friendly tone is ideal, avoid using any slang terminology or abbreviations.

Most importantly though, remember to carry out a thorough spelling and grammar check before sending off every job application. Errors signal a lack of attention to detail and certainly don’t give the best professional impression.

Your graduate CV should also be presented professionally. While it’s okay to add your own spin to your CV, you should always prioritise readability over style. If recruiters can’t navigate through your CV with ease and pinpoint the information they need, they’ll swiftly move onto the next candidate.

Remember that the average recruiter looks at a CV for just seven seconds before deciding whether to put a candidate forward for a job. First impressions really do count, so write a tailored, engaging and realistic CV to help you stand out from the crowd.

andrew-fennell-headshotAbout the author

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

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