5 tips for a CV for a recent graduate

Written on 18 October 2012.

1. Understand the objective of a CV: To highlight your skills
Writing a CV is a paradoxical art: you are telling the story of your educational and professional past, and the recruiter is trying to read into your future . . . in his or her company. Although curriculum vitae may literally be “the course of your life,” the employer should not see in it only a succession of degrees, experiences, and activities. It should also clearly show the skills you are making available.

2. Facilitate the reading
The “title” is useful only if adds information or sums things up nicely in a single line. So, no such titles as: “CV” or “Recent Graduate Available.” Your CV should fit on one page, without superfluous words that don’t give the recruiter any useful information. Use a font of no less than eleven points. Seriousness and sobriety are never objectionable.

3. Organise
Reverse chronological order is the standard for three well-defined categories: education, which includes language and computer proficiency, professional and possibly student-association experience, activities and centres of interest. These three categories correspond to the recruiter’s three essential questions: What is the applicant’s educational background (knowledge)? What skills has he or she exploited (savoir-faire)? What is his or her personality like (social skills)?

4. ….into three categories
Education should begin with your most recent degree or any ongoing course of study and the expected graduation date and generally goes back as far as the baccalauréat or high-school diploma. There is no need to mention your driver’s licence here, but note your foreign-language proficiency, including test scores, related certificates, and stays abroad. Nor is there any need to list all of your experiences; for the experience category, four will do. Include the specific dates and the lengths of time, the name of the company, its location, the title of your position, the ambit of your responsibility in terms of budget or number of people, and above all each of your missions, which reveal that you have the skills necessary for the position you are applying for. Extracurricular activities are important above all for a recent graduate, but they shouldn’t make your CV look like a catalogue for a travel and leisure agency. Choose your most meaningful interests, those you can talk about most enthusiastically, even if you no longer practice them.

5. Highlight and “market” everything
If you lack professional experience, save all of your real responsibilities with student associations for the experience category. Describe your volunteer work or summer jobs with clarity, precision, and professionalism, using the same format as for in-company experience and making sure that the skills they involved are revealed. Avoid jargon specific to your particular experiences, but do “market” your CV by using terms specific to the positions you are targeting or the ads you are responding to.

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