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How to write your first CV with Guardian jobs

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What to do:

  • Make sure to include keywords: If you’re applying online, including relevant keywords in your CV will ensure it is picked up by computer systems and will also show the reader how well you understand the role. Keywords are phrases and terminology that are specific to the job you are applying for. Check the job description and include them at appropriate points throughout your CV

  • Include your other experience: You need to be selective about what you include but don’t go too far the other way and exclude details from any voluntary work or outside activities. This experience will show your personality e.g. highlighting that you are hardworking and have teamwork skills

  • Sell your achievements: We tend to shy away from highlighting our successes but think about it from your potential employer’s point of view. They want to know what your skills and achievements are and how they might fit the role you are applying for

  • Structure your CV by skill and importance: If you do not have relevant experience, you will need to demonstrate that you have transferable skills. Focus on four or five skills needed for the role you are applying for. Be descriptive and use specific examples that show how, where and when you have demonstrated these skills

What not to do:

  • Make it too long: At entry level, a relevant one-page CV is fine. Employers are often overwhelmed with CVs, so by keeping yours to a page it’s more likely to be noticed. Take out any unnecessary words like “passionate”, “motivated” or “hard working” and show them what you can do instead

  • Use dull language: Avoid using “responsible for” and “duties included” in your CV and instead use interesting and powerful verbs to describe your previous experience e.g. “Transformed club meetings to double attendance”

  • Be too generic: Tailor your CV to each role you apply for. Most will be different in terms of things they require for the job e.g. if PowerPoint experience is key, make sure that’s highlighted on your CV

  • Miss the “so what?” factor: Spell out the connection between your background (skills and studies) and the job requirements. Your CV will be competing with others, so it needs to be relevant and address each specific requirement

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How to stand out?

Be yourself: Your personality is unique. No one has the same behavioural make-up and personal attributes that you have. Likewise, everyone’s experience is unique 

Demonstrate why you want the job: Do something that sets you apart from the field and think carefully about what skills you can bring to the table 

Do your research – and remember that they will do theirs too: Research the company you are applying to, try to understand what the role includes, the current challenges and why this role is important to the company. While you do your research on the company, remember the company may research you too – make sure the “you” you present in your application is consistent with the rest of your online presence

Find out more:

Get your personality to shine in your CV 

How to apply for your dream job

How to write a graduate CV