cv writing
An Amazon recruiter (R) gives advice to a job seeker at an Amazon Career Day event, where recruiters help candidates build interview skills, prepare them for job interviews and give them more information on the roles within the company, at Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia on September 17, 2019. Source: Andrew Caballero-Reynold/AFP

Finishing your studies and hoping to land the best graduate job you can? So are lots of other people! The first step is to stand out lies in your CV writing.

Graduate roles are always competitive, so it’s important to make sure your CV is as complete, compelling and relevant as possible.

These are the essential CV myths and facts you need to know before you start writing yours.

Myth! You have to include everything you’ve ever done on your CV

Why? You’ll clutter your CV with irrelevant roles and details.

Your CV is not the time to throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. Including every job you’ve ever had could make it harder for a hiring manager to get to know you.

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The job market is a crowded place … Source: Andrew Caballero-Reynold/AFP

Instead, edit your CV and tailor it to the role you’re applying for. This doesn’t mean deleting whole periods of employment, which can create strange gaps in your work history. It means selecting your most relevant skills and experience and pushing them to the front.

Fact! A simple design is best

Why? Employers want the facts presented simply so they can make a quick, easy decision.

A simple Microsoft Word document is the way to go. Most employers and recruiters appreciate clear fonts in black and white and simple layouts.

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Good CV writing will make sure it doesn’t look like a Jackson Pollock painting … Source: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

A creatively designed CV doesn’t go down well in every industry and can even be hard to download and read.

Myth! Employers want to know your hobbies and interests

Why? Your hobbies and interests are a given! Use the space for more important things.

If employers want to know what kind of person you are and what you enjoy, they’ll probably ask you during the interview. Listing hobbies and interests takes up too much valuable CV space.

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Highlight your volunteering experiences – they show good character! Source: Indranial Mukherjee/AFP

There are exceptions though — if your hobbies and interests include volunteering or an interesting side project that’s relevant to the role you’re applying for, include it!

Fact! Your work experience is more important than your qualifications

Why? Grades tell employers how well you perform academically, but not what you’re like in a workplace.

An employer will probably spend about five seconds checking you have the essential qualifications and then move on. The person reading your CV cares about your practical work experience and your achievements, not your Art GCSE (sorry…).

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All these applicants probably have the same grades than you or better – it’s your work experiences that employers will ultimately look at. Source: Jung Yeon-je/AFP

Degrees and qualifications are just a box to tick for some employers, while others won’t care at all.

Myth! Your CV can be as long as it needs to be

Why? Two pages are the maximum, but 1-1.5 pages is even better!

Recruiters and hiring managers don’t spend long reading your CV. The research varies, but most recruitment experts say you have 30 seconds to make an impression. Quality is infinitely more important than quantity.

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It’s always a good idea to keep your CV mobile-friendly too. Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images North America/AFP

The reader will skim your CV and pick out the information that matters to them. To make it easier for them, it should be no more than two pages (no matter how much experience you have!) Three or four is just too long. If you can keep it to one page – even better.

Fact! You should highlight your soft skills

Why? You’ll have a better chance of landing an interview if you tell the recruiter exactly what you can do.

Soft skills (sometimes called transferable skills) are the skills you pick up in any job and will continue to develop. Customer service jobs, in particular, are full of them — teamwork, problem-solving, conflict management, time management…

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Soft skills – like communication and problem-solving – are plenty in customer service jobs. Don’t forget to mention them! Source: Choo Youn-Kong/AFP

Make sure the previous roles listed on your CV are described accurately and you explicitly state what skills you picked up and how. Don’t be afraid to spell it out — it will help you convince the reader in under 30 seconds!

With just 30 seconds to make an impression, it’s essential to sell yourself as much as you can with an 11 point font and 2 sides of A4. The key is to think like an employer and edit, edit, edit!

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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