How to land your first job – step 1; Make your CV bullet-proof

The Growing Up Guide laptop career

Job hunting can be a daunting process; it can be even more so if it’s for your first job.

If you’re a graduate and are tired of updating your CV and ringing recruiters on a daily basis, here are some top tips that might help you speed up the process.

In this short series, I’m going to walk you through each challenge that you’ll face before you land that first job – from how to secure an interview, to how to prep for it, to what to do and not to do while you’re in the room with your potential future boss.

So, to start, let’s talk about how we can get your foot in the door…

Forget the cover letter, focus on your CV

A close friend of mine who heads up his own department was having a stressful day during the recruitment season.

He was reviewing close to a hundred CVs a day, and I was curious to know how he made his decisions of whom to call in for an interview.

He said, “I never look at the cover letters, I just dive straight into the CVs. Within the first 10–20 seconds of reading a CV, you should be able to tell pretty much everything you need to know about the person, and decide whether you want to read the rest of this CV.”

10–20 seconds? You’re right! It’s how long you’ll have to impress busy recruiters.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t write a cover letter, but instead of spending hours polishing it, you should use that time to make your CV bullet-proof – so here are a few tips to bear in mind…

One CV doesn’t fit all: Do your research

A common mistake that graduates make during the job hunting process is that they send the same CV out to every recruiter. “Well, I’m the same person, so I use the same CV,” some of you may say – but you can’t be more wrong!

Each company has different values – some care particularly about sustainability, some about corporate social responsibility, some emphasise their people-focused approach.

Do your research and tailor your CV, highlight the most relevant skills and experiences that you have to match their values – that’s the least you can do.

Do the work for them: Tell them why they should hire you already

Download every CV template from the Internet, most of them are in the same old format – you start with your contact details, your competencies, then you move on to listing out your work experience, your education… so on and so forth.

But if we apply the 20-second rule described above, it means you need to do all the work for whoever reading your CV, and tell them why they should hire you already – it dramatically increases your chances if they don’t have to work it out themselves.

So, what I would suggest is to include a short biography at the top of your CV, detailing out the best bits of yourself that are the most relevant to the position you’re applying for.

This way, the recruiters won’t need to comb through your CV to find what they’re looking for (in fact, they just probably won’t do it in the first place).

Provide measurable examples

“If you can’t measure it, then it’s like it never happened” – in the business world, it’s brutal but yet true!

Unfortunately in this day and age, recruiters won’t just take your word for it, and I can’t blame them.

It’s not just a number game, so when you say: “I have excellent leadership skills because I was the team leader for my final year project”, it’s not really saying anything.

You need to give measurable results and examples – for instance, to demonstrate you’re a natural team leader and is capable of taking charge in a difficult situation, you could say:

“During my final year in university, I volunteered to be the team leader for my sociology project. I led six different teammates and they all had different opinions, which impacted proactivity and delayed the timeline considerably. I therefore did [XYZ] to unite the team, eventually completing the project on time to a high standard which scored a final mark of [XYZ].”

Remove the jargons: Don’t use words that you don’t understand

I used to work with someone who formulates her sentences in a way that they sound overly complicated.

At the end of the day, we are all human, and we want to read things that are easy to understand.

Using too many business jargons will not only make you look pretentious, it makes you lose credibility.

The last thing recruiters want is a graduate talking like someone who’s been in the industry for far too long, it makes them wonder whether the graduate is really who he says he is (or she is).

One quick tip – read your CV out loud after you’re done writing it. If it’s not something that you would say out loud in real life? It’s probably not a good idea to put it on paper either.

It’s about you: Find what works for you

There is no one right way to write your CV – there are tips you can bear in mind, but there is no silver bullet. Your CV is about selling you, so it has to have your personality and characteristics.

Different industries also have different standards and expectations. If you have a creative idea that you think totally represents who you are as a person or is highly relevant to your industry, by all means, go for it – like this guy who disguised his CV as doughnut deliveries!

The only trick that really matters here is to continue reading and improving, and find out that perfect formula that works for you.

There are countless CV advice sections just one Google search away, on websites such as The Telegraph and The Guardian. Read a few of these a day and highlight the ones that you think work best for your CV, and implement them.

There you have it… 

…5 things to keep in mind when you write your CV. Next time, we’ll look into what comes next once you’ve got the job!




  1. Great post! Such amazing tips you have shared here! It’s crazy to think the first 10-15 seconds is what draws the recruiter in! I definitely need to revisit my CV and ensure it’s doing what it needs to do in terms of drawing recruiters in x


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