5 Things Recruiters Look for on a Graduate’s CV

Applying for graduate jobs and wondering why you’re not getting shortlisted for interview? Competition for graduate jobs is fierce and with most job applicants being at a similar level of experience it’s important to give yourself a chance of standing out to employers.

So what are the 5 things that recruiters immediately look for on a graduate’s CV when dealing with a large quantity of potential candidates?

1. An ‘SEO-proof’ CV

When applying for different jobs, it’s integral to tailor your CV to suit the requirements of a specific role. However, if you’re listing your CV on a job board or revamping your LinkedIn profile it’s important to make your CV more ‘findable’.

For instance, if you’re a final year Computer Science graduate your CV will need to include somewhere within it the technical skills you are looking to work with. If so, it’s important to detail how you have C# programming skills, using your keyword “C#” as much as possible.

Therefore if a recruiter is looking to fill a graduate job that requires a certain ability or skill, the more astute candidates will be able to ensure they appear near the top of the search results by including specific key terms relevant to their industry on their CV. More importantly however, candidates who simply list the name of their degree subject run the risk of not showing up altogether when a recruiter is performing a specific skills search.

Of course, this approach is also effective when tailoring your CV to meet a specific job description as recruiters will use similar techniques to sort the good applicants from the bad.

There’s a couple of things to bear in mind when ‘SEO-proofing’ your CV however. First of all, don’t over-do it. List your skills in a logical manner to avoid seeming repetitive. And secondly, resist the temptation to fill your CV with in demand skills if you don’t have them. The whole plot will unravel once you’re screened by a recruiter, or more embarrassingly when you’re attending an interview with a prospective employer. Not only will this be catastrophic to your chances of securing the job but the emotional impact might cause you to blush in front of a stern interviewer who can see through your treacherous lies. So bear that in mind.

       Making sure your CV is 'SEO-proof' is a great way to gain the attention of recruiters

2. Work Experience

Detailing any work experience you’ve picked up that is relevant to your chosen industry either before or after university, during your summer break or as part of a university placement is something recruiters value highly. This is especially the case if your experience relates specifically to the job you’re applying for.

Certainly something to consider if you’re a current student, so get inquiring about placement opportunities because in this instance, more is definitely more.

If you’re a graduate make sure you tell us all about your skills as it’s a great way of making yourself more appealing to graduate employers. Your work experience will show your commitment to a chosen career path whilst helping you stand out in a pool of applicants who are all at graduate-level.
If you decided against going down the route of a university placement it still remains important to mention any work experience you have. For example, your time working behind the counter of a greasy spoon might not be relevant to a job as a Laboratory Technician but nonetheless demonstrates your dependable and professional approach to work, something employers are looking for proof of when recruiting at entry-level.

3. A Graduate's Academic Track Record

Frustratingly for recruiters many graduates tend to exclude their academic results prior to university from their CV, yet just as many employers will be looking for graduates with a specific A-Level qualification.

Your grades at GCSE and A-Level is an important trump card to be played as recruiters will initially compare similarly matched candidates by their previous academic records. It’s also important to note how graduates who don’t disclose their grades are often viewed with suspicion by recruiters.
Ultimately your previous academic record remains significant and a track record of success will improve your job prospects. Make sure you detail it on your CV.

    Be proud of your academic track-record, recruiters pay close attention to pre-university education

4. Minding the Gaps

Gaps on a graduate’s CV are also often treated with suspicion by recruiters. Be open about any periods of unemployment but phrase the details thoughtfully. For instance, we see many CVs with phrases like 'actively job searching' to explain gaps between university and employment. 

Although this may be true, it's as useful as blank space on your CV. Instead, you could detail how you've been keeping up to date with current affairs in your chosen industry, partaking in activities and hobbies that have helped to sharpen some of the skills attained during university, or even that you've endeavoured to learn new skills that are relevant to your chosen industry during a period of unemployment.

All of which show how you are completely focussed on deploying your existing skills within your chosen industry, despite not finding your ideal graduate job yet. 

5. A Clear Format

The format of your CV is crucial. The document needs to have an easily readable, flowing structure. Avoid large blocks of text and ensure you write in a concise manner, utilising bullet points to list relevant skills. The length of your CV is also important, try not to exceed two pages and use a link to your LinkedIn profile as an appendix that backs up your skills and experience whilst also elaborating on any points you’d like put across to prospective employers.

A well thought out and informative CV will convey your ability to understand and fulfil the requirements of a specific task and is highly valued by recruiters.

Make sure you take a look at the Careers Advice section on the STEM Graduates website to guide you through other aspects of the graduate recruitment process such as interview techniques, timing your applications and working alongside a recruitment agency. 
Any questions you might have regarding creating and amending your CV are also welcome, so please feel free to fire away on the comments section of this post.

Mark Bradford