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Why do graduates fall at the first hurdle? We asked a recruiter to highlight some of the reasons why…

Why do graduates fall at the first hurdle? We asked the Graduate Recruitment Bureau to highlight some of the common CV mistakes they find on Graduate CV’s, and the team came back to us with some handy tips via the very consultants who short list Graduate CV’s, in or out…

“One detrimental mistake on your CV can mean make or break for jobseekers and with graduates being ever-doomed by the media, it has never been more important to get it right. The specialist consultants at Graduate Recruitment Bureau have daily access to thousands of CVs and with so many different opinions on how it should be done it can be difficult to know where to start. One thing is for certain though, first impressions are everything and if you have to hand over a scrap of A4 to summarise your entire life achievements then it had better be a good one.

The no-brainers

So what are the biggest no brainers in CV design? Spelling, grammar and most importantly, the truth: “Some people lie on their CVs about the grades they get, but forget where they have sent their applications to, so I’ve seen several where the first CV they submitted had lower grades than the second version they sent in later!” These experiences are not uncommon. Tradition is still at the heart of CV design so education should be near the top and all grades should be listed. Missing them off due to lack of space or to make a better impression because of an exam slip up simply does the opposite. Instead you come across as having something hide. Keep everything neat, regular and professional, steering clear of boxes and complex layouts. And of course, the following needs no further explanation: “People who don’t put their number on it!! It happens more than you think…”

The try-hards
Standing out from the crowd is of course first priority but keep it realistic. Trying to be overly quirky, chatty or interesting simply raises eyebrows and gets you a fast-track ticket to the “no” pile. No colour, no third person, no snazzy fonts. More than one consultant got a little riled over statements like this: “Having got back from travelling and staying in New Zealand with my Kiwi love I am now back in the UK and ready to rip it up again!’”, or “any philosophical quotes about how ‘Following the light sets you free’. They sound awful!”

The ramblers
Find the balance between writing enough of the good stuff about the most relevant skills without blasting out two pages of A4 prose; let’s be honest, nobody is going to read it just because you spent hours perfecting it. People simply don’t have the time; eliminate the common misconception that employers are machines and start realising that after the first 50 applicants, the motivation to trawl through block paragraphs from number 75 isn’t going to be high. Reacquaint yourself with bullet points, first person tense and keep it simple. When you’re about to send it off, take the time to ask yourself honestly, would I bother to read that?

The confused
One of the most repeated pet hate for graduate CVs can be summed up pretty neatly: “Candidates who apply for a recruitment job but have in the first line of their CV ‘I am looking for a job in marketing’. FAIL!”
Separating out your current endeavours and future goals will ensure such detrimental mistakes are kept in check. Create a desktop folder especially for CVs and rework it slightly each individual role. Even if it’s just a quick skim read to check it, this gives you the opportunity to briefly go back over the skills in each job description for you to emphasise the most important ones each time. Keep an eye on the file names when you’re attaching though!

The misguided
“One thing that frustrates me is when someone spends four years doing a degree and dedicates one line on their CV to it, then dedicates ten lines to their job stacking shelves. Undergraduates should rip up their old CV in their final year and think about how they want to present themselves as a graduate.”
It’s a good idea to keep a core template you can adapt, especially useful in deciphering between casual work and graduate level. These employers will be seeking entirely different skill-sets using entirely different means of filtering applicants so one size will not fit all.

The controversial
To add photo, or not to add photo… the age old question. Nearly every single consultant stated adamantly against a photograph and if it was for some reason absolutely necessary, or on an internet profile then it must be completely employable. Posey, unprofessional, pictures of from a night out; it really is incredible what people think is appropriate sometimes so be extremely careful what you choose. The occasional casual role may request a photo but for graduate jobs it is generally a resounding no. Good luck!

Guest post by Charlee Owen, Graduate Recruitment Bureau


4 Responses to “Why do graduates fall at the first hurdle? We asked a recruiter to highlight some of the reasons why…”

  1. Slightly laughable seeing as many of these grad consultancies aren’t much better at minimising these errors themselves! When I was looking for work a couple of years ago I had the “wrong” version of my CV inavertantly sent to an employer by the consultant – despite me sending a fresh “tweaked” version across after they spoke to me about the role! Now having dealt with these same companies from an employment perspective I can say things aren’t much better… Surely the role of a consultant should also be to guide “good” candidates if their CV is badly put together / they shouldn’t be sending it out to clients in the first place.
    My advice to grads looking for a new job… follow the advice above but always go direct where possible! Companies are much more likely to go with a direct candidate as they don’t have to pay and that way if there are any errors you’ve only yourself to blame!

    Posted by John | July 17, 2012, 4:09 pm
    • Hi John,

      You are absolutely right, it certainly is important for a consultant to provide guidance for candidates if there are improvements that need to be made in their CV.

      (As by sending out a poor CV, we would be wasting everyone’s time: the candidate’s, our own, and the potential employer’s)

      In terms of direct and consultancy comparison, they both have their benefits. For consultancy, you do not only get the guidance, but consultancies also e.g. help negotiate salaries to your best interest too (which is especially important for graduates, as it is often their first “career” job, and the industry salary levels might not be known to them).

      Also, large companies use direct and consultancies in conjunction, to get the best possible candidates, and small companies use consultancies in order to increase the chances of finding and recruiting the best possible person (the best fit) – as you know, a failed recruitment process can prove very costly (and as you put it too, “you’ve only yourself to blame”).

      I hope this article proves worthy to graduates, and our team keeps on writing more of the similar sort. Being a past graduate myself, I’d expect it should be of interest to many.

      The Graduate Recruitment Bureau

      Posted by Niklas | July 23, 2012, 9:45 am
  2. thanks for the nice post. i am expecting some different idea from your side. you always represent some new thought in your post.http://www.busquemail.com.br

    Posted by Darciela | July 30, 2012, 12:02 am


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