What will make my CV stand out?

If there’s one question, I get asked time and time, over and over again by students it’s ‘How do I make my CV stand out?’  It seems to be more common than ever at this time of the year, with many finalists applying for graduate jobs and others applying for summer internships or placements. 

I have (I think!) a pretty good answer for this, but rather than always taking my word for it, I thought I’d ask this question to a number of employers, I’ve met with recently, and see what they said…

 So, ‘What makes a CV stand out for you Mr/Ms graduate employer ?’ 

…. they all came back with the same main three things. 

 For a CV to stand out to us, it’s got to:

 Be tailored to the company (the biggie!)

 ‘You can spot a CV that’s been ‘spammed’ to lots of companies a mile off.  We want to see that an applicant really wants to work for our firm and, those that have invested the time and effort to research and understand our company, demonstrate this enthusiasm.  They’re the type of person we want to work for us and will get an interview’   Mid tier accounting firm.

I see many students and graduates who say they’ve sent out 100s of CVs but are struggling to get an interview and they become really disheartened by the whole process.  When I ask about their CV, it becomes obvious that they’ve sent the same CV to every job they’ve applied for – it’s not focused on what the employers want to hear but what they want to tell the employer.

You must take the time to read an employer’s advert, the job spec and person spec, their website – find out as much about the role and the company as you can.  Highlight the key skills and the main responsibilities required and make sure you provide evidence on your CV of how you match these requirements. I can guarantee 5 well tailored CVs will be much more successful than 100 generic ones.

‘Should you include a cover letter?

 ‘Always….admittedly, it might not always be read, but you’re missing a great opportunity to demonstrate you interest and knowledge of the company if you don’t include a cover letter.  And…don’t address it to Dear Sir /Madam – I have a name, and if  a student can’t be bothered to find out my name then quite frankly,  I don’t really want them to work for us.’   PR company.

 Have a point of difference

 ‘It’s a graduate scheme so all CVs I see will have a degree and good A-levels.  That’s great, but I want to see a point of difference.  Something you have done that’s interesting and I want to talk to you about in an interview’  Pharmaceutical company.

 There are tons of things you can get involved with during you time at Uni – make the most of them! Whether you decide to volunteer for Nightline, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, present a radio show or help out at your local charity shop – do it!  It’s all fun stuff  and will give you that point of difference.

Be well presented and written

 ‘CVs with spelling and grammar errors will stand out for all the wrong reasons and get your CV thrown straight in the bin.   I’d go as far as to say 50% of CVs I receive contain some spelling or grammatical errors.  What does this say about their attention to detail?’  FMCG business.

It’s a huge ‘no, no’ to make silly mistakes.  Treat your CV like a professional document – it’s a recruiter’s first impression of you and it needs to be good!  Make sure you get someone to look at it for you.

Okay, so there might be nothing new here ( you may think you’ve heard it all before)  BUT employers are still telling us that students are still not doing these things …. 

So, to make sure your CV stands out: 

Do these three things and you’ll be well on your way to the interview….


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