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Are you finishing your university or freshly graduated? Congratulations! Applying for your first job after university is exciting and also enerving. You might not have as much experience yet as other applicants for the same job. Don’t worry, following these tips will help you leverage what you have and build a CV that stands out. 

1. Include important keywords

A great way to start (re-)writing your CV is by scanning the job descriptions of your target jobs. Take note of which words they use to describe the experience or skills they are looking for and the responsibilities of the role. Those words are the ones you want to use in the descriptions of your experience as well. 

Forbes spoke with resume expert Austin Belcak. After having reviewed thousands of resumes in his career, Austin concluded that “the ones that consistently land interviews are naturally keyword optimized.”

Tip: Use WorldClouds.com to visualize what the keywords in a job description are. Copy the entire job description, go to “Word List” and click on “Paste/Type text” (top right). Going back to “Word List” shows how often each keyword is mentioned

“The resumes that consistently land interviews are naturally keyword optimized”

Ladino Bryson

2. Add experiences you had outside of university

If you’re still studying or just graduated, you might not have a lot of working experience yet. Time to think of all the other experiences you had while you were in university. Internships? Volunteering? Part-time job? They might just come in handy!

Be careful, this doesn’t mean you want to add unrelated experiences to your resume. “Employment Therapist” Ladino Bryson recommends that you use your experiences to tell a story. “Whether that is your ability to commit to a job for a long amount of time, or simply the experience you gained through jobs during school, it needs to prove a point.”

3. Highlight your soft skills

You might have a section for your hard skills, but don’t forget about your soft skills! Turns out most hiring managers base their decisions on skills like flexibility or adaptability and continuous learning, according to a 2020 study from Hipo. The demand for these skills nowadays is bigger as a response to fast technological changes, Hipo explains.

Now, adding your soft skills as a list on your model CV might not be the most convincing. “What does “results-oriented” even mean?,” says Austin Belcak. “That you orient yourself around results? Does that mean you actually get great results? If so, what are they?” In short, the best way to go about it is to highlight your soft skills in the descriptions of your experiences. 

Tip: Need help highlighting your soft skills in your experiences? Pick the soft skills that best represent you from EnhanCV and look at their suggestions on how to include them in your CV.

4. Focus on your achievements

It may feel natural to list your responsibilities in the descriptions of your experiences. Think again! In the words of KPMG Principal Mary Anne Davidson: “Candidates write about what their positions entailed and not what they actually did. So they tell us their job was to do XYZ. I need to know what accomplishments you made in your role. This makes you different than another candidate.”

Also your academic achievements deserve a place on your resume. Wrote an article that your professor loved? Delivered a stellar presentation? Submitted a business case with good results? Your achievements contribute to your story!

5. Paint a picture of who you are

With your experiences in order, the hiring manager can see what you can do. Now it’s time to paint a picture of who you are. Ladino Bryson noticed that “people make hiring decisions based 60% on skills and talents and 40% on likability. They want to know that they’re going to get along with you and that you’re going to get along with others.”

Use your hobby section and introduction to show what you care about, what you like doing, and what you are passionate about outside of the experiences you already described. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up having a conversation about your favorite tv-show during your interview!

“People make hiring decisions based 60% on skills and talents and 40% on likability”

Ladino Bryson

6. Update your LinkedIn

After you are done creating or updating your CV, it’s a great time to update your LinkedIn as well! Your LinkedIn plays an important role in telling your story. Accenture highlighted results from a ResumeGo research which showed that 13.5% of job applicants with a link to a well-filled LinkedIn profile on their CV were invited for an interview, in comparison with 7.9% of the applicants who didn’t link to their profile at all.

In short, time to update your LinkedIn profile! You can use the tips from this article to also give your LinkedIn a refreshment. Pay special attention to the skills and endorsements section. It’ll be more than worth your time. Next to increasing your chances for an interview, you’ll be extra prepared for transitioning from the “resume era” to the “LinkedIn era” as Austin Belcak predicts it!

7. Use an appealing and structured design

Cool! By now the content of your CV should be on point. Only one thing remains: to catch the eye of the hiring manager! Accenture highlighted an interesting fact from a recent Cambridge University study: hiring managers usually spend only six seconds looking at a CV. That means you want your CV to be appealing and well-structured, so the right information stands out. 

In general, you want to structure your resume in two columns: one for your main experiences and one for details like contact information or skills. Go for a color that suits you, so you can continue painting that picture of who you are. Lastly, make sure you leave enough white space for your CV to be easy on the eyes. 

Tip: Need some help with the design of your resume? We got you covered! Download one of our templates optimized for students and recent graduates to get you started. 

Bonus

Went through all of the tips? Rocking it! For a final check, make sure:

  • the descriptions of your experiences are all starting with past-tense action verbs (e.g. managed, delivered, collaborated, etc.)
  • there are no abbreviations or acronyms – they are often not widely known
  • your CV has zero grammar mistakes – use grammarly.com or an alternative to check your writing