Avoid the #1 Graduate CV Error

We see a lot of CVs. And we know it’s really hard to make sure they’re perfect. But there’s one area where we see lots of graduates shooting themselves in the foot; attention to detail.

Attention to detail is important. Recruiters like it. But if you’re going to claim you have it, you’d better be sure that your CV is absolutely perfect – and that’s not easy. Even when you’ve spent hours on it and checked it the requisite a million and one times.

The problem is clear. As soon as you claim you have attention to detail, anyone reading your CV will immediately be looking for evidence or counter evidence.

Here’s an example of where things go badly wrong – an amalgamation of the most common errors we’ve seen in CVs lately. How many errors can you find?


So, what to do?

Well firstly, do you really need to include ‘attention to detail’? It’s not generally a skill prioritised for graduates so maybe you should use the space to give evidence of something else. Creativity? Initiative? Teamwork? Ability to learn?

And if you must include it, can you get three people to check your CV first? Don’t just ask them to read it but ask them to find  five mistakes in it. Even better, take your CV to your university careers service to give it the once over.

Few skills as attention to detail are so easily debunked. And, when they are it makes recruiters sceptical about the other skills you list. So exercise caution – or extreme proof reading and checking – before you claim Attention 2 detailed.

Do you see what we did there? Recruiters certainly will…..

Charlotte Weston

Charlotte is a graduate with many years’ experience in both large and small organisations. She now works as a consultant to a range of SMEs across the south west and is a Non-Executive Director of Gradsouthwest.


10 life-prompts for updating your CV to keep it alive – from Nick Luke at Unlocking Potential

  1. Starting or ending a job – Obvious? Yes – and important! When you start a new job, pop in your end date of your old role – it’s so much easier than rooting through old P45s! Then summarise your new job description and start date. Moving jobs is risky; people and companies do make mistakes. If the worst happens and it doesn’t work out, at least your CV will be useable, quickly
  2. Starting or achieving a qualification – Just like jobs, it’s hard to remember all the details about the qualifications you are doing. A qualification in progress is often very close to the value of a qualification completed, so make sure it goes on your CV. This habit will also force you to consider how your CV could be formatted to accommodate all these accolades!
  3. Achieving something significant at work – Often forgotten on CVs are achievements you secure whilst working. If you have made something positive happen, consider including what and when e.g. ’won the 2015 ABC award for …..’ or ‘Shaved 20% off advertising costs in 2014 saving the business £20,800’.
  4. Being given new responsibilities – Job roles evolve and change and as such, this means that your CV needs updating to reflect any new responsibilities you have taken on.
  5. You learn a new skill  – How often are we shown how to use new software, equipment or asked to step in and do something which involves new skills? Add the skills to your repertoire – you never know when they might come in handy.
  6. You undertake a training course – Internal and external training which is not qualifications based can be important. In larger organisations, with mandatory training requirements, it may be crucial for the ‘what and when’ of these to be included on your CV.
  7. You upgrade your mobile or change your contact details – You would not believe how often contact details are not correct on CVs – a big ‘No No’ with recruiters! Be conscious of your phone upgrades, your changing email addresses and new homes and update immediately
  8. You achieve something significant in your personal life of value to your career  – If you join a significant committee or group which is offering you additional skills and experience which you need/want to demonstrate, personal commitments offer employers valuable insights into your wider abilities. So the PTA, being a local Councillor, Scout group, Football team captain etc should be included.
  9. You see a new CV layout you like and want to have a play – So often, I have heard people look admiringly at other peoples’ CVs. If you feel like it’s time for a change, or maybe it’s got to the point where quantity needs to be edited down, going for a new look is a great excuse to update.
  10. You feel that your CV no longer represents you as a person –Sometimes, you can look at your CV and it doesn’t feel congruent with who you are. If so it might be time to consider why and what you want it to be instead. Remember to keep a copy of your old CV when chopping and changing, though or you might find this is a longer job than you anticipated!

Make sure you keep a master copy of your CV which includes everything that you have ever done.  It doesn’t matter how long this CV is – it’s more of a record than anything so that you can keep a note of all the important information.  That way, when you are tailoring your CV to be relevant for a role, you won’t cut anything out you can’t go to your master copy and retrieve.   Enjoy!

Nicky Luke, Head of Talent Development, Unlocking Potential

It’s time to tidy up your online profile. We know. We’ve looked!

We’ve been conducting a little experiment. Every time one of you lovely graduates likes our Facebook page, we click on your profile. Not to be nosy you understand, but to gauge how savvy graduate job seekers are about privacy on social media.

Thoughtful businessman work on notebook while sitting at wooden

What have we learnt? Well, let’s just say you’re all having a cracking time out there!  Mostly we’re envious, occasionally we’re shocked and every now and then, we’re impressed. Impressed because we can’t see anything about you. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

And with Facebook, that’s how it should be. It’s a social forum and while even serious graduate types are allowed to have fun, recruiters don’t need to see you dancing on tables, pouting in selfies or swapping risky anecdotes. They will look – probably before you even meet at interview – and you don’t want to lose out on a great job as a result.

So take these steps now to lock down your Facebook activities….

#1 Set your audience to ‘friends’. For everything.

The most obvious and yet the most overlooked step!

#2 Use your name wisely

Facebook probably has some rules about this so we’re not suggesting you adopt a false identity or anything but you could do away with your surname and just use your first and middle names. Or use a shortened version of your first name whilst using the full version for job applications. Or an initial for your first name or surname. You get the picture. Anything which makes it harder for complete strangers to find you but is still recognisable to your family and friends.

#3 Guard your timeline

You might be really careful what you post but what about your mates? We all have at least one friend who has form in dropping us in it. You can keep this in check by changing your ‘Timeline & Tagging’ settings so that all posts to your page have to be approved by you first.

#4 Limit the audience for your old posts

In Privacy Settings & Tools, you can limit the audience for your past posts. Handy if you haven’t always had recruiters in mind when posting….

#5 Don’t allow search engines to link to your timeline

In Privacy Settings & Tools, select ‘no’ for ‘do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?’ Far better that your LinkedIn profile takes centre stage online.

#6 Remember that old cover photos remain public

Even if you lock down your page, anyone can see your cover photos – going back a long way. Time to get into the habit of using innocuous images. A beautiful landscape from your holiday snaps isn’t going to offend anyone.

#7 Go undercover

Facebook has a handy option to view your profile as others would. Once you’re happy with your settings, go undercover by clicking on the 3 dots icon at the bottom of your cover photo to double check all is as it should be.

Now this isn’t an exhaustive list for Facebook. You do, of course, have to be aware of a whole raft of security measures to protect your online privacy. For a complete checklist, FaceCrooks is a good starting point.

Time invested now in tidying up your settings will be well worth it when you come to apply for jobs. But please, don’t stop having fun – just be more discreet online so that we don’t feel quite so envious.

Charlotte Weston

Charlotte is a graduate with many years’ experience in both large and small organisations. She now works as a consultant to a range of SMEs across the south west and is a Non-Executive Director of Gradsouthwest.

10 Top Tips on how to tailor your CV – from Nicky Luke at Unlocking Potential

  • Before you start writing your CV, read and understand the job description – and I mean really understand. When reading a job description and person specification, it is good to tick off the requirements, but even better, you should take time to understand the kind of characteristics and personality that would be needed in a job role. Lots of people might have the right skills – but having the right attitude and being a good ‘fit’ is just as, if not more important. If you include a personal statement in your CV, this is the perfect place to describe your(genuine)self as the ideal candidate.
  • Draw up a matrix – compare yourself directly with the job in question by drawing a skills matrix with your skills, experience and attributes across the top row and the role requirements down the left hand column. Where are you ticking their boxes? This should give you a focus for your CV and cover letter structure and will help you identify your best examples for inclusion.
  • Read about and research the business – get very familiar with your next potential employer; what they do, who for and how they make their money… How will this job fit in? What does the company believe in? Why does the job exist? How will this job help make the organisation more profitable and why would you be great for this? Is this a company you feel an affinity with and you feel you would ‘fit’ into? – Why? Nail that information and start constructing your ideas for your cover letter based on this.
  • Write a unique CV (and cover letter) each time you apply for a new role or to a company – keep a master copy of your CV and use that as a starting point for each new job you apply for. Pull out the relevant information that an employer is going to be interested in for their job role in question or for them as an organisation.
  • Put first things first – make sure the key skills and requirements needed for the job feature at the top of your CV. Make it easy for employers – your relevant skills and aptitudes should shine out! If they have to ‘dig around’ in lengthy text to find out if you can do something, they will give up. Refer back to your matrix and make sure you share your best examples.
  • Use their language – when employers are shortlisting, they are looking for their requirements or to be bowled over by your potential. Sometimes employers (especially large employers and recruitment agencies) use software to help shortlist, which picks out key words in your CV. Even with software-free shortlisting, employers, in the short time they have, will respond positively to you ticking their boxes in terms they understand.
  • Make your CV navigable – choose the right headers for each CV you put together. If employers know where to go in your (neatly laid out) CV to find the information they are looking for, this will pay dividends. Spend time considering what will work for the job you are applying for and consider what will engage the reader; it’s flattering for the recruiter to see a CV which is thoughtfully targeted and your application will stand out.
  • Quantify and qualify – make sure you add contextual information about your achievements and activities in previous jobs, especially where they support your application and demonstrate your understanding of the job in question. For example: I increased new business sales by 32% between 2014 and 2015 OR I supervised a team of 3 people within the marketing department.
  • Make every word impactful – every word in your CV is using up precious ‘real estate’. Is every word worth it? Make sure you keep adding value with your content, avoid repetition and align what you are saying with everything you have researched about the role and the business. Remember that being concise is often more effective than adding volume for volume’s sake.
  • Remember Could I do it, Will I love it, Will they love me? – if you put yourselves in the shoes of the employer, these questions will be most important to them to understand, so make sure your CV and cover letter are reassuring them of those three key things.

And finally… if all that seems a bit over the top, remember that targeting like this for your dream jobs will take you a lot less time than reading endless job ads and sending out generic job applications.  This approach, when undertaken whole-heartedly will attract more attention and more success, more quickly.  Good luck!

Nicky Luke, Head of Talent Development, Unlocking Potential

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