The perception that recruiters spend several minutes going through each CV, thoroughly checking your background and work experience is largely false, according to a 2018 survey, which reports that recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing an individual CV. (1)

Therefore, it is imperative to be as concise as possible with the information that you include on your CV.

In this blog we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the sections that we think it’s important to include such as:

The non-negotiables:

  1. Contact information
  2. CV objective
  3. Work experience
  4. Skills
  5. Education

On pretty much every good CV you’ll see, they’ll include each of the sections above — in some capacity.

So, how do you stand out?

Thankfully, there are also some optional sections that you can include which enable you to show how you are unique from other candidates.

For the most part, you’re going to be using your discretion to decide if they’re relevant or not within the bigger picture of your CV. These sections might include:

The nice-to-haves:

6. Certifications and awards

7. Languages

8. Hobbies and interests

9. Personal projects

1. Contact information 📧

While it may seem obvious, you’d be surprised at the amount of people that don’t complete this section properly by including out-of-date information or not including any information at all. This section of your CV should include:

  • Your full name
  • Your phone number (include your country code if you’re applying to a job abroad)
  • Email address (ideally not your MSN one from circa 2007 but one that roughly follows [first name][last name]
  • The title of the job you’re applying for
  • Your current location.

2. CV objective 🎯

Being a recent college graduate with not a lot of experience under your belt, it’s crucial to explain your motivations as well as what you hope to gain from the position.

Your CV objective is your attempt at an elevator pitch with 2–3 sentences at most, describing your work experience and your motivation for applying for the specific job. It could look something like this:

“Hard-working recent college graduate with a Bachelor of Business Studies from DCU. I have 2 years of experience in a target-driven environment and I’m currently seeking a new challenge in sales. Looking to develop my skills and learn more about the XYZ industry at (company name)”

3. Work experience⚙️

This section of your CV is often the first part that recruiters jump to and it presents a great opportunity to sell yourself. We would recommend putting the work experience order in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent job first. To perfect your work experience section, the standard format is as follows:

  • Job title
  • Company name, location, description.
  • Achievements and responsibilities.
  • Date employed.

While it may sound straightforward, it can sometimes be difficult to sum up your work activities in a few concise points and often people just simply list what they did — which is fine for certain jobs where you may not have a lot of responsibility.

However, you should also think about roles you’ve worked in where you have some achievements and accomplishments during your time there. If you can then back them up with numbers or percentage increases — even better.

Your job is to assure the recruiter you’re going to be a good fit for that specific role. You can do this by examining the skills and responsibilities listed on the job spec and ensuring you tailor the words and phrases in your work experience to match the words that they use.

4. Skills ⚒️

Skills can be broadly split into two key categories, hard and soft.

Hard skills are technical skills that can be measured and are directly related to the tasks you’ll have to do as part of the job. Soft skills, meanwhile, are learned skills such as your personal attributes (e.g. leadership, communication, etc.).

Usually, job specifications include what they’re looking for from their ideal candidate in terms of both hard and soft skills. Closely examine the job descriptions for roles you’re applying to and, where applicable, tailor your CV to match some of the keywords they include.

5. Education 📚

As a graduate, even if you lack work experience your educational background is crucial to include as it’s likely it’ll be brought up in the interview process.

In the education section, you should include the following:

  • Program name — e.g. Bachelor of Business Studies
  • University name — e.g. Dublin City University
  • Year attended — e.g. 2016–2020
  • Grade — e.g 2.1
  • Academic achievements — e.g. details on your thesis, awards you’ve won, etc.

6. Certificate and Awards 🏆

Here you should include any relevant courses or online certifications you have done that show you’ve some of the skills needed for the role. These can include HubSpot sales or marketing training, Google Certifications, or courses you’ve taken on platforms such as Coursera or Skillshare.

You can get a list of a few of these free courses we recommend our mentees.

7. Languages 🌎

Many companies place a huge emphasis on hiring bilingual candidates so if you’ve got a strong proficiency, i.e have studied it beyond your leaving cert or have lived in a country for a period of time — you should definitely include it.

Even if they’re not needed for the specific position you’re applying to at that point, there is potential that they could come in handy at some point and it’s another way for you to stand out.

You should list the language(s) you know and specify whether your level of proficiency. Obviously, you should be completely transparent here and don’t lie about your language skills. You will be tested on it if you get found out — it will be a very uncomfortable conversation.

8. Hobbies and interests ⚽🎭🎣

This is where you get to reveal a bit of your personality and mention something that makes you stand out.

Companies like hiring people who have shown discipline and commitment in other areas. Therefore, if you have some personal achievements, won awards or have been successful at something non-work related, talk about it.

Many of the same skills learned through excellence in other areas can be applied to your professional life and if you can communicate that, it can help you stand out from the rest.

If you’ve any voluntary experience, this is an ample opportunity to go into detail on how that work has helped you develop not only more broadly as a person, but develop soft skills that would help you in the role.

9. Personal projects 🖥️

Similarly to hobbies and interest, personal projects can demonstrate your passion and dedication and can potentially help you make up for any lack of experience in a certain field, or display your passion for the job.

If you tried to start a business in college and it fell flat on it’s face — great! Be prepared to talk about how you went about setting it up and the learning’s that you took from it.

Last but certainly not least — formatting 📄

Working off that premise that recruiters are only taking an average of six seconds to look at people’s CV’s, it’s crucial that you get your layout correct and make it as seamless as possible for recruiters to get the information they need.

If it isn’t well organised or you’re using different fonts and colours throughout, it’s likely that you’re getting a one-way ticket to the bottom of the pile.

Thankfully, there are some best practices when it comes to getting your CV layout right:

  • Keep it to a page — It would be remiss to not acknowledge that there are two separate schools of thought on this, however, the team here at Gradguide agrees that one page should be plenty of space to get the information you want to across.
  • Use clear and consistent section headings— Keep the colours, font size and headings consistent. We’d recommend using a font that stands out, but not to the point where it looks like a 12-year old chose it.
  • Utilise white-space — Make sure there are enough margins and space between the text so that the whole thing is easy to read.

Tools we recommend

  1. Novoresume
  3. Enhancv


(1) Eye-Tracking Study by Ladders (2018)