How to create a compelling CV

Alexandra Greenhalgh
09.04.20 – 05 Mins Read

Expert advice to help you create the perfect graduate CV…

Your CV is your chance to grab an employer’s attention, convince them of your potential and make sure they want to meet you. Vita Student has teamed up with 2 of the world’s leading authorities to create an effective, stand-out CV – Prospects & The James Innes Group: The CV Centre.

We’ll take you step-by-step through each section of your CV. You’ll find CV do’s and don’ts, tips and advice plus a carefully crafted CV template to make sure yours is perfect!

Let’s get started…



Personal Details

Start with your name, and follow up with your address, phone number, email and any links to an online portfolio or blog. Present the information as a letterhead, not on a list (this looks more professional AND will save you some precious space in the body of your CV later!)

Professional Profile

Your professional profile is like the personal statement of your CV – your first chance to sell yourself. It must tell the reader who you are, what your experience is and what your strengths are. Be sure to do this swiftly and succinctly – no waffling!

Some rules of thumb for your personal profile…

Education & Qualifications

Your education and qualifications should be written in reverse chronological order – most recent qualifications first and simply summarise the rest. This section should take up NO MORE than three to four lines. As a graduate candidate, all a recruiter needs to know is:

1. Your degree subject, University & year of graduation

2. Number of A Levels & the year it was achieved

3. Number of GCSE’s including Maths and English &the year it was achieved – simply summarise, don’t list every subject!

Employment History

Just like your education and qualifications, your work history should be written in reverse chronological order. This section requires a little more detail, but still try to keep things as concise as possible.

For each position you’re listing, you’ll need to include the following information:

“Don’t sell yourself short. Remember to include any relevant unpaid work or volunteer experience.”

– James Innes (Founder, The CV Centre)

Key Skills

The skills section of your CV is a great chance to sell your suitability for the role, especially if your work experience is a little limited.

Think about the skills you gained through internships and other work throughout your degree. Regardless of whether or not a skill was gained in a professional setting, write it down! Remember, as tempting as it may be, DO NOT lie. You don’t want to be the person who claims to be fluent in Finnish only to be faced with a Scandinavian interviewer!

Once you have your list of skills, break them up and list them in a logical order under subheadings, if possible under subheadings such as: communication skills; interpersonal skills; technical competencies and research skills .


This section often sparks debate – “is a recruiter really interested?” True, space on your CV is limited, but if you can, always  aim to include it. Your interests give your graduate CV character. Plus, interesting or unusual interests also make for great interview ice breakers!

Keep it simple – use bullet points.

Keep it professional – unusual and interesting hobbies are great for capturing a recruiter’s attention, but make sure it’s for the right reason!

Now it’s time to put your work to good use by making it look the part!

Unless you are applying for a creative design-based job, steer clear of “creative” layouts and quirky typefaces.

Your CV layout needs to do two things:

1. Present a professional image

2. Allow the recruiter to read the information quickly and easily

“Research shows that recruiters spend an average of just 8.8 seconds reviewing each CV. Make sure yours is concise and easy to read with a clean layout, simple format and uncluttered pages.” – Prospects

So let’s break this down…


A CV should typically be 1-2 pages long, depending on the individual’s experience and qualifications.


Stick to Times New Roman and Arial. Yes, unusual and quirky typefaces might add visual interest to your graduate CV, but they will also detract from its readability – not just with the recruiter but also with any automated scanning software. Choose the wrong typeface and your CV may end up in the bin before even being seen by human eyes!


Stick to a font size of 11 or 12. Don’t be tempted to use 10 point or smaller just to save space – this will only make your CV harder to read. Use bold to highlight headings, sections and key information (such as your degree title). Italics should only be used when quoting publications.


Keep colour to a minimum and stick to simple black ink. If you do decide to opt for colour, use one colour only as a highlighting tool for titles and sections, but nothing else.


Getting your CV layout right can be tricky. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle – you’ve got all the pieces and somehow you need to make the information fit together! Always start with your name and contact details, followed by your professional profile. But what next? The answer is simple, lead with your strongest selling point. For example, if you’re lacking work experience but your grades are excellent, open with that. If your grades aren’t great but you’ve impressive intern experience, then work history is your sell. List the remaining sections in order of impressiveness, then add your interests at the very end.


So you’ve bossed your graduate CV and the recruiter has decided you are 100% their type on paper. But are you their type off it?

90% of recruiters now google a candidate before inviting them to an interview AND 75% of HR departments are now required to search candidates online!

In a world of social media, it’s no longer just down to your CV and cover letter to showcase who you are, but the information that can be found about you online.

Google yourself. Those search results are Brand You – the picture from which hiring managers will form their opinion of you.

Don’t neglect your online image – it could easily become your biggest liability, EVEN with the world’s best graduate CV.

We think you’re ready to boss your graduate CV. Your career starts here!