Give your graduate CV and cover letter a digital makeover

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that standing out in today’s graduate job market can be a tough task.

The number of applications per graduate job is increasing year on year; leaving recruiters loaded with hundreds of CVs per role. And to add to the pressure, research suggests that they only spend an average of 7.4 seconds looking at each. Eek.

So how are you meant to ensure your CV stops a time-strapped recruiter in their tracks? It might be time to consult your creative side and add a digital spin to your CV and cover letter. Here’s how:

The 2 digital CV rules you need to know

It's tempting to jump straight into Photoshop and turn your CV into a digital kaleidoscope of colours. But your CV needs to stand out for the right reasons.

No matter how you choose to add a burst of creativity to your CV, you should always keep these two ‘rules’ in mind:

Consider your sector

Understanding who you’re targeting is important when creating a CV of any kind. But it becomes more significant if you’re thinking of trying something different.

You should spend some time considering how your application will be received by the specific company you’re applying to, as well as your sector in general.

Some of it comes down to common sense. If you’re applying for a creative job, the hiring manager will be more receptive to an out-of-the-ordinary CV. And a website CV that you’ve coded from scratch may help you to stand out for roles in the media, digital or technology sectors.

But what about the more traditional’ or ‘corporate’ roles — think law, medicine, accountancy and data science? A professional, two-page written CV is normally a safer bet.

Every company is different of course, so you’ll need to use your own intuition to decide if getting digital will help or hinder your application.

Prioritise relevancy and readability

Graduate recruiters can spot a generic application from a mile off, no matter what format it comes in.

Filming a video and using it for dozens of roles might seem like a savvy time-saving idea, but it’s likely to land straight in the digital bin.

Whatever digital tricks you choose to use, remember to tailor both your CV and cover letter to the role you’re applying for — every time. Read over the role description and make a note of what the role entails and what skills, knowledge and experience the employer is looking for. Looking over the company’s website and social media profiles can also help you to get a feel for their culture.

You should then base your CV and cover letter — no matter what format they take — on these factors. This shows employers that, as well as being well-matched to their requirements, you're genuinely interested in the job. Far better than sending bulk applications that have clearly been sent to any ol’ role!

Remember to avoid the dreaded ‘style over substance’ issue, too. Going overboard with design or adding too many digital elements could make your CV difficult for busy recruiters to digest. If a recruiter has to squint or finds it hard to find the information they need, it could be game over. Aim for balance — no matter what, your CV should always be clear, legible and easy to navigate.

4 ways to give your graduate CV a digital makeover

1.Film a video cover letter

Filming a short and snappy video in place of a written cover letter is an amazing way to showcase your presentation and verbal communication skills. Provide a punchy overview of your suitability, which explains why you’re a great fit for the role and how the job fits with your interests and wider career goals. Try to produce something of reasonable quality — a grainy and inaudible clip won’t make for a great first impression!

2. Add hyperlinks and QR codes

Want to add a modern twist to your CV but still play it safe? Adding hyperlinks or QR codes to a traditional application could be your sweet spot. You could link to a polished LinkedIn profile, an online portfolio of work or your personal blog. This is the perfect way to expand on a written CV and give employers more insight into your personality, without the risk of going overboard.

3. Put your own spin on the design

For those applying for design or creative roles, why not showcase your skills via your CV? Use tools like Adobe InDesign and Illustrator or a free design site like Canva to experiment with colour, layout and fonts. This could be anything from subtle bursts of colour, to full-blown infographic CVs. Whatever you do, make sure it’s still legible, logical and professional.

4. Create a website CV

For the coders, digital marketers or simply tech-savvy amongst you, coding your own website CV is a sure-fire way to impress employers. Ensure that your key details (personal statement, skills, experience and qualifications) are easy to find, as recruiters normally have limited time to review each application. You could then create other pages, such as a portfolio, to suit. Add a link to your site in a well-written cover letter and Bob's your uncle!

Are you ready to digitise your graduate CV + cover letter?

Standing out amongst graduate candidates can feel like a near-impossible task. But using your creativity and digital skills can help you to cut through the noise.

No matter what the format, remember to keep your application relevant to the role you’re applying for — and always keep things clear and legible.

If you get the balance just right, you could be on for a winning digital application.

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.

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