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Graduate CV Example & Writing Guide

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Graduate CV Example & Writing Guide
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Going into the world of work can be extremely daunting for a graduate. Will you find a job? Are there any prospects in your field? What does the future look like for your particular industry? These are all common concerns for graduates – but just like you managed to complete your education, you can succeed in any professional challenges, too! Oftentimes, the most difficult challenge post-education can be finding a job. That’s where we come in! 

We would suggest that if you are looking for a graduate role, you should reach out to employers and your connections. Some employers offer graduate schemes while others may need a bit of encouragement. The start of the process, though, is to deliver a CV to employers that gets you noticed and hired faster. We’re here to help you do just that!

Here at cvapp.nz, we have all the resources you need, including a selection of CV examples and writing guides. With our help and expertise, we’ll help you create a graduate CV that showcases your skills and experience in the best possible way, highlighting exactly why employers should hire you. In this guide, along with our graduate CV examples, we’ll discuss the following:

  • What the current job market is like for graduates
  • How you can write an effective CV, how to format it and stand out from competitors
  • The most appropriate sections for your CV and what these sections should contain
  • How to make a great first impression

What is a graduate?

A graduate is someone who has completed a period of study, usually a degree. When you graduate, there are several paths you can go down. You can join a company that has a graduate scheme already set up. This can make it a little easier, as you know the company will accept candidates without experience. However, there is often a lot of competition for graduate schemes, especially in competitive markets. Graduate schemes are worth considering, as you will get all the training you need to build up your expertise and knowledge in your chosen job. 

The other options are to join a company at entry level, which means you will only get on-the-job training, and you might be on a low salary. For instance, if you completed a degree in communications, you would leave University and start as a communications consultant and work your way up. The main difference in these options is that with a graduate programme, you finish and walk into a role at the level you studied.

Graduate job market and outlook

There are literally hundreds of large organisations that actively recruit graduates, with some of the most well-known brands being huge graduate employers, including Fonterra, PwC or Westpac! 

Graduates are often an attractive prospect for employers as they bring strong academic knowledge and a fresh perspective. There is also the added bonus of being able to mould the graduate to fit into the company culture, something that is difficult to do with experienced staff with a few years under their belt. 

There is some healthy competition out there for graduate roles though, which is why it is essential that you create a graduate CV that can outperform your competition. We’ve made this helpful guide, alongside some great CV examples, to help you stand out from the crowd and land your next graduate job role!

How to write a graduate CV

Before you begin, we would suggest setting time aside to focus on the general format of your CV.  

This will make it much easier to write and will ensure your CV sets you apart from the others. Making sure your CV contains all the necessary elements is imperative. These include:

  • Your CV header – containing your name, and other personal details, such as your contact details
  • Summary – a brief insight into your experience and career plan
  • Employment history
  • Skills section
  • Education – the main section for most graduate CV’s

Consider the person you are writing the CV for. Who is likely to be reading it and why would they want to choose you? With graduate schemes, it tends to be the managers that make the final decision on which candidates to take forward. With other entry level jobs, it is likely to be a recruiter. 

Each graduate CV should be tailored to the job you are applying for. Don’t forget to do your research on your employer and the programme itself! Remember that taking on a graduate is not the same as hiring an experienced candidate. A graduate is a long-term investment. If they decide to hire you, they are in it for the long-term. This is great news for you, but make sure it’s somewhere you really want to work and learn from. Find out about their values and get feedback from other employees to find out if it’s truly the right organisation before you apply. Use our CV template as guidance throughout.  

These are some tips for how to write your graduate CV:

  • Make sure you tailor your CV to every job you are applying for. It may only need a few tweaks here and there, but this is a vital step in the process.
  • Consider the layout and design of your CV. Make sure it’s sensible, and stick to the same font throughout.
  • Use keywords where appropriate and take your time to ensure your CV conveys the right message.

Choosing the best format for a graduate CV

In most cases, the CV format is reverse chronological with the employment section at the top, under the personal statement (otherwise known as a professional summary!) However, you may want to change this for your graduate CV, unless you have experience that you think is relevant. If not, stick to summary, then education and skills. The reason for this is that employers hiring graduates are mostly interested in their qualifications. They will usually have a set criterion they expect you to have. The education section is, naturally, a section of interest, so it makes sense to place it at the top.

If you are applying for a graduate role in a bank, for instance, and you have previously worked in a financial institution, then of course, it may be a consideration to put your employment at the top. If you have staggering academic achievements, versus a little work experience, then education would probably be the best choice to start your CV. 

Make your decision based on what the employer is looking for in the job description, what their main essential criteria is and develop the right CV format to suit you.

CV personal statement example: who are you?

When the hiring manager picks up your CV and starts reading, they don’t know you. You are completely fresh and new to them. Therefore, the first couple of paragraphs is their professional introduction to you.  

Think of the format of your CV as an essay. You start with an introduction, your main content, and a conclusion. This is where you want to tell the reader where you are in your career and what you are looking for. If you completed a degree with any exceptional achievements, e.g., Honours, this is the section to mention it. You want to stand out, and who said there’s anything wrong with blowing your own trumpet a little?

The personal statement section, also known as the summary, is where you put your best foot forward, enticing the reader to want to learn more about you. You should avoid describing yourself in the first person (i.e., using ‘I’, or your name), just stick to the achievements, e.g. “Completed a Bachelor of Civil Engineering with Honours,” as opposed to “I completed a Degree in Civil Engineering with Honours.” 

We have designed and developed some extra material for you to help you create your summary. Don’t worry if you’re still stumped for ideas, as you can take a look at the related student CV examples. The University student CV example is a good example for how to format your CV. You could also take a look at the internship CV example for an idea of how to write your CV if you are looking for this kind of work or to get accepted into a graduate programme.

While it can be tempting to just duplicate the content from the graduate CV sample, this is not the best way to approach your summary. Instead of duplicating it, simply condense the main points into a couple of short sentences. Get to the point quickly, and highlight your main academic achievement, any significant awards and your future career interests. 

Sometimes, it can be difficult for graduates to find the confidence to talk about themselves in their CV. Some applicants worry that they come off as arrogant, however, this is not the way recruiters view your application. They are looking for candidates with confidence. You can be confident in your abilities, without coming across as overly confident. It is all about getting the balance right. You will find the summary from our graduate CV sample below.

Adaptable summary CV example

Community-focused graduate seeking to use skills and knowledge to assist in a nursing role. Bringing forth highly regarded skills in providing optimum patient care and carrying out all treatment protocols with sensitivity and precision. Solutions oriented and highly skilled in patient care management and collaboration.


Employment history sample: the journey continues

As a graduate, it’s natural to not have a long list of employment experiences. This causes some candidates to get into a full-blown panic, since they don’t know what to write and they’re worried it won’t be sufficient. 

The first thing to remember is that as a graduate, the hiring manager is not expecting you to have a wealth of experience. In fact, any experience will be a bonus. Don’t worry too much about this section, but if you do have any experience, make sure you fill out this section. Even if it’s experience that is not in keeping with the sector you are looking to join. 

As mentioned early, you may want to place your employment history further down, with the education section after your summary. The education section should be in reverse chronological order, with your most recent employment first and work your way back.  

You should never write about your experience in paragraphs, always use bullet points to describe the most important aspects of the role. Don’t list every single responsibility – it’s best to prioritise the top 4-5 responsibilities or roles you had in each opportunity that are most relevant to the job role and job description. 

It is always more enticing for a hiring manager to read a graduate CV sample that has some substantiated claims, rather than just a list of your responsibilities. For instance, ‘managed and organised daily workloads for a team of 5.’ If you can substantiate claims, you should try to do it, as it will make your CV more alluring, which is the ultimate goal.

You will find a graduate employment history CV sample below.

Adaptable employment history CV example

Intern at Palmer Retirement Village, Christchurch

  • Oversaw the admission, discharge and transfer of patients
  • Assessed patient needs, developed care plans and evaluated patient progress
  • Collaborated with interdisciplinary teams to ensure quality care and patient safety
  • Developed and maintained productive relationships with physicians and other healthcare providers


Intern at South Seas Hospital, Christchurch

  • Monitored patient progress and reported any changes in condition to the supervising nurse
  • Observed and reported changes in patient status to the charge nurse in a timely manner
  • Ensured patient safety by reporting any changes in patient condition to the supervising nurse

CV skills example: standing out from the crowd

The skills you possess, along with your education are the key elements of a graduate CV sample, especially if you have little experience. You can highlight those skills that are most relevant to the role, and you may want to place this before your employment history.

Use a combination of hard and soft skills and remember to use keywords. You will find these on the job description, and this will help ensure you don’t get immediately rejected by an ATS, or an Applicant Tracking System. ATS software are used by employers to shortlist candidates based on keywords they use in their CVs and cover letters: so do your best to use keywords where possible and relevant!

Professional tip

Avoid generic buzzwords

Recruiters read the same buzzwords on CV time and time again. This gets pretty boring! Avoid generic phrases such as ‘able to hit the ground running’ or ‘can work under pressure’ and replace them with something more meaningful and interesting, such as ‘strong communicator with the ability to lead teams of up to 50 staff members.’ 

If there is anything that makes you unique, make sure you mention it. Stand out from the crowd and be proud to do so! 

Adaptable skills section CV example
  • Time Management
  • Ability to Work Under Pressure
  • Adaptability
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Microsoft Office

Graduate CV education example

The education section of your CV sample should be by far the most straightforward. After all, this is where your main selling point is. You can put your education at the top under your summary, if you feel that this is the most significant. You should state your most recent qualifications (including your grade) and work your way back to the earliest qualifications. There is no need to mention all your qualifications from high school, if you have a lot of other, more recent qualifications.  

Any certifications you have achieved, or other training should also be mentioned, and the more recent the better. Most employers want to see that candidates are focused on continuous personal development, and what better way to prove this than by showing them that you have completed a number of recent training courses and workshops. Below you will find an education CV example you can adapt for your own purposes.

Adaptable education CV example

Bachelor of Nursing, Te Ara Institute of Canterbury, Christchurch


CV layout and design: first impressions 

At the end of the day, your main priority is to achieve an interview from your graduate CV. The content is of course, the main element of any CV, but the design and layout should also be a priority. Your CV should be easy to read, with clear, concise language. Refrain from using any jargon, as you don’t know what knowledge the hiring manager has, they may not understand the jargon.

If you consider how you will structure and design a presentation for university, you should take the same approach with your CV. Keep it simple, sleek, and easy-to-read and you can’t really go wrong with the design. Our CV templates can help you put together a professional format in just a few clicks. 

Key takeaways for a graduate CV

  1. Decide the order for your graduate CV before you get started. If your employment is limited, consider placing your education at the start, under your summary.
  2. Tailor your CV to suit the job you are applying for. It should not be a one-size fits all approach; you should ensure you make tweaks to each application.
  3. Use keywords throughout your graduate CV, you will find the most relevant keywords in the job description.
  4. Use our online CV template and CV examples to create a graduate CV quickly!
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