What should my first CV include?

What should my first CV include

A graduate CV, where you have little to no previous job experience, will look different from a CV of a person with a couple of years of work experience. So, if you do not have any job experience to put on your CV, what do you do? 

With little job experience to put on a CV, you need to add different information about yourself to set yourself apart from the rest of the graduates and job-seekers. Your aim is to showcase your unique talents and experiences in a way that will allow you to stand out from the crowd in the job market.


RecruitAGraduate has an online CV template which guides you as to what fill in when applying for a job or internship. The main sections are:

  1. Personal information
  2. Strengths and skills
  3. Education history
  4. Job experience
  5. References


Strengths and skills

RecruitAGraduate splits this section into three sections, namely soft skills, (hard)skills and computer/software skills. Everyone has a unique set of skills which makes you more or less suited for a particular job or company. The skills you demonstrate on your CV should be a reflection of your education and work/volunteer history. 


Soft Skills

Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes, social and emotional intelligence quotients that enable people to work within various environments effectively. 

READ: Soft Skills Make Graduates More Employable



Also referred to as hard skills. These pertain to your skills relating to your study direction or additional courses you may have completed. On RecruitAGraduate, we have created a dropdown list where you can select the relevant skills that apply to you.


Computer/Software skills

As most work is integrated with technology these days, it is essential to indicate what computer and software skills you have gained. Potential employers like to see what  apps and tools you know. For instance, if a company uses CoralDraw as their design package, the job for a designer may need you to have experience in it.


It is vital to be honest with regards to your skills and in particular your soft skills, and not simply copy something off from an internet template. Soft skills have become an important indicator of your ability to go beyond just your work and study experience.


Education history

This is one of the most important sections for a graduate CV. Many employers will seek candidates based on vocational studies. For example, they may require a finance intern who has studied a BComm degree majoring in finance. This is the section where they will find the information. Even though it is more important for an employer to see what your university or college subjects and grades are, employers will often like to see what high school subjects you completed and the marks achieved. 


RecruitAGraduate has three additional sections that fall under education namely:  additional courses completed; achievements and awards and leadership roles, extracurricular and volunteer participation. These sections provide you with the ability to expand on the experiences you have gained through activities that do not directly relate to formal education or job history. They are as important as your education and work history as they show a picture of the whole person and what your strength and character might be. 


Additional courses completed

If you have done any extra courses, like advanced computer science or first aid, include it inthis section of your CV. Additional studies and short courses show the employer that you are willing to go the extra mile as well as have a variety of interests. If you have ever done a lifesaver course and worked as a lifesaver during your December holiday, include it. Being a lifesaver shows that you have compassion and a sense of responsibility which does not only include yourself but others


Achievements and awards

You can include achievements from high school in this section, but be cognisant of including only significant achievements that will demonstrate a skill and help you on your career path. For example, scoring the winning goal at your final inter-school soccer match will not be considered as an achievement that should be on your CV. 


Being part of the winning team in the national debating or spelling bee competition is the type of achievement that you should include as this shows that you are a confident public speaker or proficient in spelling. As mentioned earlier, it is great if an employer can see that the skills you mention lines up with the experience you have gained. 


Leadership roles, extracurricular and volunteer participation

A leadership role, like being the captain of the first team, is something to consider inserting on your CV If you have been the captain or participant of a provincial team, this should be on the CV as it shows the employer is that you are willing to work hard to achieve something over and above the norm.


Volunteering is an excellent way to gain skills and experience that buffs up a graduate CV. In this section explain what the organisation does with whom you have volunteered, and what your role was as well as experience gained.


Job experience

Any work you have done during your studies, from being a waitress or doing promotional work must be included in your CV. These types of work experience show that you know how to interact with people and are willing to work while studying.

It is expected that a graduate CV will include information from your high school years. When you do have years of work experience, it will become unnecessary to include experiences from high school or specific things from your university/college career. The work experience will then become your most current and relevant information. 


These tips will hopefully help you create a strong CV that sets you apart in your unique way. Employers are looking for holistic people that can demonstrate the ability to work well with others and embrace a busy life schedule. People willing to go the extra mile to achieve something great or significant. These are the attributes that will allow you to stand out, not your academic studies alone. 

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