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How to write a graduate CV that is tailored to start-ups.

TLDR

  1. Make your CV one page - if Elon Musk can write a 1 page CV, so can you.

  2. Bold the impressive things you’ve done - CV reviewers are time-poor, so make it easy for them.

  3. Add in info about when you have been proactive - start-ups want proactive problem solvers, so give them what they want.

  4. Contextualise achievements with numbers - don't assume that the CV reviewer has the context, so spell it out for them.


For a slightly more detailed explanation, as well as the ‘why’, read below... While this article was written with students / recent graduates in mind, lots of the lessons apply no matter what stage you are of in your career.


I am sure that there are hundreds of articles that have been written about how to write a good CV. Lots of them have merit, but lots of them are just as vague as the CVs that they are trying to improve. Having reviewed and screened several thousand CVs at Jumpstart (p.s. you can apply to their next start-up graduate programme in 30 seconds here) I have 4 bits of wisdom to share with you:

  1. Make your CV one page

  2. Bold the impressive things you’ve done

  3. Add in info about when you have been proactive

  4. Contextualise achievements with numbers


So why should you make it one page? Well, put yourself in the shoes of an employer who has 200 CVs to review and who has set aside 2 hours to review them. That leaves them probably 10-20 seconds per CV once they have fiddled around getting the CV to show on screen. The priority is therefore to make it as easy as possible for them to identify that you are worth an interview. So a question for you: why further complicate their job by getting them to read 2x the number of pages? Rumour has it that Elon Musk has a one page CV - so if he can fit his electric vehicle, solar panel and space exploration achievements on one page, then so can you.


So why should I bold impressive things? For the same reason that you want to make it one page. Think about the top 5-10 things that you want your employer to see and make sure it jumps – nay, leaps off the page. If professional norms allowed you to put your most impressive achievements in red font, highlight it yellow and ramp up the font size to 20, then do that (as it happens, they don’t so I’m afraid bold and underlining will have to do).


And why do you need to add info about when you have been proactive? Again, knowing who your reviewer is key. Start-ups want proactive and 'hungry' employees because they want people who are going to spot a problem and solve it, as opposed to waiting for instruction. If you think about it, start-ups only got going in the first place because their founders spotted a problem and set out to solve it proactively. They want to hire for that same mentality. Therefore, litter your CV with examples of when you have been proactive. Talk about that one time when you took the initiative in your work experience to redefine a process, that one time you set up that ebay side hustle, that one time when you put yourself forwards to be team leader in that coursework that you had to do, and so on.


Why do you need to contextualise achievements with numbers? Because employers don’t know the ins-and-outs of the [society, club, work experience, or whatever] you’ve got on your CV. The fact that you got X university prize or was President of Y society or set up Z business is in and of itself not impressive. However, the fact that you were awarded X prize because you came in the top 1% of 3,127 students, or were President of Y society of 250 members (the 2nd biggest society in your university) or you set up a business with £5,000 turnover in Year 1, suddenly provides that context to your achievement that was otherwise lacking. The other point to make is that start-ups are incredibly outcome-focused - ideas are a dime a dozen, but execution is key. Therefore, indicating that you are outcome and numbers-oriented too does you a world of good.


CV sorted? Fantastic. Well get on over to Jumpstart (www.jumpstart-uk.com/apply) and apply to their next start-up graduate programme in 30 seconds.

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