How to make your CV stand out

You have about 3.9 sec to persuade the reader that your CV is worth saving from the rest going into the bin. It’s the things that are different and interesting that give you the advantage. Start the application off with an amazing written pitch with your key skills and ambitions. Remember, the first impression is what counts!


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Design and formatting

Recent studies in eye tracking show how employers skim through CVs. The initial things they look for in the first couple of seconds turns out to be the most basic information:

  • Candidate's name
  • Current title/company
  • Previous title/company
  • Previous position start and end dates
  • Current position start and end dates
  • Education

This proves that presentation is crucial; the reader must easily be able to find what he or she is looking for.

So what can you do to improve your CV?

To maximise your chances of your CV standing out, focus on “top-loading” the CV. Make sure the most recent and most important information is emphasised and placed as high up on the CV as possible. So load the initial part of the CV with all the good stuff and leave nothing as a surprise for later (otherwise there’s a big chance it won’t get read!).  

Tailoring your CV for the company is a must, but there are more ways of doing this than just focusing on the content. Play around with different templates, colours, graphics and designs to match your personal style. However, keep in mind that the CV is a professional document and should be nice, clean and somewhat sober.

Tip: Why not match the colours on your CV to the employer’s branding?

Create the Pow-effect! Make selected content pop out. This can easily be fixed by using simple formatting tools such as sub headings like responsibilities & tasks, bullet points, line breaks, short paragraphs and clear short titles.

Attaching a portfolio can never hurt! Create a standard portfolio that can be offered to different employer as a complementary document to your CV. This is a great way to showcase your different projects, results and tasks while also displaying your awesome language and design skills.

Tip 1: Include comments/awards/results you’ve received for the different projects in the portfolio.

Tip 2: Have you ever used infographics? It’s a really good way of making not so interesting figures and fact fun to read.

Not a designer? No problem,  use the Graduateland CV Builder to optimise the design of your CV in minutes. We've talked to recruiters and researched their CV expectations in 15 European countries, so you can apply to jobs anywhere with confidence.


Start your application off with a short introductory pitch with your goals and key skills to catch the reader’s attention. A good tip is to think of this a summary for the entire document including statements that are evidenced further on. The summary should be intriguing and provide clues that makes the reader want to know more.  

Tip: Read Graduateland’s article on how to pitch yourself 

Effort does matter. It’s quite obvious if the applicant has put effort into writing their CV or not. Show care and consideration and remember that this in itself is a way to show a quality of yours: that you are devoted to the task in front of you.

Is namedropping all that bad? Stating names of well know organisations you’ve worked for can help you in the process in being remembered. It’s a good way of making the CV stand out, just make sure you do it modestly.


Do thorough research about the company and integrate this smoothly into the text. The CV is an opportunity to show that you know and understand the company. One way of doing this is for instance to integrate the company values.

Shorten as much redundant information as possible! Only use the information you think helps support your case of getting hired. The study mentioned above also shows that employers only read a certain amount of the text in your CV - so, get to the point quicker and omit  unnecessary words!

Employers aren’t really interested in knowing what kind of work you’ve been doing at your former jobs. What employers want to know instead is what you’ve produced, exceeded in, what you learnt and accomplished. If you can illustrate this in figures, you will often receive that extra recognition.

So, do not showcase yourself as a bystander but as the core of things happening, take credit for the things you were involved in!

Still uncertain? No problem, use the Graduateland CV Builder to optimise your CV in minutes. We've talked to recruiters and researched their CV expectations in 15 European countries, so you can apply to jobs anywhere with confidence.

Highlight your top 5 achievements. This could, for instance, mean promotions, awards, career accomplishments, and academic results.

Tip: Focus on things that haven’t been spoon-fed to you and examples that show you take the initiative. This is highly valued amongst employers.  

The hobby section has become somewhat of a fixed feature in applications. There is, however, ways to use this to your advantage. Avoid just stating common interests; instead, try twisting it to what you’ve gained from your hobbies such as different skills, awards, results etc. The hobbies should reflect your personality, if you have nothing specific to say, then it’s better to leave it out and use the space for something more relevant.

There’s absolutely no way of knowing how big or good your competition is that may be applying for the same job. Why wait for your dream company to create a job post? Send in your unsolicited application with your unique CV today!


Stand out from the crowd with the Graduateland CV builder

  Build your CV now