6 Mistakes I Made On My CV As A Fresh Graduate

I applied to nearly 60 MedTech jobs during the final year of grad school and got just 4 interviews. That’s a success ratio of less than 7%. I had sought help from at least 15 working professionals in the industry but only one of them provided me with the right insight required for a role in the industry. Most of them didn’t even respond to me. To make things worse, Indians in Ireland, the people from my country were the least helpful of the bunch.

So, how did I figure out the mistakes on my CV?

The 4 interviews that I got helped me understand what the recruiters wanted out of the candidates. I learned about the right keywords to use while describing work experiences and some skills that would set you apart from others. I tried to compensate for the competencies required by pursuing online certification courses. I will talk about it in the later section.

However, this wasn’t enough. I was badly hurt when I applied to my ‘dream’ job role of ‘Medical Device Design Engineer’ at Medtronic. I applied to the position at 2 AM in the night and when I woke up at 8:15 AM in the morning, I had a job rejection email. I was really shattered. I received a rejection email in 6 hours and that too outside the working hours of the company.

That’s when I figured out about Applicant Tracking System (ATS). ATS is basically an AI-powered software that skims the candidates based on the keywords on your CV. Hmm…that’s when I set out to improve my CV further and eventually, I did beat the ATS.

Here is how I corrected the mistakes on my CV.

1. Visual

visual cv and looks of your cv
Photo by Stas Svechnikov on Unsplash

“Looks don’t matter”

Come on, we all know how important looks are. Although they are not everything, the gorgeous girl out there does get the attention in the room. So, this applies to your resume.

My so-called ‘polished’ resume lacked the breathing space, making it difficult for a reader to maneuver. Therefore, I decided to use both pages of my CV quite well and reduced the page margins. Initially, I used 1 inch as page borders. Later, I reduced it down to 0.75″ and this did help me get some breathing space. Here is a before and after look of my CV.

2. Keywords

keywords on CV

Since more than 75% of the recruiters across the globe use an ATS software to screen resumes, it is important to use the right keywords on your CV to beat the ATS. The important keywords on the job description need to be there at least twice on the CV for the ATS to recognize it as a critical skill you possess.

To beat the ATS, you need to understand the algorithm behind it.

3. Size and format of CV

The resumes I used for jobs were in PDF format and the file size was nearly 600 kB. I was shocked to know that more than 85% of the applicants have a CV file size of less than 300 kB. Moreover, uploading a PDF may not be very effective for some ATS to extract every detail.

I used an online PDF compressor to reduce the file size of my CV. Do you believe if I say that using such a PDF compressor reduced my file size from 600 kB to 95 kB?

4. Graduate Research Assistant Roles on CV

If you are a graduate student, it is quite likely that you spent a major chunk of your academic life in a lab working for a professor, gaining useful transferable skills. You may not be paid for the position. However, it definitely counts for your work experience.

There are several ATS programs that eliminate candidates just because of the lack of the required number of years as work experience. After the COVID-19 crisis, there are now applications from people with 3-5 years of experience for entry-level jobs.

My stints as a graduate research assistant certainly do add value to the job I am applying to. I have seen people writing their experience as a ‘bartender’ on CV applying for an engineering role and getting through.

Therefore, now I decided to add those experiences of medical device design I gained working in the lab as a graduate research assistant to my CV.

5. Cut the Crap

I used to add a section “References available on request” on my CV. However, after seeking out free help from a professional CV writer, I realized that the recruiters want you to have those documents with you while you go to attend the interview.

Further, delete keywords that don’t matter for the job. For an example, my software expertise in Finite Element Analysis (FEA) may help me as design engineer but it’s not useful for a ‘Quality Engineering’ position. Therefore, don’t describe those things in details. For some recruiters, it may be too technical.

6. Achievements in Job Description

Recruiters want high achievers in the company. Therefore, your contribution to the organization in your previous job matters a lot. Therefore, enlist your significant achievements in the job role on the CV.

You need to add phrases that make an impact, like “… boosting sales by 25%” or “… optimized the parameters of the bioreactor to improve cell proliferation by 40%” or “… improved the resolution of the 3D printer by 8%”.

After tweaking my CV, I modified a work experience on my CV in the following way.

Before: “Assisted the management in root cause analysis and implementing CAPA”
After: “Supported the management in root cause analysis and implementation of CAPA to improve the conductivity of batches of aluminium by 2%


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