Graduate CV Case Study: How To Create A CV In Less Than 1 Day

Today I’m going to show you how I’ve helped 3 recent university graduates create a new graduate CV that immediately got them invited to an interview.

I regularly hear from graduates that they’ve tirelessly applied for hundreds of jobs yet have struggled to get an interview. And, with a little investigation, nine times out of ten, the problem is not their apparent “lack of experience” that leaves the phone silent. It’s actually their CV.

In this case study I’m going to walk you through the exact system that I have personally used to create my own CV that has won me many marketing interviews over the 12 years that I’ve worked in digital marketing. And more recently I’ve used this exact same system to help many recent university graduates get their first roles in digital marketing.

It’s called The Highlighter System.

How I Used The Highlighter System to Help Recent Graduates Get Jobs In Digital Marketing

In October 2016 I launched Digital Marketing for Graduates and invited 10 recent grads to take our first online training course and learn The Highlighter System which is just one of the training modules.

After executing the Highlighter System and completing the training Ieva Stuikyte went on to get a new job as Marketing Manager for Mines and Money:


In addition, Simon Jacobs, who was already very entrepreneurial and had previously been running his own marketing agency Our Marketing Guys fancied a change and went on to become Youth Marketer for Camelot:


And another student, Nicola Gibson is now enjoying her role as a Commercial Associate for Deliveroo…


(All of our students that take the training learn The Highlighter System. You can read what more of them have to say here.)

But I digress. The best bit about all of this?

You can do it too, very easily…

…even if you don’t have oodles of experience to fill up two pages of a CV.

The 5-Steps To Using “The Highlighter System” To Get The Best Jobs In Digital Marketing.

Here are the five steps that make up The Highlighter System:

Step 1: Highlight the relevant info on your existing CV.

Step 2: Highlight the skills and attributes in the job advertisement.

Step 3: Match up the skills.

Step 4: Create a ‘Relevant Skills and Experience’ section.

Step 5: Write a killer profile (that recruiters simply cannot ignore!)

Here’s why this technique works so well, and why The Highlighter System is an absolute must if you want to put the days of applying for hundreds of jobs behind you:

Did you ever attend a CV workshop at college or university where they told you to put everything you could think of on your CV just in case the recruiter is interested in it?

Well, take it from me, that advice is nonsense.

Especially if you are applying for a marketing role.

All the recruiter or hiring manager is interested in when they look through the CVs, is whether you have the skills that they have taken the time to list on the job advert.

It really is as simple as that.

So what you’re going to be doing here is highlighting the skills the recruiter is looking for and matching them to the skills and experience that you already have.

Hey presto, all of a sudden YOU have a CV that puts you miles ahead of the other candidates.

And, your phone will start ringing off the hook with interview offers.

Now: The Highlighter Technique is just one of the many strategies I use to help university graduates get great jobs in the digital marketing industry. I reveal many more in my training course, How To Get Your First Job In Search Engine Marketing.

Step 1: Highlight the relevant info on your existing CV

Start with your existing CV. Make sure it is up-to-date and includes all of the relevant digital marketing experience that you have got to date. And if it doesn’t just make an additional list of the things you would add to it.

Next, take two highlighter pens in different colours. I like to use green for ‘relevant skills and experience’ and pink for ‘irrelevant information’. Of course you can do this using the highlighter function in Microsoft Word too.

Be prepared to be brutal.

You have to put to one side the general career guidance that you’ve been given throughout your education.

Please believe me that recruiters don’t care about dog walking, or the fact you’re a hard-worker because you worked in a bar throughout university. They don’t really care that you’ve worked in an office and know how to file, or answer the phone, or use a computer.

These things are given.

They expect that you can do all this simply because you are applying for a digital marketing, office based role.

So it’s time to divide and conquer. Highlight the relevant skills and experience on your CV in green; and highlight the irrelevant information in pink. Your CV should end up looking something like this:

The Highlighter System CV

It’s not an easy task.

So to help you I’ve put together two lists of irrelevant skills and experience that I’ve taken directly from graduate CVs being used to apply for digital marketing roles:

Skills that are (usually) irrelevant for a digital marketing CV

  • Hardworking
  • Conscientious
  • Organisation
  • Commitment
  • Administration
  • Team-player
  • Mac and PC Operating Systems
  • Basic user of SAP

Take a look at this example of a skills section cut from a junior CV and note how it could belong to anyone and says absolutely nothing special about the person applying for the role:


Examples of irrelevant experience taken from CVs applying for digital marketing roles:

  • Picking and packing of products from stock for store delivery nationwide.
  • The auditing process of 9 companies, including analysis on payroll and audit of several sections such as cash or inter-company sales.
  • Clean UK driving license
  • Working abroad for 2 months in Greece allowed me to develop my cultural understanding
  • Working at Waitrose for over two years, increased my awareness of how small details can impact businesses massively.
  • Occasional dog walking for my elderly neighbour in Brighton
  • Rubbish collecting and cleaning the school in Hungary and the USA

Step 2: Highlight the skills and attributes in the job advertisement

This is a crucial bit. Your CV has to be tailored to the job advertisement. There is no point reading the job advert and thinking ‘brilliant I can do all of that’ if you haven’t put it specifically and clearly on your CV.

Think about it like this.

The recruiter sees hundreds of CVs. So make it really easy for them to pick you.

They are asking for X, Y and Z. And you are going to demonstrate that you have X, Y and Z.

Ready to get the highlighter pens out again? This time we are highlighting the skills and experience that the job is asking for.

I’ll let you into a secret as to why this works so well. The recruiter will have a list of the skills and experience that they have written in the job ad, and they will scan your CV allocating points when they see that you have the relevant experience. And typically if they get 1/2 way down the first page and there is no sign of what they are looking for, you will most likely end up in the recycling bin.

Once you’ve finished with the job ad it will look something like this:

The Highlighter System Job Ad

Next just write a list or copy and paste the skills and experience that you’ve highlighted into a separate document.

Step 3: Match up the skills

Now, you should have a list of relevant skills and experience from your CV and a list of skills and experience that the job ad is looking for, and it’s time to match them up.

The Highlighter System Skills Match Up

If you can’t match any of the skills or experience up, then you should consider that this may not be the job for you. Or perhaps it’s time to get some more work experience, or take a training course like the ones we offer to boost the skills and experience on your CV.

And to be really clear it’s not the time to start making things up. You will come unstuck in the interview if you do that.

At the end of this step you should aim to have at least 5 points that the recruiter is asking for in the job advert that you can confidently place on your CV. But we haven’t finished there…

Step 4: Create a ‘Relevant Skills and Experience’ section

It’s time to take your 5 or more bullet points and put them into a format that is guaranteed to impress the recruiter. It’s fool-proof because this is where you provide the evidence to back up your claim. You’re not simply saying I can do social media marketing, you are saying I can do social media marketing, and here is a link to the channel I worked on, and here is a statistic that shows I got results.

Start by deciding which keyword you will use as your leading descriptor. Ideally you will use the exact same keyword that you have matched from the job advertisement. So in the example above let’s pick Manage Social Media Channels.

Next you craft your fact with evidence to back up your claim. The rule of thumb here is you write no more than 2 sentences explaining the result of the activity. Consider whether you can add any of these to your fact to make it more believable and give it substance?

  • A date or time period?
  • A link to evidence of your work?
  • A statistic or percentage that is evidence of success?
  • A recognisable company name (or person) who you worked for.
  • The keywords that appeared in the job description.

Here’s one I wrote for you:

Manage Social Media Channels – I managed the Twitter and Facebook accounts for Digital Marketing for Graduates Ltd for 3 months and during that time I grew their Twitter following from 200 to 500 – a 150% increase.

You get the idea. And it works a treat. Here is an example from my CV that I used in 2013. Notice the links, the statistics, the success metrics and the dates. I applied for a role as Head of Marketing for Dennis Publishing and I was called and invited to an interview the very next day.

CV snapshot - The Highlighter System

Step 5: Write a killer profile (that recruiters simply cannot ignore!)

Now this is the best bit. Everyone likes a story. And it’s time to write a story in 3 or 4 sentences. A story that succinctly tells the recruiter why they should hire you for the role.

So take your strongest 3 facts. They must be 3 of the facts that appeared in the job advert and you were able to match to your experience, and write an introduction to your CV that explains why you are a perfect fit for the role.

It might go something like this if the 3 facts you matched were 1) Your relevant degree; 2) Search Engine Marketing Training and 3) Google Adwords experience:

I’m an enthusiastic International Business graduate with first class honours and a passion for digital marketing. I’ve recently completed a Search Engine Marketing Training course and I now wish to join a digital marketing agency. I possess knowledge of Google Adwords having gained some work experience in a PPC agency all of which should stand me in good stead for a role in PPC and Analytics.

Or this…

I am an ambitious graduate with an impressive academic record having recently graduated with a high 2:1 in Fashion Branding and Marketing. My various work experience roles whilst at university introduced me to digital marketing and I had experience of managing company Twitter and Facebook accounts. I enjoyed it so much that I then opted to take modules at university that included creating a website and digital content. Most recently I passed a Search Engine Marketing course with over 90%.

Hopefully you can see just how convincing and effective a profile like this is.

And just in case you still aren’t convinced and you think that it’s missing a load of generic skills and buzzwords, consider if you think something like this is actually stronger:

Creative and strategic proficiency have enabled me to focus on key areas of marketing throughout my degree. Transferable skills including great communication, time-management and good organisational expertise have supported my work development, team-player ethic and leadership capability. Previous retail experience has given me an all-round understanding regarding profit margins and customer satisfaction, giving me a strong foundation to widen my development within industry.

The very last job is to put your two new sections at the top of page 1 of your CV so it looks something like this:

The Highlighter Technique CV

It really doesn’t matter what order you put everything else in after that. Or even if you include anything else. If it’s the first role you are applying for after university then recruiters are not going to expect you to have all that much to talk about, so a 1 page CV is sufficient!


Notice how little else is included on this first page. It’s simple, and it should directly address the job advertisement. You can download The Highlighter System CV Template here.

STOP PRESS: Top Tip from a Recruitment Consultant

I sent this blog post out to various recruiters who gave me all sorts of great advice that I have woven into the post. There was one tip from Tom Cooke at Beringer Tame that I hadn’t included, so I’m adding it on here for you:

Tom said: “A brief section towards the end of your CV describing your interests can be valuable if, for example, the recruiting company happens to be a Clothing retailer and you have an interest in fashion; or if the recruiting company is a sports retailer and you are an active sportsperson, again that would be attractive.” He also mentioned that if you are applying for a public sector role, they tend to be more keen on having a chronological list of your work history, with no gaps (whereas most other industries tend not to care as much about that anymore).

Now it’s your turn to create a killer CV!

I hope you can see the potential of The Highlighter Technique for your CV and how it can help make you a strong, relevant choice for a hiring manager.

It does take some work to get this right.

But when you do you’ll be flying off to a fab new job. With this step-by-step process you can rest assured that the work taken to craft these sections is going to pay off big time. (You won’t need to apply for every job under the sun and you won’t have to work in Tesco for the next 6 months praying that a job is going to fall from the sky.)

Click the link below and enter your email to get access to the PDF Highlighter System CV Template.


About post author

Hello. My name is Lucy Smith. I recently quit my full-time Marketing Director role at a tech start-up in London, (after 13 years hard graft getting there), in favour of starting up on my own. Why? The journey from graduating with a 2:1 in Media and Cultural Studies to Marketing Director hasn't all been plain sailing, but is has been challenging and tremendous fun. A career path that I heartily recommend to anyone who will listen. Digital Marketing For Graduates is my brain-child. I'd like to give something back, as well as have the experience of starting my own business. I will give it my all. Provide and source the very best information I can, but I know I can't do it all alone. For Digital Marketing For Grads to evolve I will need some help. Please get in touch if you'd like to be part of the idea.
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