Writing your very first school leavers CV after finishing education can be a very daunting task. You may even be staring at a blank page right now wondering where to begin – and you won’t be the only one!
Having never written a CV before means you may be stuck as to what to write, and how to structure and present your details. But regardless of how much information and previous experience you have, you will still be able to create an effective CV that can stand out from the rest.
All you need is a little faith, and to read our simple and easy guide on how to write your first CV…
Where to begin with your school leavers CV
The first thing you need to do is look at what jobs are out there. Don’t just jump straight into creating a CV until you know what position you are interested in. Have you chosen a career path, or are you more interested in getting to work in whatever comes up?
For those of you that have already decided on their career path, then creating your CV should be a little easier. If however you haven’t yet decided and would like to get your foot in the door and see what develops later, you need to still focus on something specific.
For example, would you like a customer facing role? Are you interested in sales? Once you’ve decided what type of role you’d enjoy, it’s now time to search online and see what comes up. This is where you can then begin to create your CV.
Tailor the CV to the role or career
Employers like to see an applicant who demonstrates the skills and experience they are looking for. So why not make it easy for them?
Instead of just listing all of your skills and experience on the CV, it would be much better to find out what your potential employer is looking for, and attempt to tailor your CV so it highlights these relevant areas.
If you don’t highlight relevant areas and present the right information to an employer, you could find your CV is tossed onto the ‘no’ pile rather quickly – even if you’re perfect for the job!
How to structure your school leavers CV
Employers hate it when a CV isn’t presented very well, as they are always looking to find the information they need as quickly as possible. Presentation is everything, and ensuring the structure of your CV is simple and effective could be the key to gaining that all important interview.
Make sure the sections to your CV are clearly divided with bold headings. Use a professional font like Helvetica or Times New Roman. Also, consider breaking up some of the text with bullet points to make it easier to read.
In regards to the content of your CV you need to avoid lengthy sentences and paragraphs, and try to keep it brief and to the point. Typically your CV should be no longer than two pages.
At the top of the CV should be your contact details. It then should be broken down as follows:
1. Personal statement
This brief personal statement goes at the start of your CV, and must summarise all of the relevant skills, qualifications and experience you have to offer an employer. As this is the first thing the recruiter will see, it’s important to ensure it’s tailored for the role.
You need to highlight your biggest achievements along with the relevant skills and qualifications that are required for the job. Any work experience you may have should also be put in this statement. But don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be career based experience, as projects from school or university are also just as important.
Any extracurricular activities that you feel would be relevant to the position can be included here, especially when you may not have too much experience to offer as a school leaver.
Employers are fully aware that a school leave may have a lack of previous work experience to show on a CV, so they love it when you think outside the box and include projects that you’ve been involved in. This shows initiative!
Finally, be careful not to include too many buzzwords and clichés like, ‘I’m hard working, and a team player’. There is nothing wrong with stating this as long as you are able to back it up with evidence in your CV. But too many buzzwords and little or no evidence will make the recruiter feel like you are padding out the CV, and may not have much to offer.
2. Work experience
As a school leaver you may find this part difficult to complete. At this point in your life, you may have little or no professional experience at all. Typically this section would be completed with a chronological list of work experience, with the most recent role to the top.
So this is where you need to get creative and think outside the box!
University work placements, any type of voluntary work, school projects and even freelance projects can be listed under ‘work experience’. Again, make sure that the most relevant information is highlighted at the top.
The standard format for each placement or position will start with the company name, followed by the title or the position and duration dates. Underneath this you would then need to write a sentence or two that summarises the role and where that position sits within the company. You then need to list your responsibilities, but make sure you show how each one of them added value to the organisation.
Finally, include any achievements within those roles. Don’t hesitate to even list the actual results including stats and figures. If you saved or made the company money with an idea, then why not show off that impressive achievement!
You may also find our article on ‘Building your work experience‘ useful.
3. Education and qualifications
With a potential lack of work experience for your CV, this should be a great section to show off your academic achievements. Begin with your most recent achievements, including the school name and duration dates, along with the qualifications and grades achieved.
If you obtained a degree then this could be a good place to present any papers, projects or studies that relate to the role you are applying for. Even if it isn’t an exact match, you should still show off your achievements here, as this isn’t something that many people do – so it’s good to get ahead of the competition!
Typically for GCSEs and A-levels you would list the subject and grade achieved. However, think back to any projects you may have carried out that could be worth a mention. Again, it is very common for school leavers to just list the subjects and grades, so thinking outside the box and including extra information will impress the recruiter.
4. Hobbies and interests
It’s easy to assume that this section isn’t really all that important and simply listing ‘like to go to the cinema and socialise with friends’ is all you need here. But you’d be very wrong – and here’s why.
This section gives you the opportunity to show the employer how passionate you are outside of work or school. A recruiter wants to have their attention grabbed from the second they pick up a CV, right down to this last section. They want to see someone who has a proven track record of working hard, and is also a passionate individual when it comes to personal activities.
Listing the obvious ‘socialising with friends’ is just boring, and shows an instant lack of passion and drive to better oneself. Think about focusing in on activities likes travel, sports, writing and reading. Do you play for a local football team? What are they called on what have you won? Do you like to read science fiction novels? What is your favourite and what draws you to these novels?
Above all else, don’t be afraid to let a recruiter see the real you, and provide them with the opportunity to see your personality on the page. You never know, they might just share the same interests, and that could be the deciding factor when they ask you in for an interview.