What to include in your school leaver’s CV
Personal contact information
The employer needs to know your name (!) and have some way of contacting you. Start your CV off by providing your first and last name, and contact details (address, email and telephone number). Your name should typically be in a larger font and sit above your contact information.
Only provide a contact number that you can either answer instantly, or that will allow the employer to leave you an answer message that you can reply back to quickly. The answer message should be clear and concise, whilst remaining professional. Include your name in the message so there is no doubt they’ve rang the right number.
Use a professional email address – ideally your name. Avoid providing an email address that’s silly or meant to be a joke – email@example.com may not be as hilarious to the employer as it is to you. You need to take your application seriously, which means funny emails are definitely a bad idea.
EXAMPLE CONTACT SECTION:
This is sometimes called a career objective or personal profile.
It should be a snappy paragraph of about 2 – 4 lines which covers:
- Who you are
- What makes you suitable for the job (LOOK at the job advert!)
- What you’re looking for
EXAMPLE PERSONAL STATEMENT:
With a school-leaver’s CV, it’s quite normal to see the skills section following the personal objective. This is because the CV is usually skills-focused in the absence of a great deal of work experience.
As a recent school leaver you may not have too many hard skills to add to your CV, and most employers at this stage will be expecting evidence of soft skills you’ve acquired that can be transferred to the workplace.
What is a soft skill?
Unlike a hard skill which is very specific (computer programming, Microsoft Office, fork lift truck driver), a soft skill refers to daily interactions and communication skills. A soft skill could also be described as a personal trait or attribute.
Interacting with others on a project, meeting deadlines, punctuality, team working skills, a strong work ethic – all of these are types of soft skills that an employer expects a school leaver to have to a good standard, in order to function effectively in a working environment.
Avoid merely stating on your CV that you have these skills without backing them up. An employer has no reason to believe your claims, and would always want to see proof via your education or prior voluntary/work experience.
How to prove your skills:
- Look back over the past few years and think of times when you had to use these skills and how those soft skills affected something positively – a school project, an essay, a dissertation (e.g. conducted research and met deadlines, writing skills), a presentation (e.g. communication). Give examples.
- Voluntary or part time work is a fantastic way of gaining those soft skills and will always look great on a school leavers CV, as it shows that you already have experience of a working environment. Again, use examples from that experience to show that you have already built up some of the important soft skills required to be efficient in a work place.
- Taking part in community projects are another way you can hone your soft skills and demonstrate them to an employer.
- Being a team leader, whether as part of a band or sports team, also demonstrates valuable skills employers are looking for.
- If you have hard skills such as programming, graphic design or writing, freelancing is a great way to build these into work experience you can give on your CV. Try sites such as People Per Hour and Fiverr to gain some experience.
- This section works well bullet pointed to make it easier to read.
EXAMPLE SKILLS SECTION:
Your potential employer won’t expect much formal experience for a school leaver job applicant. However, you are likely to have at least some non-traditional experience which can demonstrate skills that are transferable to the world of work.
If you have little to include, consider volunteering at a local charity shop or country park. Not only will you learn and develop lots of soft skills, you will also have some experience to add to your CV. An employer will always look favourably on a CV that has voluntary work. It shows that the candidate is happy to give up their free time to help a good cause, and is clearly someone who isn’t afraid of hard work.
You should always make good use of your spare time whilst you’re seeking employment or a training program. Trying to explain a gap between your education and seeking employment could be tricky, and the longer it takes to find employment the longer the gap gets!
Our school leaver’s example template has a range of examples. In practice, you’ll be unlikely to have quite so much experience! We’ve included a larger-than-typical section so you can see the type of experience that might be included.
EXAMPLE EXPERIENCE SECTION:
One approach to the education section is to simply list all of your subjects and grades. This is fine if you have a fair bit to include in the skills and experience section.
If your experience and skills section is rather thin, a good approach is to expand on your achievements whilst in education. Highlight parts of your education (and grades) which are mandatory to apply for the role, or may be of interest to the employer.
Consider providing examples of your work and what you learned. For example:
- If you were applying for a role that required great writing skills, then you could consider attaching a copy of an essay or dissertation.
- Did you build a website or created some video content for a project at college? Provide a link for the hiring manager.
- Are good communication skills required for the role? Give details of a presentation you had to give at school, college or university.
Try to make everything as relevant as possible to the job you are applying for, so the employer can quickly see that you can apply skills that are transferable to their company.
Study the job advert to gain a further insight into what the employer is looking for. What types of soft skills would the employer need you to have? Focus upon these skills within your CV and how you achieved them during your education.
EXAMPLE – SIMPLE EDUCATION SECTION:
EXAMPLE – MORE DETAILED EDUCATION SECTION:
Hobbies and interests section
Although this section is not mandatory you could still use it to add value and credibility to your CV. However, be careful not to bore the employer with the standard hobbies such as going to the cinema, reading a book, and socialising on weekends with friends (the latter simply suggests a Monday morning hangover!)
The types of hobbies which would add value to your CV and potentially further demonstrate your soft skills are:
- Sports (communication, hard work, dedication and fitness)
- Music (creative, confidence, and performance)
- Arts and creative hobbies
- Website building (IT skills)
- Captain of sports team (leadership)
- Journalism (writing), and so on.
The hobbies section of your CV is often seen as the least important, and whilst this is true it doesn’t mean to say that you can’t take advantage of it. Remember, as a recent school leaver you may be struggling to complete a two page CV. Every section should be looked at as another way to add more value to your application.
Don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to your hobbies, and delve deeper into what you like to do outside of work. There are lots of soft skills to be showcased within your hobbies – communication, writing skills, team work, leadership, and so on.
Are you struggling to see how your hobby adds value to your CV?
Grab a pen and paper and jot down your hobby or hobbies. What soft skills would you need in order to partake? Do you have to communicate with people in order to achieve success – like scoring a goal in football or a try in rugby? Why did you get chosen as the captain of your sports team?
Another fantastic way of allowing the employer to see more of your personality is to provide links to achievements. For example, if you play in a band you could provide a link to a YouTube video or your social media page. Playing in a band also shows confidence, which is a fantastic trait to have as a recent school leaver.
The final section of your CV will give two references. These might be, for example:
- Your school tutor or head of house
- If you’ve been volunteering, your supervisor
- If you’re involved in a sports team, the organiser / manager
For each reference, provide a name, address and email / phone number. Make sure you check with each person first that they are happy to provide the reference!
The finished CV…
Here’s a complete example of a school leaver’s CV template, which you can download above: