Career Readiness: Tips for Students Writing Their First CV

Writing out a CV for the first time is certainly a daunting task, especially if you’re unsure what to include or where to start. With prospective employers only spending around 7 seconds looking at a CV before deciding whether to review it further, it’s important for students to be able to get it right. Here’s some useful tips to write a great CV that demonstrates your skills, strengths and helps make you stand out from the crowd.

Where Do I Start?

Even though there is no ‘set’ way to format a CV, it is important that you get down all the basic information your potential employer will need to know. Here’s a rough guide of what’s crucial to include.

Name, Address and Contact Number: Firstly, make sure you put your full name in a large font at the top of the page. Below this, include your current address (remember to keep it up-to-date if you’re moving soon), email address and contact phone number.

Email Address: If you haven’t already, set up a ‘grown up’ email address that ideally incorporates your first name and surname. It looks a lot more professional than a fun one you used at school.

Brief Personal Statement: After your contact details, we recommend following it up with a brief personal statement to explain who you are in a nutshell. Remember, this is not the place for your life story- it should simply state who you are and what type of work you are looking for. You can also include your interests and achievements in this section, just keep it succinct!

Interests and Achievements: This section is your opportunity to show what you do outside of work and give the employer insight into your character. Keep it short and avoid obvious things such as ‘reading’ or ‘socialising’, instead make yourself stand out by choosing your more unique interests and achievements such as volunteer work, travelling or completing the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Education: Under this section, list your most recent education first (university), then A Levels (or equivalent), and finish off with your GCSEs. Include the name of each school, as well as the years you attended. Finally, be sure to include the grades you achieved next to each subject. It’s really that simple!

Work Experience: As with the education section above, start off your employment history with your most recent job. You should include paid work, internships and work placements, stating the months/years you worked at each place, the company name and job title. It’s also important here to highlight the key skills, responsibilities and duties you gained during each role, making sure they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for. For example, working as a waitress helped you to develop your customer service and time management skills.

References: All CV’s should include two contacts that can be used as references. Just remember to ask the relevant people for their permission to save you any embarrassment if an employer follows up without warning!

Refining Your CV

Now you’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to start refining your CV with these helpful tips.

Tip One: Avoid Long Paragraphs

It’s important to avoid using really long paragraphs and instead use bullet points for information, where appropriate. Potential employers are far more likely to read CV’s that are easy on the eye with sections they can scan through easily.

Tip Two: Spell Check and Proof Read

There is nothing worse than a potential employer reading through a CV full of spelling and grammatical errors. Instead of only using spell check, make sure you proof read your CV multiple times and read it aloud as this will help you spot errors easier. We also recommend passing your CV onto a family member or teacher/tutor to proof read and get some feedback of what could be improved.

Tip Three: Make It Neat and Tidy

Even though you want your CV to stand out and have an element of creativity, it’s crucial to make sure it’s neat and tidy for maximum impact. Dividing your CV into organised sections with a clear easy-to-read font, might not look as creative as you would like, however there’s nothing worse than a messy CV that’s difficult to read.

Tip Four: Include a ‘Skills’ Section

We highly recommend including a small ‘Soft Skills’ and ‘Technical Skills’ section in your CV as it can communicate a lot from just a few bullet points.

Soft Skills: Here you can list skills you have developed over the years such as team work, working under pressure, meeting deadlines, managing a heavy workload, or the ability to work on your own.

Technical Skills: Here you can list any computer programmes you are skilled in such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and anything else you think is appropriate.

Tip Five: Try and Keep Your CV On One Page

In an ideal world you should try and keep your CV all on one page, at a push two. Even as your experience grows, it’s crucial that your CV is constantly refined and easy to scan through. A really long CV isn’t attractive to employers and will more often than not put them off even looking at it!

Tip Six: Tailor Your CV To Each Job

Finally, it’s important to realise sooner rather than later that it’s always a good idea to tailor your CV specifically to each job you’re applying to. This doesn’t mean you have to create a brand-new CV for every single job application, but have a think about what specific experience or skills would impress that employer, and make sure these stand out.