How To Write Your First CV – Tips for Students

first cv tips

Are you a student or school leaver about to write your first CV? Even if you think you’ve got no work experience to put in it, you can still write a great CV that demonstrates your skills and strengths.

What is a CV?

A CV is a big first step to getting a job. It doesn’t just show employers what you’ve done – it shows them what you can do. Think of it as an introduction to one of the most amazing and employable people in the world… you.

Why do you need a CV?

A CV tells employers what you’re good at, what you are interested in and what you’ve achieved in life so far.  You hand it out when you are looking for jobs. They are great to take to careers fairs, and you can often upload your CV if you are applying for a job online. If an employer likes your CV they might ask you to come to a job interview.

Your CV is your chance to show employers you’re a good match for the job and can back up any claims you make. If you say in your cover letter that your cooking could put the Great British Bake-Off to shame, your CV can back you up by showing how you raised hundreds of pounds in a school charity bake sale.

What to put in your first CV

  • Full name
  • Contact details: Address, telephone, email
  • Personal statement: (see below)
  • Key skills (see below)
  • Education: Where you’ve studied, for how long, and what grades you got. If you haven’t got any results yet, you can put what grades you’ve been predicted.
  • Work experience

What to put in your personal statement on your first CV

A CV personal statement is a bite-sized sentence or two summing up who you are as a professional, and what you want to offer employers in terms of your ambition and experience.

Example:

Sixth form student at Stonebridge College. Practical work experience with retail weekend work (including cash handling) and summer catering work in restaurants. Looking to start a business career with work that develops my business skills and includes customer service.

If you haven’t done much work experience, you won’t have much to say here. You can still talk about your skills, though. You’ll learn more about talking about skills in your first CV below.

What counts as work experience on your first CV?

You may have never had a job before, but you probably have more experience than you think. Examples of work experience include:

Work experience can take all kinds of forms. For each bit of work experience, include the name of the place you worked, how long you worked there and what your main tasks were. Try to write about the work you did in a way that shows future employers what you’d be good at. For example

How to talk about skills and strengths in your first CV

If you’ve got little or no work experience, you can still use a CV to talk about your skills and strengths!

The five top life and work skills are:

Try out our free online Young Professional training to build these five top life and work skills, wherever you are in the UK.

You are building these important work skills all the time, even when you are still at school. You just need to learn how to develop them and show employers you’ve got them. You can talk about these work skills in your CV.

If you are applying for a job that mentions nice-to-have skills, use your CV to demonstrate how any work experience you’ve done has helped you build up those skills.

EXAMPLE: talking about your Saturday job in your CV

Role: Weekend customer assistant work, MacDougal’s Fast Food, Aug 2016-Dec 2017

  • Developed strong customer service skills in serving customers quickly and politely
  • Used problem solving to help customers with a range of queries like requesting vegan choices or items not on the menu
  • Worked as a team to make sure food was cooked, served and delivered quickly, and the service area was kept clean
  • Used self-management and organisation skills to carry out tasks on my own without constant supervision by the team leader
  • Developed time-keeping skills in always being punctual for work
  • I was given extra responsibilities by the team leader and trained in cash handling and working the till.

Who can give you a reference for your first CV?

Someone who gives you a reference is someone who can vouch for you when you are applying for a job. You don’t have to put references on your CV. You can just say “References available on request” on the bottom. But this does give you time to think about who could be a good reference for any work experience you’ve done.

If you’re still in school, you could ask a teacher to be a reference. If you’ve done any saturday work, volunteering or charity work you could ask the team leader or the person who supervised you to be your reference. If you’ve done school work experience, you could ask your supervisor to provide you with a reference.

Whoever you ask for a reference, be polite and explain why you want the job – or ask if they will be willing to provide a reference if you apply for jobs in the future.

What not to put on your CV:

  • Age
  • Date of birth
  • Gender (your business, no-one else’s)
  • Religion (your business, no-one else’s)
  • Relationship status (single, married or “it’s complicated”? Never put it on your CV!)
  • Nationality (all these things are way too personal and employers will only ask if they absolutely need to know)
  • Weird colours, designs and fonts (keep it simple!)
  • A non-professional email address (Weird or joke emails like ihatedonuts@gmail.com give employers the wrong impression. It’s quick and free to get a new professional email address like FirstnameLastname@gmail.com if you need one.)
  • Lies (never lie on your CV. You can emphasise your good points, but never lie – you will just get caught out.)
  • References (if employers want references from people, they’ll ask you. Save that CV space for your skills, experience and achievements)

What should your first CV look like?

The most important thing is to keep it simple! Your CV should not be more than two pages long, and it should look really basic – no fancy fonts or colours.

Search online for ‘CV templates’ and you’ll find loads of examples to try.

See more CV tips along with careers advice for students and school leavers

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