How to write a good CV - a guide for students

Taking on a part time job while studying is the way that many students these days are helping to reduce their student debt, but it is also a great way to start building up your CV and work experience.

It is said that typically a prospective employer will spend just 6 or 7 seconds looking at your CV before deciding whether to review it further, so you have to make sure you get it right. Think of your CV as your marketing brochure, it is selling who you are and what you have to offer and if it is messy and badly written, that is what employers will expect to get from you.

Here are some guidelines on things to consider when writing your CV.

1. There is no set format to a CV. You can search online for template examples, or download our example CV, but it should include the following basic information about you:

o Personal Details:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone Number
  • Email

o Education & Qualifications

  • Degree subject
  • A Levels
  • GCSE’s

o Work Experience
o Interests and Achievements

2. Avoid long paragraphs, using bullets where appropriate. Imagine you were an employer ploughing through piles of CV, you are far more likely to read those that are easy on the eye and don’t present you with long paragraphs of information that you can’t scan through easily.

3. Don’t rely on a spell checker – whilst these are good in general, they are not fool proof and a human will do the job better. If you are not very good with spelling yourself, get someone who is to check over it for you. Do not use text spellings and make sure you have capital letters and punctuation where they should be.

4. Make it look neat and tidy - justify columns if using a word document. If it looks neat they will expect your work to be neat too.

5. Do not use an unusual font – you might think they look creative but they are not easy to scan read.

6. Mention exam grades – if your exams from school were good, then you should list them all. If they were not so good and you have since improved by doing well at university, then just list the exams you passed and then focus on what you are achieving now.

7. Soft skills – talk about the soft skills you have developed, which you might have learnt from any of your academic, extra-curricular activities, or your work experience, such as team work, working under pressure, meeting deadlines, managing a have workload, or the ability to work on your own initiative.

8. List any work experience you have had, whether it is relevant to the job or not, but try and find elements of your work which may be relevant to the job you are applying for – for example, working in a bar helps you develop numeracy skills and customer service skills.

9. Include Volunteering - volunteering is a great way to boost your CV and gain skills that are relevant to your chosen career. Highlight your volunteering under a separate section but treat it in the same way as you do your work experience, demonstrating the skills you learned and your achievements.

10. Get professional – make sure you have an appropriate email address – when you are younger a fun email address is fine, but as you are now applying for jobs, set yourself up with a more professional and sensible email. And speaking of fun, don’t try to be amusing on your CV either. It is the wrong place for humour, unless you are applying for a job as a comedy script writer!

11. Keep your CV to two pages – this is not always possible as your experience grows, but you will find that as you move on in your career some of the things that are relevant now, will not be so important later, such as your holiday work experience.

12. One CV may not be enough – you may need to tweak your CV for each job you apply for. The job description for each will be slightly different as will the person specification, so try and adapt your CV for each one. They changes may be only slight, unless you are applying for jobs in different sectors, in which case you may find you need two completely different CVs.

13. Review and test your CV - If you find your CV is not working, and you are not getting interviews, change the format and review the content. If possible, find a sponsor, a parent, an older sibling or maybe a friend of a parent who works in an area that interests you or has business experience, show them your CV and get feedback, use their knowledge to enhance the document.

14. Don’t lie on your CV, or even exaggerate, it isn’t worth it and you are likely to be found out. As an example of a true story, a woman who was applying for a role as secretary and decided to add another GCSE in Domestic Science as she was a good cook and thought she didn’t have enough GCSEs. When the company offered her the job, they requested certificates and she told the truth and they withdrew their offer even though the job had nothing whatsoever to do with cookery.

15. Don’t get despondent – applying for jobs is tough. You may only get responses from 10% of the letters you send out, the rest you will hear nothing from at all, not even a rejection. That can be disheartening, but if you bear in mind that it is a numbers game and that typically the average graduate will send out about 70 CVs when looking for their first job, you will realise that you need to put in a significant amount of effort to get the reward. The more CVs you send out the more interviews you will get.

Share this post