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:

    • Name
    • Address
    • Telephone Number
    • Email
    • Degree subject
    • A Levels
    • GCSE’s
    • Work Experience
    • 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 or part time jobs you have had as a student, 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.

Really want that job? Tailor make your cv to stand out!
What the perfect cv looks like, really depends on your personal situation and the job that you are applying for. Recruiters scan quickly through applicants to find that “perfect-fit” candidate. So in order to convince them that’s you, you must present them the most relevant information high up on your cv. The introduction of your cv, the personal statement, is the least you should rewrite or adapt for each application, but it can be smart to edit and rearrange other information as well.

Imagine applying for a role as a sales representative. You’re planning to send an application to a company trading boating parts and another to a energy supplier. Now if one of your interests is sailing and you have major experience sailing ships or a licence, that would give you a major plus at the company selling boating parts. However, for your application at the energy supplier it would be rather useless information. Therefore, you might not want to elaborate on this interest in one version of your cv, while putting it all the way at the top on the other.

When working with a static Word template, this can be a lot of effort. A lot of job seekers therefore choose to use an online cv building program to enable them to easily edit and rearrange their cv or even use a whole different template. Of course, using a cv builder isn’t free, but in the end it’s also an investment that will repay itself once you land that dream job!

How to write a personal statement for a cv?
The main purpose of writing a personal letter for your CV is to sell yourself to the potential employer. However, you must do more than simply sell your skills and experience. It is also important to ensure that it is relevant to the job for which you apply. Here is a simple guide on how to create the perfect personal statement to help you stand out.

What is a personal statement?
This is usually the first thing that you include in a CV. It is a brief summary to give your potential employer insight into you. This statement is used to help you stand out from the rest of the applicants. It informs them of the personal attributes that you possess; outlining characteristics that make you more attractive as a potential employee.

An Example of a Graduate Personal Statement
A recent MBA graduate with a first class honours degree from X, looking to secure position X to develop my skills and knowledge in a practical high-energy environment. My goal is to assume a role in a lead and respected company that will allow me to take on responsibilities in analysis and interpretation of financial data.
This is a basic example and is intended to give you an idea of what a personal-statement looks like
Example 2
I am a hardworking, proactive, and dedicated Chemical Engineer, with a strong background in plant operation, safety improvements, and process. I have 5 years of work experience in testing, designing, and analysing processes to increase efficiency. I am currently seeking an opportunity to use my skills in a challenging work environment and become a valuable asset for the firm I work for.
In this example, the candidate shows their work experience and the areas in which they have expertise. It makes them look accomplished and competent, which increases the chances of being invited for the interview.
How Long should it be?
As you can see, these examples show you how long a statement should be on average. In essence, it should not be longer than 5 or 6 lines or more than 150 words. The reason is that in the initial stage, the employer does a basic scan of the CV rather than go into details. By making it short and to the point, it ensures that they will read it in full. Besides that, since the length of a CV is 2 A4 pages, keeping it short will ensure that you have enough space for other sections. For instance, it will ensure you can list your educational skills and work experience in detail.

What Do You Write in the Personal Statement?
If you want to learn how to write a good personal-statement, focus on these areas:

  • Who you are - These are personal qualities such as self-driven, adaptable, creative, and good at noticing small and important details.
  •  What you offer- These are the skills you offer, which are relevant to the employer. They include having good management skills, problem-solving skills, design skills, and communication skills. Ensure you tailor them to the job requirements. It can also include any experience you have in the field, having a remarkable record of accomplishment or even a great background in the area you apply.
  • What your goals are - This is what you wish to achieve as an employee at the firm. For most, the goals are about achieving more in their chosen career path.

To ensure that you respond to these three areas consider creating bullet-point answers to these issues when drafting the personal-statement. If you are having a hard time coming up with answers, use the job description to identify the skills your employer needs. For instance, if the employer needs great business analysis skills, ensure you cover these areas in the statement.

What Not to Include in Your Personal Statement
When it comes to creating the personal statement, the above-mentioned things should feature. While proving that you have desirable characteristics, it is important to avoid irrelevant or controversial topics in there. Some things to avoid include:

  • Other People- Keep the focus on who you are, your skills, and what you hope to achieve. Avoid mentioning other people. For instance, do not mention business leaders that you may have worked with. Additionally, do not mention people that may have inspired you to pursue your current career.
  • Avoid Clichés - Many fresh graduates fall into the cliché trap when writing their statement. For instance, they will use ambiguous metaphors that look sophisticated to them. In general, avoid anything that will make evaluators feel like you overdid it.
  • Avoid Mentioning Personal Exploits - For instance, do not mention any hedonistic attributes that you have. You might be tempted to mention that you are a fun person who loves to party hard and work harder. While it looks like you are saying you are well-balanced individual, to the employer, it only shines a negative light into whom you are. Additionally, it is important to avoid any slang. Only use formal language in your statement if you want the potential employer to take you seriously.
  • Exaggeration - Avoid making it seem like you are going for a hard sell. If you sound too much like a used car salesman, the potential employer might be turned off. Besides that, if you exaggerate, the lie could be caught during the interview process, which could cause you to miss a big opportunity.
  • Avoid Grammatical Mistakes - Depending on the position, there could be hundreds of other CVs sent to the employer. The initial stage is to get rid of as many as possible and remain with about ten who are invited for the interview. If your statement has any errors, it will be tossed aside and another one picked.
  • Being Negative and Arrogant - Some graduates may feel the need to complain about personal past experiences that have given them difficulties. Evaluators are more likely to notice positive statements than one with negative remarks. Besides that, some may feel the need to talk up their skills a bit too much. It comes off as arrogant and can be off-putting to your potential employer.
  • Avoid Humour and Platitudes - Humour is a great way to communicate. However, in a personal-statement, it is hard to define the audience. Thus, your bad attempt at humour may fall flat. Platitudes such as your intention to save the world or make an impact should not be included in the personal-statement. Only stick to the basic three points mentioned above.

Where do you Place the Personal Statement?
The personal-statement should be the first introductory paragraph in your CV. It must always feature at the top of the document.

Final Thoughts
If you are still not sure of how to create a personal-statement, do not panic. Writing a good one takes time. It is especially so if this is your first time doing it. Use this guide and the mentioned examples to create a loose draft that you can later refine over the next few days. Keep in mind that you have to edit each personal-statement according to the role for which you apply. It ensures that you are selling yourself to the role and not simply using a generic statement. Finding a job is a competitive process and you want to ensure you have the most advantage if you want to land your dream job.

Don’t get despondent 

Easy for us to say but not always so easy to do, but always bear in mind that applying for jobs is tough so try not to take it personally. 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.

 

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