A CV is an important “marketing document” created to sell your skills, experiences and personal attributes to a potential employer. It is one of the most important documents you will ever produce so therefore you need to make it clear, relevant and personal to you. Even if you’re just leaving school, or have just left, you still need to stick to these guidelines as much as you can.
When it comes to writing CV’s for school leavers I’m a relative novice but one thing I’m certain about is that your CV will be slightly different from someone who is writing a CV in their later years. In such circumstances your focus will be on identifying skills and achievements acquired through other means, including part time jobs, voluntary work and summer jobs.
The qualities and characteristics that employers typically look for include, leadership, teamwork, creativity, discipline, reliability, determination, motivation, compassion for others and global skills such as IT and languages. If you can show evidence of skills and achievements that demonstrate your potential, determination and creativity then you’re well on your way to creating a powerful CV.
Look at the job advert and see what skills, personal qualities and abilities the employer is looking for. Match these with the skills that you have and provide sufficient evidence to support your case. Remember, when you’re invited to an interview the employer will surely ask you to bring in your certificates to prove your qualifications. Similarly, if you highlighted any skills or achievements on your CV, the chances are the employer will want you to explain them more in depth. For that reason always be honest and truthful about anything you write on your CV, no matter how insignificant you think your achievements may seem to you, you would be surprised in what employers are interested in.
As with graduate CV’s the main emphasis of your CV will be on your academic achievements rather than your work history. Mention any extra-curricular activities that you have done that have led to a positive result or achievement. If you worked on a voluntary basis for a charity shop or held a position of responsibility then this would definitely be worth mentioning. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the significance of a voluntary work placement. Volunteering is a great opportunity for you to give something back to the community as well as demonstrate valuable qualities to a potential employer.
Writing a CV at any stage of your life can be a daunting and challenging experience. For school leavers it is twice as hard because they have very limited work experience. I have included below a few simple tips and suggestions to help you write an impressive school leavers CV. I will start by summarizing what information you should include on your CV and then provide you with some examples.
Summary of what should be in your CV?
- Personal details- including name, address, post code, telephone number & a valid e-mail address
- Personal Profile (short paragraph about your skills and experiences that match the requirements of the role you are applying for)
- Education & Qualifications
- Key skills & personal qualities
- Work history and experience ( i.e. part time jobs, weekend or after school work, voluntary work, achievements and skills gained from your involvement in these activities)
- Any special skills e.g. driving licenses or languages spoken etc.
- Interests, hobbies and achievements
Detailed explanation of what you should include in your CV (with examples)
Personal details (name, address, telephone number, email address) For example;
20 Tenby Road
T: 0121 000 1111
M: 0087 000 9999E: BloggsJ123@hotmail.co.uk
Include a short and succinct paragraph under your personal details stating why you want to work in this particular area and what skills you have that make you suitable for the role that you are applying for. Try to avoid making generic or vague statements like “I am motivated, hardworking and reliable” unless you can back it up with strong supporting evidence. Remember, the employer should be able to see a clear link between the skills you have to offer and the requirements of the job.
Start this section with the school(s) attended with the most recent first. List all your qualifications, subjects and exam results that you achieved while studying at each school. For example:
Barnwell Secondary School 2000 – 2005
GCSE’s: Maths (A) English (B) Science (C) Technology (C), Geography (C), ICT (C)
If you received any special awards (attendance/subject award/recognition for outstanding performance) then include a short paragraph under your grades to highlight these achievements. By highlighting these achievements, it might be possible for you to compensate for weak grades.
Another way you can compensate for weak grades is by illustrating any skills or qualifications that you have achieved outside school. Any non-sporting leisure interests such as languages or membership of clubs could be included. These activities are perfect for showcasing certain skills and personal characteristics that you might not be able to show because of your lack of work experience. For example:
- Conversational Spanish and French – currently taking evening classes to develop my confidence when communicating on holiday
- Strong work ethic and desire to succeed
- Willing to work flexible hours including weekends and nights
- Competent with all Microsoft packages including Word, Excel, Access and Power Point
Work History & Experience:
There’s no doubt that at some point in your school life you would have undertaken a work placement. The area you choose to do your work experience is irrelevant, but what you did and what you learned is invaluable to a potential employer. Try to relate the skills and achievements you acquired in these roles, and try to match them with the requirements of the role that you are applying for. Also, mention any voluntary or part time work that you did. For example;
“Whilst at school I worked part time at the local Supermarket in order to earn an extra income. I worked mainly weekends but did work additional hours when I was asked to do so”
“Responsible for organising outings and activities at the home where I worked as a volunteer. This involved negotiating what is possible, liaising with staff, planning each outing, organising other volunteers to help, ordering the minibus and leading the group”
Hobbies & Interests:
Employers are aware of school leavers having very limited work history therefore they are interested in what you do in your spare time. This gives the employer a valuable insight into your personality and the skills that you have to offer. It also provides them with evidence about whether you would be the right person for the job and how you would cope with the demands of your new work environment. Sporting interests, films, socializing, travelling, cooking are great examples of leisure interests that you can use to compensate for your lack of work related skills. For example:
“Enjoy raising funds for the local hospice through sponsored walks and swims”
Many CV’s don’t include referees’ details, simply stating “References available on request”. It’s unlikely anyone will want to take up your references before a job offer has been made. However, sometimes employers like to see that you have included the details of at least one referee even if they don’t contact them (teacher or supervisor from your work experience). List the name, relationship and contact details of your referee and make sure you ask them for permission as they are likely to get a phone call. For example:
Mr. Darren Reynolds
Head of PE
Aston Arts & Technology School
Tel no: 000 000 0000
If you’re still unclear about what to include on your school leaver CV then follow the links on this page for further help.