School leaver CV example with writing guide and CV template
Whether you are leaving school, college or university, you will need to write a CV if you want to land that dream job.
But writing a school leaver CV can be difficult, as it is likely to be the first time you have written one.
You probably have lots of questions.
How long should my CV be?
What information should I include in my CV?
What if I have no experience?
These are all very common questions and this guide along with our school leaver example CV will answer them all and more.
Having worked in recruitment for many years, I’ve reviewed hundreds of junior level CVs, and the steps I’ve laid out below will help you to write your own interview-winning CV.
The guide is broken down into the following sections:
- What is the purpose of my CV?
- Who will read my CV?
- What makes a good CV?
- What about my lack of experience?
- What should I put in my CV?
- Example school leaver CV
- Writing the contents of your CV
There is also a handy CV template you can download here.
What is the purpose of my CV?
The ultimate purpose of your CV is to secure job interviews for you.
It is your marketing material for your services; advertising your skills and knowledge to potential employers.
You create your CV and promote it out in the job market to get your foot in the door of firms you want to work for.
So as you can imagine, it needs to look professional and read extremely well if it’s going to be effective.
Who will read my CV?
Your CV will mainly be read by hiring managers and recruiters.
When you apply for a job online, recruiters will review your CV to find out if you have the requirements they are looking for to fill their vacancy
If your CV makes a good impression, then the recruiter will call you with a view to book you in for an interview, or pass your CV on to the hiring manager.
Recruiters and managers tend to be very busy and often have to review hundreds of CVs every week – so your CV needs to grab their attention and explain your value quickly.
What makes a good school leaver CV?
A good CV is one that quickly shows recruiters and managers that you have all the necessary skills and knowledge required to perform their vacant role – it’s that simple, and it shouldn’t be over complicated.
If your CV can do this, you will generate lots of interest and interview requests from employers.
What about my lack of work experience?
Don’t worry too much about having little or no work experience.
We all have to start somewhere and plenty of people are able to find jobs straight from school or university without experience or contacts.
You just have to be a little more creative when writing your CV and draw transferable skills out from things like school/university projects, qualifications, hobbies, volunteer work and part-time work.
Using a blend of structure, formatting, language and content, anyone can write an attractive CV.
I will cover how to do this in more detail as we progress through the guide.
What should I put in my CV?
When you are new to the world of work, it can be difficult to know what information you should include in your CV.
So before you start writing your CV, it’s wise to do some research and find out exactly what your target employers are looking for in a candidate.
So head over to a job website and run a search for the type of job you are looking for
You can use our job search page here (it will open in a separate window)
Then look through 10 or more job adverts and make a list of the most important candidate requirements that keep appearing.
Requirements will include things like:
- Qualifications – GCSE’s, A-levels, Degrees etc.
- Soft skills - Communication, leadership, organisation etc.
- Hard skills – Literacy, numeracy, languages etc.
- IT capabilities - Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Photoshop etc.
- Industry knowledge/experience – Accountancy, marketing, design etc.
- Extra-curricular activities – Sports, hobbies, personal projects etc.
Now that you have an extensive list of the things that your target employers are looking for, you know exactly what you should be highlighting in your CV.
You probably won’t possess all of the requirements, but you should always refer to this list when writing your CV, and try to demonstrate as many as you can.
Quick Tip: In some cases where you don’t have a particular requirement, it can be beneficial to show that you are working towards it. For example if a job advert is asking for basic HTML knowledge and you don’t have it – start taking an online course on the subject and include it in your CV.
School leaver CV example
To show you how to write your own CV, I will start off with this school leaver CV example below.
This person is a recent university leaver looking for work in the product design field
They have no relevant work experience, so this CV will show you how to create a CV based on education and extra-curricular activities alone.
Ideally your CV should be around 2 pages in length and be written in a clean and simple font that is easy to read.
Writing the contents of your CV
Now that you have the structure your CV (download our free CV template to get a head start) you can start writing the content that will persuade recruiters to invite you to interview.
Remember as you write your CV, you should always refer to your list of candidate requirements from your target jobs, and try to highlight as many of them as you can.
Name, title and contact details
Head your CV up with you name in bold and a professional title that relates to your field.
Put your contact details just underneath your name so that it’s easy for recruiters to get in touch with you.
- Phone number
- Email address
- Location (no need to put your full address – general area where you live or are willing to work is fine)
- Link to LinkedIn profile (optional if you have a one and it’s good enough to share)
Take up as little space as possible with your contact details to save room on your CV.
Your CV profile or personal statement is your opening pitch to recruiters and employers.
It will be the first thing they read upon opening your CV, so you need give them some good reasons to be interested in you.
Ideally you want to summarise the skills you have to offer an employer, in a way which reflects the qualities that they are looking for in a candidate – so again you should be referring to the list you made earlier.
Good things to include are;
- Your highest academic achievements – A Level in maths, 2:1 Bio-Chemistry degree
- IT Package proficiency – Word, Excel, Photoshop
- Any experience that could be relevant to your target roles – School/Uni projects, voluntary work, work placements, personal projects or pursuits
- Relevant hard skills – Languages, literacy, numeracy
- Relevant soft skills – Communication, motivation, teamwork
Take a look at the example CV profile below
This person is a school leaver with A-levels who is applying for office based sales roles.
They have no office based sales work experience.
However they do have some part time supermarket cashier experience which involves some of the same skills and experience. So they have really taken advantage of that.
The trick is to write for the job you want, not the job you have. Really sell yourself to the reader.
Many school leavers think that their part time jobs in bars and retail stores bear no relevance to the jobs they apply for when they start working full time. However there a lot of transferable skills that you can include in your CV and using the right language, you can create a very professional image with them – like the above.
Core skills & achievements
In order to give recruiters a very quick glimpse of your skills, use a bullet pointed core skills and achievements section.
As I mentioned earlier, recruiters and managers tend to be very busy – so a bullet pointed list of valuable skills and achievements can give them a really quick snapshot of your talents, and encourage them to read the rest of your CV in full.
If you have carried out some notable projects that relate to your target roles, then it would be worth setting up a section underneath your core skills to list them like in the example school leaver CV above – but don’t worry too much if you haven’t.
If like most school leavers, you do not have any direct work experience in the field you are applying to, I would recommend listing your education next.
Start with your most recent qualification and work backwards to your earliest.
Include plenty of detail to compensate for your lack of work experience – especially if your education can be related to the jobs you are applying for.
However, if you do have some relevant work experience, then place your work history above your education.
Work history is an area that many school leavers struggle with as they often work part-time jobs that they feel will not look impressive on their CV.
However your work experience (no matter how unimportant you think it may be) gives you a great opportunity to demonstrate a lot of important skills that are required for nearly all jobs.
- Team work
- Working with customers
- And more…
They also give you an opportunity to show off your written language skills.
The below is a role description for a Saturday job helping at a DIY store
Start with the dates, company and role title.
Quick Tip: you can tweak the role title to sound as professional as you like. E.g. don’t write “Shelf Stacker” – instead go with something like “Shop Floor Operative” or “Sales Assistant”so that you appear as professional as possible.
Then provide an outline of the role that summarises the role and company as well as showing where you sit within the organisation’s hierarchy.
Then bullet point you responsibilities in a way that demonstrates your valuable workplace skills.
Where possible try to show how your actions contribute to the success of the employer.
For example, instead of simply saying:
“Monitoring and replenishing stock levels”
Expand on that point and say:
“Monitoring and replenishing stock levels to ensure customers have access to all products and more stock is sold throughout the week”
This shows how important you are to the running of the business and how valuable you could be to an employer.
Interests & hobbies
When you lack work experience, your hobbies can be a great way to demonstrate some more of your talents.
Good interests to list are:
Work related interests – For example if you are a web designer and have created a website then provide a link to the site – Or if you are applying for science related jobs and carry out your own research in your spare time, then tell readers about it.
Big achievements – Perhaps you’ve run a marathon or competed in national chess competition – these types of activities show motivation and determination, so get them onto your CV.
Charitable work – Any kind of fund raising or volunteer work you undertake for charitable causes look great on your CV because they show you are willing to help others and often involve lots of organisation and planning.
Writing a school leaver CV – Conclusion
Using the above advice and our free CV template, you should be able to create an effective school leaver CV that will make a big impression on recruiters and ensure that you get invited to plenty of interviews.
Remember to keep the format easy-to-read and always tailor the content to match the demands of the employers you are applying to.
Once you’ve perfected your CV, sign up for our free job email service and check out some of our job hunting advice to get your CV noticed by more employers.
And if you need any more help in finding success with your CV, checkout our quick-guide below: 5 ways to boost your entry-level CV.