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Creating a great CV for a school leaver

6 minute read

If you’ve recently left school or are due to soon, one thing you might have to create for the first time in your life is a CV.

It might be that within school you’ve been taught a little about the role of CVs or how to begin to create yours, but more often than not, it’s something many school leavers have to do without any support or guidance.

This can make creating a school leaver CV quite daunting as it can be confusing as to where to even begin. The great news is that there are hundreds of great guides and articles online to help support you every step of the way!

CVs for school leavers: Getting started

Before starting to pull your CV together, it can be helpful to do a little reading about the role of a CV and who it’s for. Once you start to break it down and get to understand the purpose of a CV, it won’t feel quite as overwhelming.

A really great place to help dissect a CV is over at StandOut CV in their helpful guide to CVs for school leavers. They expand out a few helpful areas including;

  • Purpose of a CV
  • Who will read your CV
  • What makes a good school leaver CV
  • What to include in your CV
  • How to write a good CV

They also include some examples of CVs and break down each of the sections you should include with helpful and practical advice.

School leaver CV templates

As your CV is essentially your sales pitch for a job or placement, you want to make sure not only is the content the best it can be, but also that it’s clear and impactful. 

Your CV needs to be easy to read, well laid out and also have your achievements and skills stand out so people can pick up key information at a glance. 

CV templates can make sure all these boxes are ticked and that you’re presented professionally and in the best possible way.

There are hundreds of free CV templates online so it should be easy to find one that feels right, creatively and design wise for you. They generally can be downloaded as a word doc and then you can just get to work on filling them in.

More commonly these days, sites will have CV builders within them to help you build it together online.

School leaver CVs: Some good places to look

A quick search online for “school leaver CV templates”, or similar search terms, will uncover lots of places to browse options. To make things a little easier for you, we’ve also pulled together a few good places that have some good options to get you started.

As you progress through your career, your CV is one tool that will grow and evolve with you and as such it needs updated regularly. You’ll learn more about how to play with formats and design, and different ways of presenting yourself will offer new creative ideas, but for now, something simple is all that’s needed.

School leaver CVs: What to include

Once you have a good template you can get to work on filling in your CV. The template will show some areas you need to include such as the below:

  • Full name + contact details
  • Personal statement
  • Work experience
  • Key skills
  • Education
  • Hobbies and interests

An overview of some of the most important sections is summarised below.

Personal Statement

Reed.co.uk defines a personal statement as “a brief personal summary given to prospective employers to help you stand apart from the competition.”

Within that article they offer a bit more information on writing a personal statement, though not all of the guidance is relevant for when you are a school leaver.

You might have already written a personal statement for a college or university application, though these will have been longer than needed for your CV. A key thing to remember is to keep it short.

A few sentences is great as its purpose is not to be a cover letter, but rather a summary of the key points of your CV. It should detail briefly who you are and expand on what you can bring to a role in terms of skills and experience.

Work experience

This is the part that worries most school leavers, especially those not currently employed.

But it’s helpful to know that in your first CV a lot of things can be included under ‘work experience’ including work experience placements, Saturday jobs, volunteering, charity work and any casual jobs you’ve had over the holidays.

For each item you’re listing you need to include the full name of the place you worked, the dates worked there and often it’s good to put a title or overview of your role.

For each, this can be followed by a summary of your main responsibilities which can be sometimes be helpful to list using bullet points.

If you don’t have any experience, then don’t worry, there are lots of ideas online to help you think about how to navigate this, such as this article Write a CV with no experience on StandOut CV.

Also as volunteering can be included it can be helpful to think about any places to volunteer that could help learn more skills. These could be relevant to what you’d like to, or even just to build some soft skills not necessarily directly related to your ideal career.

Key skills

Pulling together a key skills and achievements section, laid our clearly using bullet points, is a really helpful way to give readers a quick overview of your main selling points.

This can help encourage them to want to find out more. These can include both soft skills and hard skills.

By ‘soft skills’, we mean things that relate to how you work. They’re sometimes called ‘people skill’, so for example communication skills, or time management.

‘Hard skills’ are more teachable abilities or skills that are easy to quantify and might have been learnt through courses or training. For example, fluency in another language, or proficiency in Photoshop, would be hard skills. It’s good to show, if possible, a mix of both.

Education

Start with your most recent qualifications and then work backwards. So for example you might want to list your school name and dates attended, then below list out your qualifications gained.

Start with A-Levels if you have any, then move on to O-Levels, and so on. Any qualifications gained at school can go in here.

Hobbies and interests

Some school leavers and even more professional job applicants don’t include this section in their CV but it can be helpful, especially when starting out to give a little more insight into your personality.

If you have any work-related interests, those can be great to include here. For example if the role is for a sports centre social media manager and you play for a local football team or do other sports, those are great to include here.

Otherwise, other areas you feel passionate about or are interested in are great to include which might demonstrate various skills. For example if you like writing, even if the role isn’t for a writer it can show that you might be a good storyteller.

Try and think of hobbies and interests that will add value to your application and tell a little bit more of a positive story about you.

When thinking about each section, there are lots of resources online to help with tips and examples, such as this great article ‘How to Write Your First CV‘ by Youth Employment UK.

Don’t ever be nervous about a lack of experience when you’re starting out, we’ve all been there and everyone has to start somewhere.

Even your interviewer had a sparse CV at one point! Just do your research online – the internet really can help you with tips and guidance for anything. Good luck!

Feeling inspired? Take the THIS IS HOW Quiz to find out more about what you’re good at and possible job roles that could be a match for you!