19 September 2023

School Leaver CV

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Found an apprenticeship you want to apply for? It’s time to write a CV…

If you’re sitting there thinking you couldn’t possibly have much to add to a CV, think again. This is your chance to show off your best professional self to employers, regardless of what qualifications or work experience you have.

Read this guide to craft a top-tier school leaver CV that’ll have employers jousting for your attention.

A few house rules before you begin:

  • DON’T go over two A4 pages
  • DON’T include a photo unless it’s explicitly requested
  • DON’T use colloquial language or slang
  • DO use a readable format with professional-looking fonts
  • ALWAYS check spelling and grammar
  • BE HONEST! Pinocchio always struggled to find work.

School Leaver CV Guide

First things first, your CV needs to be as easy as possible for recruiters to read.

(If they have to hire a private investigator to get in contact with you. Or it feels like they’re reading the next instalment of The Hobbit, you’ll probably never hear from them again.)

1. Start with your name

Never put curriculum vitae at the top of your school leaver CV. Start with your name. Unless of course, that is your name – which is rare, but possible.

After that, you need to provide your contact details. Put your email address and phone number beneath your name.

It’s also a good idea to include your home address. Will they be sending you a birthday card via pigeon carrier? Sadly not. But at least they’ll be aware of your location and how far away you are from their offices.

If you’re not too keen on adding your full address, use the general area. Live in Epsom, Surrey?

Put that down instead.

2. Who are you?

Now that the employer can get in contact, it’s time to let them know a little bit more about you.

You can title this part of your CV as Profile or Personal Statement.

Your profile should…

  • Be no longer than 100 words
  • Outline who you are, why you are attracted to the job, and your career aspirations
  • Avoid CV buzzwords such as ‘conscientious’ and ‘dynamic’ as they’re overused
  • Be relevant to the job or course you’re applying for.

Your personal profile is there to tantalise an employer before they have a good look at your qualifications, previous work experience and outside interests.

Employers receive mountains of CVs, so they’re unlikely to read each one from start to end. To stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to grab their attention immediately.

Focus on:

  • Your skillset
  • Your passion for that particular industry
  • Your future ambitions within that field.

3. Key Skills

Adding a list of key skills and attributes (bullet points are fine) is a great way to highlight your strengths and show you have the skills employers are looking for, including:

  • Time management
  • Communication
  • Confidence working as an individual and as part of a team

If you’re unsure what skills an employer is looking for, check the job description. It will say something along the lines of ‘applicants for this position should be…’.

Pick a few skills that match yours. And provide real-life examples where you’ve used them to show you’re a good fit. (Trust us, it’s a winning formula.)

4. Keep it relevant

CVs for school leavers tend to focus on education, rather than previous employment. Employers aren’t daft. They know that school leavers don’t have 25 years of industry experience.

For applicants who’ve just left school, employers won’t just be looking at GCSE or A-level results, but signs that the candidate has a genuine passion or an interest in their industry too.

If you studied a particular module that’s relevant to the role you’re applying for, make it the focal point of the education section of your CV. Similarly, draw attention to any related coursework or projects you completed to highlight your interest in a particular field of study.

There is nothing wrong with a school leaver CV that is education-heavy, as long as you keep the content relevant to the employer.

5. Any work experience?

Again, employers won’t discard a school leaver’s CV because they lack the golden two to three years of experience in a certain industry.

When employers are specifically looking to hire a school leaver, they want to see evidence of work that wasn’t completed in the classroom.

Whether you have a paper round, work at Greggs on weekends or sell sweets in the school cafeteria, the paid and unpaid work you do outside of school will show evidence of the key skills you’ve mentioned.

Listing your key responsibilities, no matter how mundane, is like sprinkling diamonds all over your CV salt bae style. Drawing attention to this sort of work experience is a great way to separate yourself from other school leavers.

6. What are your interests?

Employers want to know that you’re human. This is your chance to show them what makes you tick outside of a professional setting.

Avoid activities that are individual-centric, like reading and watching Netflix. These sorts of interests portray a candidate as being introverted and inactive.

Instead, focus on team-based activities, like sports and other social-based clubs you’re involved with.

Some first-class examples of relevant hobbies include:

  • Coding – CV gold if you’re applying for a role in technology
  • Editing videos – fitting for those applying for jobs in media
  • President of a social club – If you strive to become a manager, experience as a president or leader will score major brownie points with employers
  • Blogging – for those applying for journalism or marketing jobs
  • DIY – seems random, but marvellous for those who want to work in engineering 
  • Cooking – a catering employer’s dream candidate would 200% have this on their CV

Any interests or extra-curricular activities that are relevant to the role you’re applying for are a great addition to your CV.

7. References

Choose a referee that knows you well, and can support what you’ve said in your CV. A teacher in a subject that relates to the job you’re applying for would be ideal.

Companies will normally ask you to supply two references. You only need to provide these references when requested. So for now, just add ‘REFERENCES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST’ at the end of your CV.

Get help with your CV…

If you feel ready to conquer the beast that is CV writing, download our template to get started.

And remember, you can always get help and advice from your school’s career advisor, who’ll be able to look over your CV or even refer you to a professional CV writer.

Happy writing!