School Leaver CV

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How do I write a school leaver CV? Well, read on and you’ll soon find out. Even if you’ve left school without the qualifications or the work experience that is required for different school leaver programmes, there’s no need to panic.

Follow this guide, and craft a school leaver CV that will have employers chasing you through the streets.

But before we begin...

  • DON'T go over two A4 pages
  • DON'T include a photo unless it is explicitly requested
  • DON'T use colloquial language or slang
  • ALWAYS check spelling and grammar
  • BE HONEST! Pinocchio always struggled to find work 
school leaver cv

If you want a guide and detailed breakdown of the options available to you after you have left school, check out our overview of school leaver programmes.


School Leaver CV Guide

Start with your name

Never put CURRICULUM VITAE at the top of your school leaver CV. Start with your name. Unless of course your name is Curriculum Vitae, which would be a mightily unfortunate name to have.

After your name, you need to provide the employer with your contact details. You need to make the experience of reading your CV as effortless as possible for the employer. If they need to hire a private investigator to get back in touch with you, you’ll probably never hear from them again.

Put your email address and phone number beneath your name. It’s also a good idea to include your home address. It’s not likely they will send you a birthday card or a note via carrier pigeon, but at least they’ll be aware of your location, and how far away you are from their offices.


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. Profile sounds a bit cleaner, but it’s up to you.

Your profile should...

  • be no longer than five sentences 
  • outline who you are, why you are attracted to the job, and your career aspirations
  • avoid CV buzzwords such as 'conscientious' and 'dynamic' - they're always used in CV's and bore employers to death!
  • be relevant to the job or the course you are applying for
  • A short personal profile is there to tease the employer, to tantalise them before they have a good look at your qualifications, previous work experience and outside interests.

    It is not uncommon for employers to be buried beneath a mountain of CV’s when they are in the process of hiring new staff. They are incredibly unlikely to read each CV from beginning to end. They might just read your profile. To stand out from the hordes of other applicants, you need to grab the employer’s attention immediately.

    You need to outline why you are perfect for whatever role you are applying for. You might only have around twenty seconds to grab the attention of an employer, before they tiredly move onto the next applicant. Focus on your skillset, your passion for that particular field or industry, and your ambitions within that field for the future.

    Most ‘cv help’ websites will tell you ‘DON’T WRITE IN THE FIRST PERSON!’ As in, don’t start your profile with ‘I am’.

    ‘I am a dynamic and conscientious school leaver...’

    Instead, you are told to write in the second person.

    ‘A dynamic and conscientious school leaver...’

    If this is the sort of thing that will stress and confuse you, ignore the ‘cv help’ websites. It is true, that the majority of profiles are written in the second person, but the content itself is more important.

    Write ‘I am’ if it makes it easier for you, but ensure the five sentences that follow clearly and fiercely explain why you are the best candidate.


Key Skills

This is a second useful tip for hastily grabbing the attention of an employer. A list of your key skills and attributes, (bullet points are fine) are a great way of emphasising your personal strengths.

Focus on the sort of skills that employers look for in candidates...

  • time management
  • communication skills
  • confident working as an individual and as part of a team
  • etc.

If you are unsure of what specific skills employers are looking for, have a look at the job descriptions they put on vacancy pages. They normally have something along the lines of ‘applicants for this position should be…’ Craft your CV around the job description the employer has provided.

Have a look at the jobs pages on RateMyApprenticeship for ideas.


Keep it relevant

CV’s for school leavers tend to focus on education, rather than previous employment like in regular CV’s. Employer’s aren’t daft. They know that school leavers do not have 25 years of industry experience.

For applicants that have just left school, employers won’t just be looking at GSCE or A-level results, they will be looking for signs that the candidate has a passion or an interest in their industry.

If you studied a particular module that is relevant to the role you are 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 you keep the content relevant to the employer.


Any work experience?

Again, employers will not discard a school leaver’s CV because they lack the golden 2 to 3 years of experience in a certain industry. If you are applying for roles than demand this sort of experience, you’re not going to be successful. You can’t even bribe your way into those sorts of jobs.

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, worked in Greggs on weekends or run a secret betting shop from your basement, all are worth including.

The paid and unpaid work you do outside of school can provide evidence of the key skills you have said you possess. It is very easy to write ‘I am confident working as an individual and as part of team’, but they are just words. Words that lack authenticity.

However, if you can say...

‘as part of my role as a team member at Greggs, I confidently dealt with customers on my own, and worked skilfully with the team during busy service periods’

...you can demonstrate these key skills in action in a professional environment. Listing your key responsibilities, no matter how mundane, increases the reasons for an employer to employ you. Drawing attention to this sort of work experience is a great way to separate yourself from other school leavers in your CV.


School Leaver CV

What are your interests?

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 are involved with.

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


References

Choose a referee that knows you well, and can support the assertions you’ve made in your CV. If you’re a school leaver, a teacher in a subject that relates to the job you are applying for would be ideal.

An employer will normally ask you to supply two references. You only need to provide these references when requested, so write ‘REFERENCES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST’ at the end of your CV.


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