There is a basic rule in recruitment, which is the more senior a position is the less people who are available to do the job, it stands to reason right. It’s basic supply and demand - demand for people at the top is high as the supply of those people is limited.
But for Students just starting out in the employment market it's tough news, because at this end of the market it’s hyper competitive where supply is high. Employers often receive hundreds if not thousands of applications to their graduate vacancies, so for students there is no margin for error, you have to do everything you can to make sure that your job application progresses along the hiring funnel and wins you the job (don’t give up!)
Last year a reported 50,000 graduates ended up accepting jobs that didn’t actually require a degree education in the first place. Competition for good professional jobs is tight, with many graduates giving up before becoming successful. But you’re not one of these, you’re taking the right steps to ensure that your CV is well written, superbly designed and secures you the best interviews.
Your first step on the career ladder can literally be make or break (don’t underestimate how important it is to persevere and chase the best opportunities – it could shape your whole future!), but you’re one of the fighters destined to succeed (which is why you’re reading this). Fight hard, be competitive, don’t take no for an answer and get your CV seen.
This article is for successful students looking to create an awesome CV and uncover some amazing tips that will help beat other graduate job seekers to the best vacancies. So if you need an undergraduate student CV or perhaps you’re after CV examples for students with no experience this is for you.
Welcome to the ultimate student job search guide and how to write a student CV, get ready, you’re about to embark on an amazing career journey...
The 7 Steps…
1. // Know where you’re heading
2. // What information you should include in your Student CV
3. // How to write a Student CV
4. // Design ideas - Student CV Templates / CV Examples
5. // What format you should save your Student CV in
6. // How to influence recruiters and employers
7. // 5 tips for Student Job Seekers
1. // Know Where You’re Heading
It's important that before you set off on your career journey you understand where you're heading. You need to understand where you want to be in 5, 10 or even 20 years from now. What are your goals, what do you want to achieve, what are your ultimate aims?
To coin a Thomas Merton quote: "People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall."
It is so easy to get tied up in the trappings of everyday life, working harder and harder to just get somewhere but only to find out later that the somewhere you’re heading just isn't where you want to be!
Take motivation from this - It's always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don't.
Spend some time (maybe a lot of time) thinking about your goals and your career path... Your future self will thank you for putting the hours in now to work this out. Being clear on your future career path from the start will provide you with clarity on your decision making during the job selection process and will help you make the right decision when it counts.
You’ll be able to immediately spot the best opportunities and give employers and interviewers clear answers to questions regarding “where do you expect to be in 5 years” (a common interview question).
Having a clear vision is an impressive trait and one the exudes confidence.
2. // What Information You Should Include In Your Student CV
Once you’ve established where you are heading you need to start constructing your student CV.
The core elements you are going to include in your student CV are as follows:
Well, let’s start with the basics! List your first name and surname (please do not use nicknames - remember this is a professional document and first impression really do count!).
It isn’t necessary to include middle names or maiden names.
Using a professional sub header in your CV is a really eye-catching and effective way to summarise your skills, education and ambitions. As a bolded header at the top of your CV it will affirm to employers that you are the right candidate, anchoring positive expectations and anticipation of what is about to come next.
Here is a strong example of a professional CV sub header in action (taken from the Searle CV Template)…
As standard all CVs should include a Phone Number, Email Address and General Location - it isn’t necessary to include your full postal address - your town and postcode / zip code is fine.
If applying to positions that aren’t local, employers will notice this, therefore rather than omitting your location completely include statements such as “I am willing to relocate” or “I will be relocating to local town next month”. Include this information next to your address or instead of your current address, the purpose of this additional statement is to pre-empt questions that employers may have and quench any fears they have over your suitability.
As we’ve covered, student / graduate roles are competitive, so if your location reads Edinburgh and the role is in London, you’re not going to make the grade and your CV is going to be instantly discounted.
Recruiters will spend just 6 seconds reviewing your CV before either reading on or casting it aside. Typically they will avoid large blocks of text (it’s just too time-consuming to read) and will focus on skim reading to spot keywords and header titles.
With this in mind we would suggest writing no more than two paragraphs for your introductory statement but to also pack it heavily with keywords (the CV mirroring technique is an excellent way to select the best keywords). We’re not saying spam your CV, obviously you still need to write eligible sentences, but you need to focus on the right keywords.
As a student / graduate this is your big area, your chance to make an impression and show off your grades. Remember headers are the most important thing so start by highlighting your grades, dates and the educational institution you obtained them from.
You can elaborate and cover more in-depth information if you wish (modules, pass marks, educational achievements etc.) however our advice is don’t include too much, most employers are only going to be interested in what qualifications you have and in what subjects.
Below is a really solid example of displaying your Education on your CV, it gives an employer a taster of what you can do whilst keeping the info easy to read and concise…
It is not uncommon for employers to ask for particular qualifications in their job adverts, especially when recruiting for graduates and students, therefore make sure that you have fully read the job adverts before applying. It may be possible for you to add additional information to cover these requirements.
Don’t just limit your CV to skills gained within an educational or commercial environment, give employers an overview of the real you. Again use the CV mirroring technique to reflect the skills employers are looking to see.
Try to include both Hard skills and Soft skills within your Graduate / Student CV…
Also known as technical skills, these are the skills that relate to specific technologies, tasks, methodologies or similar. MS Office, Agile, PHP Development, WordPress, a Clean Driving Licence and Mailchimp are all examples of hard skills.
They are skills that can be quantified, you will either know them or not.
Think of these as the fluffy skills that aren’t always easily gauged by looking at a CV, they will generally sum up your character and personality traits and will give employers an overview of what you are actually like. Soft skills include things like communication, attitude, diligence, teamwork, punctuality, positivity, reliability and so on.
Out of the two, hard skills can typically be learnt but many of the soft skills are in-built, it is for this reason that most employers will rate attitude and aptitude extremely highly when recruiting for Graduates.
You can get creative with your skills section, well designed charts, graphs and skills bars are a great way of highlighting your expertise with a glance.
Just because you are just starting out it doesn’t mean you have achieved anything yet, have you held a position of responsibility, were you a prefect, have you competed in recognised junior sporting events, appeared on TV, been entrepreneurial.
Write achievements that employers can relate to and that offer up glimpses of your ambitions, personality, potential and character – show you have a lot to offer!
To elaborate we’ve included a few examples below…
Creative Writing – I came 3rd in the Guardian’s young creative writer of the year competition;
Social savvy – Passionate about interior design I have grown my Twitter channel to over 10,000 followers.
Skiing – I have competed in the UK junior downhill championships on 3 occasions;
Head Prefect – Selected from over 150 students to represent my school year as Head Prefect.
As a graduate you may not have much in the way of commercial achievements but showcase your life achievements!
You are new (or relatively new) to the job market so employers aren’t expecting to see a comprehensive back catalogue of employment history. However don’t leave this section blank, you actually have a great opportunity to show off summer work, internships, apprenticeships, work experience and more.
Be selective about what you include here and don’t feel obliged to list every piece of part time work you have ever done. Employers are not going to be interested in that paper round you did back when you were 15, however maybe you worked as a deck hand in the Caribbean for a summer or spent two weeks in the media department on work experience at a PR agency, things like this highlight to employers that you are looking to gain experience and achieve.
Hand pick only a couple of the most relevant roles and try to describe the skills you learnt within each position and how this translates to the commercial world. As an example…
A common mistake amongst student jobseekers is to place a large emphasis on interests and hobbies. Employers are busy people and will simply not have the time to read a paragraph about your passion for cats (they have 1000 other candidates to review!).
Keep your interests to a minimum - below are a couple of good examples on how you can represent your interests without going overboard…
Although, there is a case for elaborating your interests if they are highly relevant to the role you are applying to, for instance… Maybe you are applying to work as a copywriting intern for a winter sports publication – in this case you are going to want to highlight your passion for snowboarding and skiing.
In short, most employers don’t care about your interests unless there is a direct correlation to the job in hand. Keep this section short.
3. // How To Write A Student CV
It’s important to keep the tone of your CV conversational, write the way you talk naturally.
In the article “What David Ogilvy Can Teach Us About CV Writing”. Advertising and Copywriting mogul David Ogilvy shares some awesome tips on writing which are extremely valid in the world of CV writing. Let’s be frank, your CV is your advert for selling yourself after all!
But, the most effective CVs don’t use that much text, a single paragraph for each of your past jobs and a couple of paragraphs for your introductory statement should be fine. Overall, there shouldn’t be too much writing involved. What you need to focus on is ensuring that what you do write is grammatically correct (this is a big thing in the graduate recruitment world – one typo can literally spell disaster).
Also, Keywords, Keywords, KEYWORDS
Many larger organisations use CV parsing techniques, these are automated filtering scripts which extract all your CV data and compare it automatically against pre-determined filtering criteria. If your CV doesn’t say the right thing then it will never even be looked at by an actual person. This is certainly not best practice but it goes on and you need to be aware of it.
Use keywords and terminology reflected within the job adverts you are applying to, CV mirroring is a sure fire way to get noticed regardless of whether the employer uses CV parsing or not.
If we look at the example below you can see how to reflect keywords and sentences from a job advert and accommodate this into your student CV:
4. // Design Ideas - Student CV Templates / CV Examples
I’m sorry, but your existing two page word doc in Arial Font 12 is not going to cut it, you need to upgrade your student CV to get seen and stand-out! How to write a CV examples…
Think of your CV as an extension to your personality and part of your personal branding. Get creative and get seen! (Also, feel free to reach out if you need a template recommendation based on your profession).
You may have noticed that all the CV examples highlighted above are single page CV templates. You need to keep things short and punchy, a 1-page CV is the optimum length for a Student CV due to time factors employers face when filtering, they want to see all the information quickly and in one view (remember the 6 second rule).
Another common question (which I probably hear at least once per day) is “should I include a photo on my CV” – it’s a debate that goes on! But to clear this up - It’s perfectly acceptable to include one, just make sure that your photo is a professional headshot and doesn’t include partners, pets, kids etc.
For more inspiration further Examples of CV Templates can be found here.
5. // What Format To Save Your Student CV In
Once you’ve completed your CV doc save it as a PDF, the PDF is by far the best resume file format to use when applying to jobs. When saving your Student CV select PDF and it will lock in all your fonts and styles to ensure that whoever opens your résumé will see it exactly as you designed it.
PDF’s are also compatible with both PCs and Macs and come with the added protection against things like viruses. More benefits of using a PDF can be found here.
Hiring managers, recruiters or other 3rd parties also cannot change your document without special editing software, this gives added assurance that your original document will arrive untampered and secure. It’s common place for recruitment consultants to edit résumés prior to forwarding to clients, it is in your own benefit to avoid this.
To save your CV in PDF just select Save As and select PDF…
In “What is the best format for a Resume” you can discover more details on how to save your Student CV as a PDF.
6. // How To Influence Employers
Despite what you may think you have the ability to influence the decision of a recruiter or an employer. Yep that’s right, you can influence the hiring process.
Many graduates / students believe that when it comes to applying for a job, once they hit that apply button online the rest is in the hands of the gods. Wrong!
You see, Graduate Recruiters and Employers have the unenviable job of selecting just a few applicants to proceed through the hiring pipeline. When applications regularly run into the hundreds (if not thousands) this is a difficult job (I mean really difficult). Employers must be brutal in their selection process which often means many good candidates missing out (i.e. those who haven’t been following these steps so far).
Employers are actually screaming out for help, they want that amazing candidate to jump out at them and solve their hiring problem – that candidate is you!
All you need to do is pick up the phone and introduce yourself. That’s right, make a proper introduction the old fashioned way. NOBODY does this anymore (less than 1% of candidates will call) which is why you’ll make a bigger impression than anybody else when you do it.
You get the chance first-hand to highlight your strengths and overcome any initial objections off the bat. But “employers won’t want to speak to me” I hear you ask, well some might not have the time or might be busy, but others will, and it’s worth making the effort as this is your opportunity to move your CV from the bottom of the pile (if it even made it that far) to the top. Be in control!
For those you can’t get through to ask to leave a message which can be left with the person in charge of the hiring. A simple note on a desk can be enough to get that employer to review your CV again or bump it into a shortlist.
7. // 5 Tips For Student Job Seekers…
ONE - Put yourself in the shoes of an employer and ask yourself the question “is my CV relevant to the positions I’m applying for”, do your skills, achievements, interests and jobs reflect the positions you are applying to? Tweak your doc to make it mirror the vacancies.
TWO - Don’t forget the point of a CV – Remember, your CV is not your life story, the sole purpose of this document is to get you an interview (not get you the job – YOU get yourself the job when you are in the interview). The aim of a CV is to peak the interest of an employer and win you the interview!
THREE - Overcome objections before they arise. Employers will make a snap judgement based on the info in your CV (and normally in 6 seconds), therefore you need to head off any ambiguous points. Omitting grades, location, gaps in education, unexplained employment are all areas to watch out for.
FOUR - You need someone to proof read your document. Your CV is a big deal, potentially life changing! So ask a third party to review it and provide feedback. A fresh pair of eyes may easily spot something you might have missed.
FIVE - Apply to jobs quickly, I mean really quickly. As we’ve covered, employers often receive hundreds of applications to their jobs, so you need to make sure your CV is in their inbox ASAP. Register with job boards and sign up to e-alerts, these will notify you the moment graduate job opportunities become available.
Well, thanks for reading and good luck with creating your brilliant new student CV and embarking on your amazing career journey! Feel free to get in touch with any questions (or success stories).