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How to write the perfect student CV
A CV, curriculum vitae or resume is a one, to two-page document that lists your education, working history, skills and achievements. This forms the core of your personal brand and while you may be thinking you have little or nothing to include on your CV at this early stage of your career, that’s not the case. You have just spent the past few years studying, learning new skills, working in teams to complete projects, overcoming obstacles, meeting deadlines and juggling tight study, work and life schedules. You won’t have extensive practical expertise but as a student or recent graduate employers know your experience is limited. The soft skills, theories and activities you participate in as a student can and should be included in your CV, then expanded on to shape your personal brand.
What to include in a student CV
Your full name, often used as the heading e.g. ‘Jane Smith CV’ followed by your home address, mobile phone number and a professional email address listed below.
The first paragraph on your CV should be a short statement highlighting your key academic results, core capabilities and notable achievements as a student. It is also a good idea to identify exactly what you are looking for from the opportunity. Keep it concise; it should be hard-hitting and to the point so don’t include too many adjectives such as ‘driven’, ‘hardworking’ or ‘forward thinking’ as they will detract from the key points you are trying to make.
List your education in reverse chronological order, including the degree or equivalent you have or are currently studying as well as the college and high school you attended, emphasising any particularly relevant courses you have undertaken.
If you have worked in a part-time job while studying be sure to include this, drawing attention to the skills you have gained from the position that you can apply to the new role. If you haven’t worked before, opt for a layout that focuses on your skills by categorising them into groups such as communication, leadership and/or technology then expand on the specifics of your abilities. You should know exactly which key skills you possess, so list them beneath the relevant categories, explain how you have developed them, how they have helped you in a particular situation and how you can now apply them to the position you are applying for.
If you have completed any courses, received a diploma or training certificate that may be relevant, be sure to include them here. Of course, it is possible that you could be in the middle of training towards further qualifications and do not yet have your certificate – if this is the case, be sure to mention this and your expected attainment date.
Hobbies, skills and achievements
While some hobbies may not be relevant to the world of work, many are – and it’s important to include them, especially if you haven’t gained much or any work experience. For example, your interest in photography and design may only have been a hobby to this point but if this means you are proficient in programmes such as Photoshop, these are skills an employer could well be interested in. Similarly, achievements in sports or the arts, whether as an individual or as part of a team or group, may not directly relate to the role you are applying for but can display a drive for success, commitment and team working skills. Knowing what not to include in terms of your hobbies and achievements is also important. While your hobbies can help to paint a picture of who you really are, anything too niche or extreme could be misinterpreted, so it may be best to leave these out, at least until you’ve met the hiring manager and they’ve got to know you a little better.
Two professional or character references are ideal and generally a minimum when applying for most roles. Include the names, job titles, connection to you (if not a previous employer), email and phone number of your references. Make sure you ask them before you list them on your CV and let them know if they should expect a phone call.
The general layout and details you provide in your CV will vary depending on your personal experience and the role you are applying for, however, it should always be designed to ensure the most important/relevant information comes first to demonstrate that you are best suited for the job.
The structure will be very similar to the above formatting highlighted in ‘what to include’, however, this is not how your final CV should look. The time you invest into formatting and laying out the design of your CV will also reflect your level of enthusiasm, interest in the position and, depending on the role, skills in Microsoft suite or other design programmes. Avoid large blocks of text and highlight key points using bold font. Use bullet points where applicable and write using short concise sentences that contain relevant facts and any necessary examples.
- Font: A clear, professional looking font should be used such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman. Leave fancy fonts like Comic Sans or Jokerman out of your CV.
- Size: You want to ensure you are able to fit everything on your CV without requiring a magnifying glass to read it. Typically size 10 to size 12 font in one of the recommended professional fonts above is ideal.
- Colour: Black font is the easiest to read and most commonly used. If you are designing a more creative CV, colour may still be used but darker colours such as navy blue are recommended for the bulk of the text.
- Images: Some people choose to include a professional portrait in their CV, however, this is not necessary and may take up too much space. Any examples of work you have done should be sent separately if requested, not included in your CV.
At different stages in your career, your CV will look very different. View our graduate CV template to aid you in creating the perfect CV, or for more tips watch our CV advice video series.
Once you have perfected your CV, you’ll want to write an equally impressive cover letter to include in your application. Follow our tips in 'Include a covering letter’ for advice on what to include, how to set it out and what will make yours stand out from the crowd. Then you’re all set to apply for jobs.