How to write your first CV: 12 key tips for young people
A curriculum vitae is Latin for “course of life”, often shortened as CV. It may also be referred to as a résumé, French for “summary”. It’s a documented overview of someone’s work/achievements and used to apply for jobs.
Why this is important
For any career path, a CV or resume will be required in order to show your skills, accomplishments, and knowledge. It is usually requested at the application stage for an advertised job vacancy. However, it could be sent prospectively to a particular company even if there is no job advert.
Building your CV
Throughout your academic life and career life, there will be many opportunities for you to add new things to your CV. In order to have a CV that stands out from the crowd, you should try to:
- Get involved in various activities at school (outside of the classroom!)
- Participate in extracurricular activities
- Build your skills; particularly in teamwork and leadership
- Understand your strengths and qualities
- Get work experience or Volunteering experience
- Work towards various accomplishments that you can feel proud of
If you do these things, your CV will be very easy to write, you will have a lot of things to say and your CV will stand out from the crowd. The quality of your CV will largely depend on the activities that you have been involved in and the skills you have developed and demonstrated. It will also depend on the thought process you put into writing and creating your CV.
Key Considerations when writing a CV
Creating your first CV can feel overwhelming. However, writing a CV is not that hard to do if you have the right guidance. In this blog, we’ll be looking at some of the key things you should put into consideration when writing your first CV.
1. Take time to understand the role & Position Yourself for the role
Look at the job description & person specification. What do you think the company is looking for? When you looked at the job description, which keywords did you notice? How can you demonstrate that you meet this criteria and you can do the job? How can you write your CV so that it demonstrates what is most useful for the role? Are there other skills and behaviours you have that are relevant to the job you’re applying for?
2. Name & Contact details
It’s extremely important that you include your name and contact details (Email and phone number) within the CV. You will be amazed at how many people apply for jobs but forget to include their name at the top of the CV or forget to include a phone number or email that they can be reached on. When creating an email, make sure you use an email address that looks professional and appropriate eg. firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Personal Statement:
This short paragraph at the beginning of your CV. It describes who you are and what you believe in. It can signal your main strengths, highlight your values and mention any awards you have won? This section should be a 3 or 4 sentence introduction to you as a candidate before someone has met you. It should show the qualities that make you a good fit for the role that you want. Don’t be generic but be distinctive. It should give an overview of your qualities and highlight some of your strengths as a candidate.
State your most recent education first, such as professional qualifications. Then, move backward including fewer details as you go. Depending on the stage of education you are at you may wish to include your grades or modules.
5. Previous work, volunteering or employment experience
Take the recruiter on a journey that tells a story and provides examples of your interest. It is okay to include volunteering experience if this is the only experience you have. Always start with the most recent work experience and then work backward. When you write about your work experience, you need to consider two key areas; your responsibilities and your achievements whilst in that role.
6. Extracurricular activities
You should try to include hobbies and interests within your CV – where possible, these hobbies and interests should show that you are committed to developing and improving yourself eg. chess, swim team or football team. If possible, try to include any hobbies that can be seen as relevant to the job e.g. if you’re going for a marketing job and you have a fashion blog or youtube channel; or if you’re going for an engineering role and you restore bikes in your spare time.
7. Accomplishments, Awards or Achievements
You should include any special awards that you have received, additional certificates, or accomplishments that make you stand out. This might include being voted to be president of your student council, being selected to be a Prefect at your school, or being the team captain in your netball team. Again, you can explain your responsibilities and the key achievements within your role.
8. Strengths and Qualities
What are your strengths and best qualities? What are the biggest, relevant achievements you would want people to know about you? Have you demonstrated the best qualities and strengths that you have to offer? Have you reviewed the objectives of the role you are applying for? Does your CV give examples of what you are most proud of?
9. Be Concise
Is your CV concise or does it just repeat the same information in a slightly different way? Are your sentences too long and have you waffled? Write objectively and be specific. Is it factual instead of opinion based? Your CV should be 1-2 pages in length. No more than 2 pages. In some industries, there is an expectation that you should stick to just 1 page so do your research on this. Search online to find out the expected CV length for your target industry and your country.
10. Cover letter
Some companies will ask you for a cover letter in addition to your CV. If you’ve been asked to write one, then take time to make this stand out. A cover letter is your opportunity to personalise, tell more stories that show the value you can add and expand what is on your CV. Break it down into three paragraphs and do not exceed 1 page.
– Explain why you’re interested in the job.
– Describe why you’re the right person and what value you can bring.
– Share a bit more about yourself in general.
11. Check for Errors
Look through your CV before submitting it. Check for any errors. It can also be useful to check your CV for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors.
12. Ask for Constructive feedback
Finally, before you submit your CV, always ask one or two people to critique your CV and provide constructive feedback. Look for mentors or professionals who have some experience with CVs. This is extremely important as they might be able to spot improvements that you are yet to see.
It is highly likely that you will be updating your CV every few months or years, as you apply for new jobs and you gain more work experience.
It is useful to update it at least once a year as you review your career path because you will learn new skills or qualifications along the way.
You may even choose to have different CVs for different roles that you are interested in, as they should be targeted to your chosen field.
As mentioned, always remember to ask for feedback from a mentor to help you to review your CV before you submit it as this will help you write a CV that stands out from the crowd.
All the best!