Thinking about stepping into the world of work?

If you are a student approaching the end of your education or have recently left school, you're probably wondering how to write an impressive CV that will help you onto the career ladder. Even if you have no previous work experience, there's a way to write a CV that will highlight your abilities and elevate your skill set. Read on to find out how to write a school leaver CV, what to include, what not to include, plus a template and CV example for UK students to use as inspiration.

What is a school leaver CV?

A school leaver CV is a document that provides a brief account of your education, qualifications, and employment or volunteer experience. It's used when applying for a new job by students that have completed year 11 with GCSEs, or college with a BTEC, GNVQ, A Levels, or Highers and Advanced Highers.

As a current student or recent school leaver, you may have limited professional experience. But qualifications, skills, and voluntary work can be used on your CV to demonstrate your competencies when applying for your first job, apprenticeship, or internship.

Information to include in a school leaver CV

The format of a CV is flexible. After all, every person and their experiences are unique, so the document structure must be malleable. However, there are essential elements to include in your CV that prospective employers expect to see and that you can leverage as a school leaver. They include:

  • Contact information

  • Personal profile

  • Core competencies and skills

  • Education

  • Work and voluntary experience

  • Hobbies and interests

How to write a CV as a school leaver or student

To help increase your chances of success in securing your first job, follow these steps to create your school leaver CV:

1. Contact information

Every CV starts with your contact information, not the title “CV” or “Curriculum Vitae”. The information to include is your full name, location, phone number, and email address. If you have a link to a website or a professional online portfolio, you can add that too.

2. Personal profile

Next on your CV is a personal profile, which is also known as a professional summary or personal statement. Note that it is not the same as a personal statement written as part of a university application. 

Your personal profile is a short paragraph consisting of two or three sentences summarising who you are, your relevant qualifications or experience, and your job goals. For example, as a school leaver, you may write that you have recently completed school and are looking to take your first steps in a particular industry.

3. Core competencies and skills

Following your personal profile is a section designed to highlight your most relevant competencies, skills, and achievements. Bullet point between six and nine of your most impressive abilities and achievements that are relevant to the role you are applying for. They could be hard skills from particular classes, such as IT, or soft skills you have cultivated throughout your education.

We would recommend tailoring this section to each position, as it's often the first thing a hiring manager reads. If your points align with the role requirements and the potential employer's needs, you'll create a powerful first impression.

4. Education

Since you're a school leaver, your education is very important and is likely to be a stronger representation of your skill set than your work experience. This is especially true if you're applying for your first job. As a result, it should be the next section on your CV.

Detail your educational history from GCSE level onwards, working in reverse chronological order. For each institution, include the school name and bullet point the name of the qualifications you gained there, along with the grade. If you're awaiting results, you can add predicted grades and the expected date of completion. 

If you're attending college, you can summarise your GCSEs in one line as your college-level qualification is more advanced and therefore a more accurate representation of your current competency level. However, we would recommend mentioning Maths and English GCSE grades. as they're often a prerequisite for many jobs. For example, “9 GCSEs including grade 6 in English and Maths.” 

If you've received any academic awards, were a member of any clubs, or took part in extracurricular activities, you may choose to list them in this section too. Alternatively, you can list them in a dedicated awards section or in your hobbies and interests section.

5. Work and volunteer experience

If you have some work or volunteer experience, no matter how brief, it could be a great addition to your CV. However, if you don't, you can skip this section.

Listing relevant work experience is very similar to your education section, whereby each experience is listed in reverse chronological order, detailing the company name, your job title, employment dates, a brief overview of your role to add context, and a bullet-point list of key achievements.

To ensure that your listed experience strikes a chord with the prospective employer, review the job description and identify key requirements and phrases that align with your own experience and be sure to reference them. Tailoring your school leaver CV in this way will show how you could be a great match for the vacancy.

6. Relevant hobbies and interests

A hobbies and interests section is optional for a CV, but it can be used to leverage your candidacy, especially if you don't have work experience. It can also show off your personality and passions. 

Hobbies and interests that relate to key requirements listed in the job description and showcase your work ethic would be a good addition to your school leaver CV. For example, playing football for a local team would suggest that you possess motivation and teamwork abilities and can work under pressure.

If you're not sure whether you should add a hobby or interest, always ask yourself, “will adding this help me to get the job?”. If this answer is no, it's okay to leave it out, but you may choose to draw upon it in an interview if relevant.

CV formatting guidelines for a school leaver CV

Here are a few formatting tips and tricks and general guidelines when writing a school leaver CV:

  • Headings: Use clear headings for each section of your CV to make the document easily digestible

  • Font type: Contemporary, simple font types are better as they create a modern and clean read

  • Font size: Keep body text between 10 and 12 point font and headings between 14 and 18

  • Length: Your CV should be two pages maximum. As a school leaver, it could easily be one page

  • Spacing: Standard 1.15 spacing is your best option on a CV

  • Margins: 2.5cm margins are standard, but you can decrease them to 1.5cm if you want to fit your CV nearly onto one or two pages

  • File type: The best CV file type is a Word document, as it will maintain formatting and an ATS will be able to read it accurately 

What not to include on a school leaver CV

There are a few details that you do not need to list on a school leaver CV. They include:

  • Referees: You do not need to add the line “references available upon request” at the end of your CV, as asking for references is standard recruitment practice and employers know you will have them available

  • Photo: You do not need to add a photo of yourself to your CV. While commonplace in other countries, it is not a requirement in the UK due to anti-discrimination legislation

  • Protected characteristics: You do not need to include sensitive information, such as age, race, religion or belief, marital status, sexual orientation, sex or gender reassignment, or disabilities as they are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010

CV template for a school leaver or student

If you are a recent school leaver or student, here's a template to reference when writing your CV:School leaver CV template

Example CV for a school leaver or student

To help guide you, here's an example CV for a UK school leaver or student:School leaver CV example

Writing a CV for a school leaver can be daunting, especially if this is your first time producing a CV. Follow this step-by-step guide and use the examples to guide you along the way. And to save you any doubts, submit your CV for a free review and our experts will tell you if you're on the right track and on the way to job search success.

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