7 September 2023

How to Write a Student CV

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Think of your student CV like a Tinder profile. But instead of getting you dates, it gets you interviews.

Like Tinder, recruiters and employers will have to sift through hundreds and hundreds of CVs to find their perfect match.

So, here’s how to write a student CV that makes employers swipe right…

What to include in your CV

Like there are seven continents and seven deadly sins. A CV is made up of seven sections.

It’s a lucky number too..

1. Contact details

You don’t need to put down a postal address (unless you’re hoping to hear back via owl) – your phone number and email will do. Just make sure your email address isn’t something unprofessional like hotchick97@hotmail.com.

If you’re tempted to link to your personal Instagram account, don’t. Potential employers don’t need to see pictures of you off your rocker at Glastonbury. If you’ve got a relevant blog, online portfolio or LinkedIn account, convert your CV to a PDF and add those instead. 

2. Personal profile

This is simply two or three sentences that sum up who you are and what you’re looking for.

But they are the first thing a recruiter will see, and if they don’t hit the mark – they’ll be the last. (No pressure.) So the usual spiel of I am a team player with a strong work ethic and excellent communication skills’ just won’t cut it.

Mention an achievement or something you’re particularly proud of to reel the recruiter in – hook, line and sinker…

For example, a student CV could start something like:

‘On track to receive a 2:1 in Business Studies from the University of Northampton. During my 12-month placement with a software company, I directly delivered £500,000 in revenue.’

3. Experience

The secret to securing the job of your dreams is having relevant work experience. Employers want candidates who have proven themselves in a professional environment.

And if it’s in a similar role or industry, even better.

Your CV isn’t your autobiography, so you don’t need to give a blow-by-blow account of every job you’ve had. Instead, talk about key projects you worked on, how you made an impact and what you learnt.

Where possible, use hard facts to back up your claims:

‘Managed a social media competition that attracted 350 new Instagram followers’ OR ‘Used time management tool Clockify to prioritise tasks and meet strict deadlines’.

If you haven’t got around to getting some work experience yet, now’s the time to bulletproof your student CV with a placement, internship or insight scheme.

Get started by searching through our jobs below…

4. Education

Once you get to university, you don’t need to list every single GCSE you got on your CV. If you’re applying for a placement or internship, put down a predicted overall grade for your degree. This will give employers a good idea of where you’re at.

To tailor your student CV to the job, highlight any relevant modules or projects that you have worked on.

For instance, if you are applying for an engineering placement at an energy company, tell them about that group project where you designed and built a robotic arm model.

5. Key skills & achievements

The trick here is to make this section as relevant as possible to the specific role you’re applying to. Get this right, and employers will burst into a spontaneous song when they read your CV. Like High School Musical, but in an office.

All you have to do is pick out a few key skills from the job description and give some real-life examples of where you have used them.

Be sure to include a mixture of both soft skills (e.g. creativity, critical thinking, teamwork) and technical skills (e.g. computer programming, project management, PhotoShop).

6. Interests

This section is completely optional but a good opportunity to show a bit of personality.

Have a think about what defines you beyond your degree. What do you do when you’re not studying or drinking? If the answer is Netflix – get yourself a hobby. You could become a champion chess player, start volunteering in the local community or even learn a language.

Employers will go crazy for candidates who take part in organised activities, as these show you have essential soft skills like teamwork and communication. So if you’re a member of a sports team or the Taylor Swift Society, stick it in there.

7. References

You don’t need to include your referees’ details on your CV, just References available upon request’ at the bottom of the page.

The hiring manager will ask you for your references if you make it through to the next stage – so make sure you’ve got these ready. 

Want to write a successful application that’ll get your CV to the top of the pile? Sign up to our FREE Career Coaching Course, a four-day virtual programme in October, to upskill yourself on CVs, applications and interviews.

How to write a CV with no work experience

Writing your first CV can be tricky when you don’t have any experience. As tricky as winning a staring contest with an owl.

BUT there is a way around it. Even CEOs started with a blank CV. The secret is to SHOW people that you have what it takes to do the job anyway.

To do this, try thinking outside the box…

Did you develop any useful skills at school or uni, like problem-solving or public speaking? Did you win the Best in Science Award?

Or volunteer in a local care home? Anything that shows you’ve done more than homework and hockey will help to position you as a capable candidate.

Feeling ready to write a top-tier CV? Download a FREE template below.

How to structure your CV

To stop your student CV from being pushed to the bottom of the pile, make sure it is clear, easy-to-scan and professional.

Here are a few guidelines to keep you on the straight and narrow…

  • Write your name, not ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top (unless that’s your name)
  • List jobs in reverse chronological order
  • Only include a picture if you are asked to do so
  • Use a simple font like Arial or Calibri
  • Format with bullet point lists, short paragraphs and dividers.

A shining example of a student CV

How long should a CV be?

In short, there’s no right answer to this. Some say one page, some say two.

What it all comes down to is:

A) How much experience you have

B) The role you’re applying for.

Some investment banks, for example, ask for a one-page CV. If in doubt, check the application instructions.

If you have too much work experience (kudos to you), prioritise jobs that are most relevant to the one you’re applying for. For instance, if it’s a legal placement at Knorr-Bremse, you don’t need to mention your Saturday job at Aldi.

One thing’s for sure, a CV should never be longer than two sides of A4. Any longer, and a busy recruiter won’t bother to read it all.

Former placement student, Josh, gives his take on what employers want to see on a CV!