Student CV tips

Anonymous - Posted: 6th of August 2010

Although it's becoming more common for job applications to be processed online, by far the most popular form of application remains the dreaded CV and covering letter.

Although it's easy to be tricked into writing more informally in an email, don't think that your covering email should be any less formal than a letter. This is your first chance to sell yourself to an employer, so make the most of it.

Why does a CV matter?

68% of companies use CVs and interviews to recruit, so your better accept that you need to sort yours out. Your curriculum vitae (CV) is the first impression an employer will get of you and it's what they will use to choose whether to invite you for an interview, so it's important to spend time getting it right.

Your chance of being selected for an interview can depend on how well you sell yourself at this point, so make sure your CV is full of all the best examples of why you are right for the particular job you are going for. It's also important to make sure that your CV is up-to-date and that it looks good.

Make sure that at least two other people check your CV for spelling mistakes, poor grammar and any missing information that could see your CV winging its way to the nearest bin.

How to write a student CV

Every CV should contain contact details, personal information, academic and professional history, your skills relevant to the job, interests and references.

There are some basic rules you need to follow for CVs.
  • Keep your CV to a maximum of two sides of A4 paper. Employers receive a lot of CVs and it's unlikely that they will read each one from start to finish. 
  • Most will make a judgement about a CV after a few seconds, so keep it as short and to the point as possible. 
  • Your references should come from people who know you well and can tell an employer about what you have done in the past. They are usually your last two employers, but if you haven't worked before, you can use a teacher or a tutor from school or college. 
  • It's polite to ask your referees for their permission before putting their names down. 
  • When you're describing your interests, highlight experiences that show off the skills that employers want. Some really good things to mention are examples of working in a team, voluntary work or work experience positions as well as any activity that demonstrates using initiative. 
If you're struggling to write your CV, see our Dos and Don'ts.

For more help or contact Connexions, who can give you free advice on putting it together.

Cover letters
Your covering letter (or covering email if the employer has asked you to email your CV) is the first chance you have to sell yourself to an employer. Use it to draw the employers attention to the most important information in you CV, such as your skills and experience.

A cover letter allows you to introduce yourself to your prospective employer, explain your background and level of expertise and highlight your strengths and enthusiasm.

Make sure you letter says more than simply that your CV is enclosed. Use it to reconfirm and expand on your areas of expertise. Be careful that you don't come across as arrogant as this will put employers off.

Similarly, don't try to make it humorous as this is appropriate. Being creative might work if you are going for a job in advertising, marketing or PR, but could leave other employers slightly bemused. The best idea is to communicate your enthusiasm for the job, ask yourself why you really want this job and use that as the basis for your covering letter.
Dos and Don'ts
  • Do pick a font that is clear and easy to read, making sure each section is clearly headed and well spaced.
  • Do remember, a CV is an opportunity to sell yourself. Take the time to go through the job description and try to demonstrate how your skills and experience match up. You want to convince the employer that you are the perfect recruit for their company.
  • Do get the length right. Employers often have to plough through hundreds of CVs for each vacancy. Keep it no longer than 2 pages. Stick to the point and avoid waffle.
  • Do put your qualifications in reverse order starting with the most recent. Don’t forget to place your correct contact details in a prominent place. You wouldn't want to miss out on an opportunity because an employer wasn’t able to get in touch.
  • Don't lie. If you exaggerate information about your level of experience or the skills that you have and your employer finds out, you could face the sack.
  • Don't list lots of information about your hobbies unless they're relevant to the job or show a quality such as team-working.

Where can I find out more? 
If your still not sure where to start there is lots of help available from DirectGov, which contains advice on applying for work and includes a CV builder tool.
Jobcentre Plus also produces a job kit providing help on finding work including tips on CV writing.

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