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Writing a school leaver CV can feel tough at times – after all, you’ve just been through school, so how are you meant to write almost a page about your work history?
Well the good news is that you don’t have to, although any work experience you do happen to have is, of course, a bonus.
On a school leaver CV, you can focus more on your educational achievements, skills, ambitions, and even your hobbies.
You could also try to find a local volunteering role, perhaps at a nearby charity shop, to show some proactivity on your school leaver CV.
In fact, 82% of people with responsibility for hiring say they’re more likely to choose a candidate with volunteering experience, according to Deloitte.
Here’s how to write a school leaver CV without worrying about whether you have enough experience yet.
Don’t worry if you haven’t any paid employment experience to write about – usually, a CV for a school leaver doesn’t have anything to include here.
Once you’ve taken your first step on the career ladder, you can start thinking of using a CV with a chronological employment history format.
For now, a functional or skills-based CV template is much more likely to meet your needs.
This format emphasises your skills and achievements from your educational, personal or professional life, while de-emphasising the focus on work history.
At the top of your school leaver CV, put your contact information including your name, phone number and email address.
You might have your own website or online portfolio of articles or photographs – if it’s relevant to the job you want, you can add the link here too.
For a school leaver CV, just three to four sentences should be long enough – quality over quantity – but try to support your claims with examples if possible.
Often, it’s easier to only write this part once the rest of your CV is complete.
Your skills section can consist of:
For soft skills in particular, try to back these up with an example.
In your education section, include your number and level of subject grades (or expected grades), as well as any other academic achievements from GCSE level onwards.
If you have A-Levels (or equivalent), start with these and then go in reverse chronological order back to your GCSEs.
Depending on which part looks stronger, you can choose whether to put your skills or education section first on a CV for a school leaver.
Either, or both, of these can be omitted if you don’t have any work or volunteering experience to write about.
If you do, cover these in reverse chronological order, including details such as the company or charity name, your role and the dates you worked or volunteered there.
Then list any relevant responsibilities, ideally tailored to the job description. For example, if you’re applying for a receptionist role, mention any customer service experience you have.
You could also sign off by writing ‘references available on request’ at the end of your school leaver CV, something which you won’t need to do in future years. Read our blog for more information about putting references on your CV.
In general, seeking out volunteering opportunities is a great way to demonstrate your proactivity and lengthen your school leaver CV if you haven’t had any work experience yet.
Later in your career, this final part will be brief. However, on a school leaver CV, it’s a nice chance to show employers how the things you do in your spare time make you a good fit for the role.
As before, try to only include hobbies and interests that are relevant.
For example, music grades could help show that you’re used to practising a skill and then performing it under pressure.
Group sports could also allude to good communication or teamwork skills – but leave out any pastimes which have no relevance to working, like ‘seeing my friends’.
You could also sign off by writing ‘references available on request’ at the end of your school leaver CV, something which you won’t need to do in future years.
If your application is successful and you’re asked for a reference, but don’t have any work or volunteering experience, then one of your teachers could be a good option for a referee.
That’s how to write a CV for a school leaver – focus on your skills and education to date.
Don’t worry if you have to leave out the work experience section, but think about how you could impress employers by being proactive, perhaps by volunteering or taking a course.
To stand out from the crowd, you could consider writing a cover letter – even if you’re not asked for one – to show employers just how ambitious you are.
For more information about work and internship opportunities after leaving school, there are lots of resources out there – start by visiting the relevant National Careers Service pages.