Writing a CV as a student can feel like a daunting challenge – how are you to prove you’re right for the job when you don’t have much (or any!) work experience yet.
It’s important to remember that everyone started somewhere and there is a way to succeed in writing your CV as a student. The focus for employers is the attributes you can bring to the role, as well as any relevant skills or transferable experience. You can also use anything you have learned during your studies to attract a prospective employer to take you forward to an interview.
As a new CV writer, you may want to avail yourself of the helpful resources Resume.io provides for all job seekers, from students to career veterans. Our CV examples for many professions and easy-to-use CV-builder are designed to help you write the perfect CV and land your next interview.
This guide, together with our student CV example, you will teach you:
- What a student CV should contain
- How to write your student CV, with top tips
- The best format to use for your student CV
- Advice on compiling each section of your CV (summary, work history, education, skills)
- Expert advice on the best layout and design to use for your student CV
What does a student do?
Students, who are people undertaking studies, such as degrees, college courses or even still at high school, usually look for employment to get extra cash for their studies and general living costs. Some students stay at home while studying, others are based in student accommodation or private rentals, often sharing with others.
As students study during the day, they tend to look for shift patterns that can accommodate their working hours. For instance, evenings and/or weekends.
The typical types of jobs for students include retail, customer service/call centre, dog walking, warehouse, driving, and deliveries.
Student job market and outlook
Let’s not sugar coat it – it can sometimes be more difficult for students to obtain employment than it is for professionals with experience. It doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities though. Many companies require students to work shifts that they find difficult to fill (such as evenings and weekends), and there are also the options of internships. Internships are generally available to students over the summer months, and they give students a chance to gain some experience, while the employer can assess the student’s ability for future employment.
The pandemic made it more difficult for students to obtain work, particularly as they tended to work in industries that suffered the most, such as hospitality, travel, and retail. The good news is that travel and hospitality are experiencing a steady rebound, although retail – which was suffering before the lockdown – is on a slower path to recovery.
How to write a student CV
You should always approach your student CV sample with a clear format in mind. Having a clear format will help ensure you stay on track and cover all the key points. Your CV format should look something like this:
- CV header
- Employment History
You may want to add others, such as your interests, but only if it applies to the job or that you think might impress the hiring manager.
With a student CV, you need to know as much as possible about the company, so that you are clear who your target audience is. It is a good idea to tailor your CV to each job you are applying for; quite often this means only making small tweaks. Consider what the hiring manager will want to know about you and your desire to work for them, especially if you have no prior experience.
Like writing an essay, your CV should be structured and well thought out before you get started. Here are some winning tips to get your CV on the road to success.
- Tailor the CV to both the employer and the job you are applying for. Your tone and delivery may be different if applying for an internship, rather than a part-time job.
- Follow the CV examples we have, and ensure you use a clear design, don’t go over the top with the design.
- Use keywords throughout your CV to help you get selected if the company uses an ATS. You can find the most appropriate keywords in the job description.
Keywords are essential
These days, many employers, especially large organisations, and recruitment agencies, use an ATS (Application Tracking System) to scan the CVs for specific keywords. These keywords will be found on the job spec. For instance, experience in using ‘Excel’ or with a specific system such as ‘Oracle.’ Make sure your CV contains selective keywords to help you get past the screening stage. Tailor your CV to each role you are applying for.
Choosing the best format for a student CV
The reverse chronological CV format is common for CVs, and in most cases, you would start with your employment. With a student CV, you are unlikely to have much experience, so the best approach to your CV is to put your education section first (in reverse chronological order).
However, if you do have experience, especially if it is relevant, you may want to leave your employment history section above your education. For instance, if you are a student applying for an internship in a bank, and you have worked in the financial sector/worked with money before or completed a previous internship, it would make sense to put this at the top, even if it is only one role, as it’s the most relevant aspect of your application.
It is a judgement call here as as to whether your degree is the most important aspect of the job, If so, this is where your focus should be.
CV summary example: telling your story
The first section of your student CV is the summary – or profile. This is situated below the header, and it gives the hiring manager an introduction to you. Just like an essay, you lead the reader into the rest of the content with your introduction.
The summary is a short but sweet insight into your expertise and why you are a good candidate for the role.
Space is always the issue with CV samples. You want to keep it as concise as possible while ensuring you cover the key points. Just as you would make it clear to the reader what you are planning to cover in an essay or assessment before you plunge into it, you should lead the reader nicely into your story.
It can be challenging to know where to get started with writing your summary, so we would suggest looking at our education CV examples for some inspiration. You may want to look at the student CV examples or more specifically, the school leaver CV example or the graduate CV example. We also offer a part-time job CV sample, a retail CV sample, and a barista CV sample.
Confidence is key with your summary:gget to the heart of what makes you great at what you do, and why you should be selected for an interview. Student CVs are different from professional CVs, as you may not have any relevant experience, especially if you are at high school, so depending on the job, you want to focus on the key elements that are important to them.
Don’t be tempted to state that you have the experience you don’t have in your student CV, just to try and get a foot in the door. Most employers are not expecting you to have experience anyway.
Hardworking Student seeking employment. Ready to utilize my skills and passion to further the mission of a company. Technologically adept, offering experience with many different social media platforms, office technology programs, and advanced computer skills. Bringing forth a positive attitude and the willingness and motivation to learn new programs.
Employment history sample: a blank canvas
If you have some experience, great, if not then don’t worry, our student CV example will help. Let’s consider that you do have some experience. no matter how little, you should put the most recent first in the employment history section and then work your way back.
If you have work experience, you should use bullet points to describe the relevant responsibilities of the role. It can be short and snappy, with keywords where appropriate. You should never write your CV in the first tense i.e., using ‘I’ or writing using your name, for instance, ‘John was responsible for answering customer queries and complaints.’ It is more appropriate to write ‘responsible for answering customer queries and complaints as a sentence or ‘negotiated contracts with suppliers.’
It is better if you can substantiate any of your responsibilities with quantifiable outcomes. For instance, ‘responsible for handling 200+ customer calls per day’, is better than just ‘responsible for handling calls.’ CVs are always more attractive with quantifiable data, and you should use this wherever relevant.
You may be reading this and thinking ‘I don’t have any experience, I’m a student!’ If you don’t have any work experience as such, consider what other experience you might have that could be relevant. Have you done any charity work? Perhaps you have helped family and friends? If you have any experience that might be relevant, even if unpaid work, you can state it here, although you may want to change the title to ‘experience’ rather than ‘employment.’
You will find a student employment history CV sample below.
Sales Associate at Big Apple Bookstore, Oxford
September 2015 - Present
- Greeted customers and assisted them with finding books.
- Offered literary suggestions based on the needs and desires of the customer.
- Followed directions from my supervisor and managed projects with precision.
- Organised books and adhered to the policies and mission of the bookstore.
CV skills example: the main section
The skills section will usually be the main section on a student CV, as you will either not have any experience or little. This is a good opportunity to inform the hiring manager about the skills you have that are relevant to the role.
You should always have a look at the skills listed in the job spec. If you are applying for a customer service role, for instance, you will need to have strong communication skills, work well with others, and be a quick learner.
Research the company
Find out as much as you can about the company before you start writing your CV. If you can find any contacts that work for the company, speak to them, and look on websites such as Glassdoor for reviews. This will give you a good insight into exactly what the company looks for in terms of skills, and you can use this information on your CV to try and increase your chances of being invited for an interview.
Student jobs often involve dealing with the public and you need to be able to ensure the hiring manager knows that you will be confident when dealing with customers and will deliver an exceptional service.
- Advanced Communication
- Motivated Attitude
- Office Technology
- Social Media Platforms
Student CV education example
Whereas with most professional jobs, education is important, but not as important as experience, student CVs are different. Your education is your main life experience. As mentioned earlier, it is usually more relevant to put your education history at the top, under your summary.
However, if you are applying for a part-time customer service role in retail, for instance, your education is probably irrelevant. On the other hand, if you are applying for an internship or similar, or you are applying to work in a professional setting such as a bank, it will be significant.
You should list your most recent education, such as your degree, and include any other professional development, such as other internships, training courses, etc. If you have any professional membership, this should also be included. It is always attractive for an employer to look at CVs that show candidates are focused on continuous professional development.
Below you will find an education section from a student CV example.
Bachelor of Communications, University of Oxford, Oxford
August 2016 - Present
- Working towards a Communications degree.
High School Diploma, Winchester College, Winchester
September 2012 - May 2016
- Graduated with High Honors
CV layout and design: first impressions
The purpose of our student CV sample is to help increase your opportunities to gain employment. The content is the crux of the CV, but the design is also an important consideration. The layout should be clean and clear so that it is as easy to read as possible.
There is no need to go over the top with the design of a CV as that is not the hiring manager’s main consideration. Some candidates, particularly if they are applying for a job involving design, think that they need to create something visually unique. Of course, there are occasions when an amazing design will blow the hiring manager away, but this is so subjective that it’s not worth the effort. Some will like it, others won’t. All hiring managers will be impressed by great content. Focus on that, rather than the design, and you’ll be more likely to get ahead.
Keep your CV tidy!
Housekeeping is not just for your home or student accommodation; it also applies to your CV. Carry out some general housekeeping to ensure it is neat. For instance, ensuring you have clear headings, bullet points, and that the font is the same throughout. There is nothing worse than reading a CV that is full of different fonts. It is so frustrating that readers may just give up.
You can’t rush your CV; you need to plan it carefully, just like you would with your essays or assignments. Designing a CV is not for everyone and if you need some help, feel free to use our tried and tested CV templates. We make it easy to design a beautiful CV that readers can’t fail to be impressed by.
Key takeaways for a student CV
- Student CVs usually don’t have much or any experience, so your focus is on the summary, your skills, and your education (if relevant). It is usually more appropriate to put your education at the top before employment.
- Do your research on the company you are applying for, so you have a clear vision of the direction of the CV. With a student CV, you need to be able to convince the hiring manager that you are the right person to take forward to the interview. Without any or much experience, you must be clear about why you are applying for the role and what attracts you to the company.
- Ensure you have relevant keywords used throughout your CV; you can find the most appropriate keywords to use on the job spec.
- Tailor your CV to suit the job you are applying for. It may only be small tweaks, but it is important to do this. Otherwise, you could be talking about your love of providing customer service while applying for an engineering internship.