Writing a CV when you’ve never had a job can be daunting, but everyone’s got to start somewhere!
If you’re smart about how you present your skills, education and extracurricular activities, you’ll have a strong CV in no time.
Remember, the first thing you’ll need to do is read through the job description of the role you’re applying for thoroughly.
There you’ll find everything you need to know about the job, including a role summary, a description of the team, areas of responsibility and the skills the employer is looking for.
Then, try these simple steps to get started.
1. Write a good personal statement
The personal statement section of a CV is where you’ll introduce yourself to potential employers and show what kind of candidate you are. It’s a short paragraph that sits just underneath your name, address and contact details.
These lines are a good opportunity for you to highlight your skills and career objectives and let your personality shine through.
Focus on your achievements and what you’re looking for, but keep it succinct: you’re looking to sell yourself as much as you can in as few words as possible. Aim for about 2-5 sentences and make sure it’s no longer than 150 words.
A highly-motivated school student with excellent maths skills and a keen attention to detail. Looking to pursue an accounting apprenticeship to work towards my goal of securing a senior position at a Big 4 firm. I have an exemplary academic record, including a predicted A in maths A-level, and exceptional organisation developed across 2 years on the student council. Proficient in the use of MS Office, Scratch, Python and Google Drive.
2. Big up your education!
As a school student, your education is your biggest asset.
If you don’t have any work experience at all, list your education directly beneath your personal statement and format it so that your best academic achievements are clearly visible.
Always list your most recent education and work backwards: undergraduate degree, A-levels, GCSEs.
For your GCSE and A-levels, list the subjects you took and the grades you achieved. If you have a particularly strong set of grades, you might want to list each subject individually.
A-levels, Gracefield Sixth Form
English (A*), Maths (A), History (B)
GCSEs, St Paul’s Catholic School
English (9), Maths (9), Physics (9), Chemistry, Biology, French, History, Geography, Art (8)
Start with your best grades, or highlight the subjects that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Alternatively, you can just indicate how many GCSEs or A-levels you were awarded in total. In this case, it’s a good idea to highlight maths and English, as these are the subjects most often required by employers and recruiters.
9 GCSEs at grade 9-4, including Maths (7) and English (6).
You can also use the education section to draw attention to any relevant coursework or projects you’ve done. If you did an EPQ, for example, give details of what skills you developed and what the experience taught you.
As you gain work experience, this section will become less important, and you can move it further down your CV. For now, let it shine!
3. Focus on transferable skills to make your CV relevant to the job
Demonstrating key skills is an essential part of any job application, but it is especially important if you don’t have much experience to draw on.
The skills required to do a job are known as transferable employability skills. There are 2 types: soft skills and hard skills (otherwise known as technical skills).
Hard skills are the skills we learn and practise - the technical skills required to do a job.
Here are a few examples:
- IT skills
- MS Office
- Graphic design
- Social media
- Shelf stocking
- SEO marketing
- Foreign languages
- The ability to operate a certain piece of machinery
Soft skills are the traits and characteristics that dictate how we will behave in a work environment.
Some examples of soft skills:
- Time management
- The ability to take initiative
- The ability to take feedback
Want to know more? Check out our definitive guide to employability skills.
You can use the employability skills you’ve been improving at school to tailor your CV and demonstrate your suitability for the job you’re applying for.
For example, if the job description states: “the ideal candidate will be proactive, self-motivated and highly organised, with excellent communication skills.”
You might put on your CV: “I was captain of the netball team for two years, where I was responsible for organising practises, matches and team socials. The position also allowed me to hone my communication skills. I also set up our school debating society, further demonstrating my communication skills as well as a proactive and motivated attitude.”
To get started, make a list of the transferable skills you have, where you developed them and how you might prove them to an employer. Some you will have naturally; others you will have developed through school, hobbies and extracurriculars.
Compare your list with the skills mentioned in the job description and the ones that match will make up your skills section. You can list your key skills in place of work experience, using hobbies, volunteering, extracurricular activities etc. as relevant examples to back up your claims.
Coding - learnt to code at my school coding club and now have extensive experience using Scratch. Created an animated character and designed my own mini game, which I still play!
Teamwork - playing for my local football team has taught me the true value of being a team player. I learnt to work intuitively with other players during games and collaborated with my teammates to devise the training programme that helped us win the league.
Communication - I have developed exemplary communication skills by volunteering at my local theatre. Here I help run a drama club for younger students, leading the group in warm-up exercises and assisting in rehearsals. This experience has taught me how to command the attention of a room and communicate instructions clearly.
Writing - writing articles for my school newspaper has allowed me to develop a fluent, sophisticated writing style. I can now write on a variety of topics, have learnt to work tight deadlines and have become adept at time management, as I frequently had to juggle writing assignments with homework and extracurriculars.
If the position you’re applying for doesn’t have a job description, or you’re planning on handing out the same CV to multiple businesses (e.g. restaurants), you have to get a bit more creative.
In this case, do some research into the skills most valued by employers in that industry and make sure you include them.
The hobbies and interests section sits at the bottom of your CV, and it’s a great place to display your personality whilst showing employers what you’re passionate about.
4. Consider your work experience
As you’re reading an article called ‘How to Write a CV With No Experience’, it's safe to assume you don’t think you have any relevant work experience.
But you’d be surprised what you could include.
From babysitting to Duke of Edinburgh, there are all sorts of informal student jobs, schemes and voluntary positions that may actually be worth a mention.
The trick is to show how this experience is relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Below are a few examples of things you could include.
- Casual paid work - e.g. babysitting, pet sitting, house sitting or dog walking
- Volunteering - e.g. working in a charity shop, volunteering at a foodbank or helping at a local animal shelter. You could also include charity fundraising (eg. for a marathon or school scheme) if you can prove the skills it taught you!
- Your school work experience placement - usually a 2-week period undertaken in year 10, 11 or 12
- Coaching, or being a student leader - e.g. for younger years at school, with local youth groups, sports teams or music groups
- Tutoring or mentoring - helping younger students with homework, exam prep etc.
- Caregiving - caring for a family member, e.g. a younger sibling, grandparent or parent with an illness
- Social media - e.g. running a popular Instagram account, or releasing regular videos on Youtube or Tiktok (this should really only be included if you have a significant following, and are putting out original content that it would be appropriate to talk about in an interview)
If you’re applying for a tutoring job, for example, you could give details of your babysitting experience as follows:
Babysitter with the Henderson Family
Spent 6 years babysitting regularly for a neighbouring family. Responsibilities included picking up the 2 children from school, helping with homework (particularly maths and English), supervising chores and playtime and preparing meals. I regularly devised innovative games to help them understand their maths problems and hold their attention when they showed signs of being distracted.
This clearly demonstrates that you already have some experience working with children and are able to communicate with them well. It also highlights your natural teaching abilities. Not only do you have some preliminary tutoring experience, you show signs of being able to engage kids in active learning.
5. Use your hobbies and interests
The hobbies and interests section sits at the bottom of your CV, and it’s a great place to display your personality whilst showing employers what you’re passionate about. It also provides great talking points for an interview.
Are you an active member of your school charity committee or a master baker in the making? Do you love rock climbing or play in a band? These are the sorts of things that will help an employer see you as a well-rounded person.
You can also use this section as further evidence of what a suitable candidate you are.
Playing hockey from a young age, for example, is a great way to show dedication. Competing in a youth boxing league shows determination and discipline. Juggling multiple hobbies and extracurricular activities shows you are able to manage your time well.
Bonus points if your interests are related to the job you’re applying to! If you’re looking for a publishing internship, for example, be sure to talk about the creative writing group you joined in sixth form, or the book club you co-founded.
Want more hints and tips on how to write your hobbies and interests section? Check out our blog, CV Hobbies and Interests: Dos and Don’ts.
A Few Final Tips…
- Format your CV well. Ensure your CV is clear and easy to read. Employers are notorious for spending very little time looking over them, so make sure it’s well-structured with bold headings and clearly-defined sections. You should also make sure it’s no longer than 2 pages.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread! These days, there’s really no excuse for spelling mistakes or typos. You could spend hours detailing all your favourable skills; errors will ultimately make you seem careless. Read over your CV continuously as you write it. If you want to make double sure you’ve not missed any mistakes, get a friend or family member to read through it before you start sending it out, or run it through spell-checking software like Grammarly.
- Write a convincing cover letter. Most entry–level jobs will require a cover letter, and writing them is an art in itself. Do some research online to make sure you’re using the right tone, content and format.
- Keep your CV up to date. Even after you’ve secured your first job, it’s good practice to keep your CV up to date. Add education, experience and other achievements as you acquire them - you’ll thank yourself when it comes round to your next job search!
Want to get started now? Download our free CV template below!