1. Remember, the purpose of your CV is to start a conversation
Worrying about how to write a CV for your first job? The worst thing about putting together a curriculum vitae is feeling under pressure to condense your entire life into a handful of bullet points.
The good news? You don’t actually need to do that.
Your CV is just the opener when you’re applying for jobs. It doesn’t need to answer every question a potential employer could ever have about you, it only needs to spark their interest enough to want to find out more.
2. Tailoring your CV for each role is boring and difficult… but it’s worth the effort
We’re not saying you should rewrite your CV from scratch for every job (feel free to though, some people do!). You will however want to change some words and phrases and swap out a couple of points to highlight different elements of your skills and experience.
Begin by asking yourself:
Save a separate copy of every tailored CV so you have them on hand in future. Keep track of all the versions by including the job title and company name in your file name for each version.
3. Think creatively about how you talk about your skills, your education and your previous work experience
Yes. Believe it or not, you have plenty to talk about. We all know the catch 22… you need to show experience to get experience. The requirements in many “entry level” graduate job descriptions sound, well, bananas.
But most activities in life involve transferable skills.
Working in a restaurant in the summer holidays might seem like it has nothing to do with an office job at a bank, but there’s a lot of crossover.
Evaluate the soft skills that you have learned in the role and think about how you can apply these to the job you are going for.
You have to collaborate with others. You have to communicate with people. You have to maintain a relationship with your manager. You have to discuss your tasks and your performance.
The list goes on, and these are skills that will serve you wherever you work.
As for your studies, did you have to do any research and present your findings? Did you have to write reports or essays? Did you do any group projects? Again, transferable skills.
4. Struggling to get started? Try a CV template or a CV builder
Using a CV template or CV builder could help you in two ways. Firstly because you’re guided through which information to include. Secondly because you’re steered away from worrying too much about the format (what you say matters more than what the document looks like).
If you’re looking for a cv template for your first job, we like the simplicity of Reed’s CV builder tool, or the range of designs for CV templates on CV Maker that you can look through before you get started. (Don’t overthink it, just grab the first one that jumps out at you and dive in).
Rather write a CV from scratch? Keep it to two sides of A4 maximum. Ideally one side. And resist the temptation to pad it out by repeating yourself or listing every piece of coursework you’ve ever completed.
This approach will backfire because it makes life harder for the hiring manager who has to make sense of your CV, and nobody likes having life made harder for them.
These are the areas your CV needs to cover:
5. Don’t confuse your CV with a cover letter
Some job descriptions will ask you for a cover letter to go along with your CV. Argh, another blank page that exists to torment us!
The key point to bear in mind is that a cover letter should *not* just rehash the information in your CV. Unlike a CV, which boils down the facts, your cover letter is a chance for you to share your reasons for why you’re sold on this specific job opportunity, and how you believe you can contribute towards the organisation’s goals.
Want some inspiration to get the ball rolling? You may have written a personal statement when you applied to university. A cover letter is a bit like a personal statement, so if you can dig yours out, it might give you a boost.
Or take a look at Indeed’s collection of sample cover letters. Read a few, close the page, take a break, then start writing. Copying an existing cover letter won’t do you any favours (people can always tell…).
6. Importantly: read through your CV (twice) before you send it out!
If the voice inside your head is going “well obviously”, you’d be stunned to hear how many CVs get submitted without being checked over. When you’re in a rush to launch your career, it’s easy to forget this last step. Typos, unfinished sentences, notes to self to finish this bullet point later… we’ve seen it all.
Even better, get someone else to check it for you. They’re more likely to spot the gotchas!