Your CV is often how you make a first impression on an employer. It needs to put across the right message, have the right presentation, and have no mistakes.
Employers receive lots of CVs and have to decide quickly who they’re going to interview.
Here are some ways to make your CV stand out for all the right reasons:
- List achievements, not duties
- Tailor your CV for the employer(s) that you are targetting
- Avoid typing errors, poor spelling and grammar mistakes
- Make it easy to read and look good
- Make it the right length - don't be vague nor long winded: be concise
- Think about activities that you're involved in outside of your studies or current job which may help you to 'stand out' to an employer or broaden your experience - and mention these where appropriate* (This maybe in your 'Hobbies & Interests' section)
*Team-oriented, voluntary and other 'extracurricular' activities are often a fun way to increase your knowledge of the world and can provide you with valuable life experiences. These will not only benefit you personally, but also demonstrate to prospective employers the additional skills and experience you have, over and above more traditional qualifications. We've listed some organisations below that you might want to take a look at in this regard.
- National Citizen Service
- The Duke of Edinburgh's Award
- Combined Cadet Force
- Volunteer (.gov)
Below are some templates for a CV if you are stuck or unsure on how you are meant to format your information.
Your CV and covering letter are your chance to sell yourself to employers.
To create a good first impression, make sure your covering letter:
- is well written
- doesn’t contain any spelling mistakes or bad grammar
- supports what's in your CV
- includes the main rules
- Show your enthusiasm
- Take the employer's point of view
- Identify your unique selling points
- Promote your transferable skills
- Sign off
A good covering letter will show that you’ve done your research, you know what the job involves and what the employer’s looking for.
Types of interview
Face-to-face – this is a standard interview in person with usually only 1 interviewer.
Telephone – could be the first stage of the interview if have lots of applications in so they are picking out the best first impression on the call.
Online - this could be the first stage of the interview or the only stage, and you should prepare in the same way as for a face-to-face interview.
Group discussion - in a group with other candidates, you’ll have to show you can get along with people, put your ideas forward and be respectful of others.
Panel - where one person usually leads the interview and other panel members take it in turns to ask you different questions
Before the interview
To help you prepare, you can:
- think about which areas of your CV or application form the interviewer might ask you to talk more about, and how you can relate them to the role.
- prepare some answers about why you want the job, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and your relevant work and life experience.
- think of some questions to ask about the role and the company at the end of the interview, but don’t ask about pay yet.
- try to relax the night before the interview - doing lots of last minute work could make you more anxious and reduce your sleep time.
What to wear
When it comes to what to wear:
- plan what you’re going to wear before the day of the interview
- find out what the company’s dress code is and wear clothes that suit the company that’s interviewing you
- don’t wear clothes that you’re uncomfortable in, or shoes that you’ll struggle to walk in
- don’t wear too much strong perfume or aftershave.
Getting to the venue
- Check in advance how to get to the interview venue, and how long it’ll take.
- On the interview day make sure you leave plenty of time to get there and aim to arrive a little early.
Get settled and ready to begin
Just before the interview starts:
- make sure your phone’s turned off ask for water if you haven’t already been given some
- don't let your nerves show too much – use breathing techniques and try to remember a few nerves are normal
During the interview
- take your time when thinking of your answer - it’s fine to say you need a moment to think.
- look alert and attentive, speak clearly and confidently, and don’t swear or use slang.
- give full answers, don’t just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
- give examples of when you've used the skills they’re asking for
make sure you fully understand the questions you’re asked - ask for more explanation if you need to.
- don't lie – the interviewer may see through you and, even if you get the job, your employer can dismiss you if they find out you’ve been dishonest.
Help with your options at 16 and 18
There are a lot of options to choose from at 18. What works for you will depend on your situation and ultimately the career or job you have in mind. You do have to stay in some type of education or training until you're 18 though.
There's plenty of help and advice available for you at these junctions, which we will look to explore here in the coming months. In the meantime, the government has some excellent and concise guides available through the National Careers Service, which you can access using the links below: