CV advice for students

CV advice for students

The Student CV. We’ve all had to compose this seemingly daunting tome in our career histories, and although it can be tricky to craft a well-rounded CV from little or no career experience, there is no reason why your student CV cannot have you standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other more experienced candidates.

ExpressCV has crafted this guide for you, with advice on how to write the strongest student CV you can.

Let’s get started!

Perspective is everything

In the absence of copious amounts of work experience or professional skills, you will need to become a master of relativising your experience and seeing it from a different perspective. Next, your mission is to convey this in such a way that recruiters can see you have three key qualities:

  • Commercial awareness;

  • Transferable skills from your education; and

  • Applicable leadership and personal skills.

What do these mean?

Commercial awareness

For anyone who has been through the rigours of any graduate recruitment scheme, and particularly for law and investment banking, you will know the ominous expression “commercial awareness.” No one really boils this down to explain, but essentially it means that you have business acumen and can understand that the bottom line of a company is usually a combination of profit, success, positive publicity and longevity. So, you should demonstrate that you can contribute to or at least recognise what does and doesn’t contribute to these bottom lines, so that you can act accordingly in the role. For example:

  • Show that you understand results are important. These are referred to as “Key Progress Indicators” (or KPIs) by companies.

  • If you have been a sports team captain, editor of the university newspaper or treasurer of a society, refer to results and goals in such a way so that your commercial awareness is clear.

  • List any internships or summer/vacation schemes you have done with companies. This also shows that you have “workplace awareness” as well as having received the rubber-stamp of approval from another company.

Transferable skills from your education

Let’s say you are just about to complete your Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy.

Your future employer doesn’t really care so much that you have studied pre-Socratic theory, but they will appreciate that you can assess and identify that you are developed advanced critical thinking skills, attention to detail, and a keen logical eye. These are excellent skills to mention, especially if you are applying for roles within the fields of law, accountancy, banking and the like.

In fact, the highest proportion of philosophy graduate on the UK go on to student law and accounting — so there is a tried and tested pattern of suitability!

On the other hand, if your degree is in sociology and you want to apply fo a role within human resources, your anthropological skills and cultural awareness skills gleaned from this role are extremely valuable and make you especially qualified for such a role. Be sure to mention this in such a way where you education can be enumerated and applied to the needs of the role.

Applicable leadership and personal skills

Drawing upon your experience in leadership roles, clubs and societies is important not just because it showed how you used your extra-curricular time. But these roles are also valuable ways to demonstrate you learned other skills that are valuable in the workplace, such as:

  • How to manage a budget

  • Event planning

  • Teambuilding

  • Leadership

  • Deadlines

  • Mastery of a new computer programme.

Which CV templates are best for students?

Whether you are an undergraduate, postgraduate or advanced PhD student, your education comprises the lion’s share of your years. For many students, the Functional or Thematic CV is the most appropriate for a student, as it gives ample attention to skills and education, without drawing undue attention to the absence of substantial professional experience.

In short:


List your education first
Draw the dots between what you did and what you leaned from it — always state what X experience or Y course taught you in commercial or interpersonal skills terms
Mention all of your achievements and accolades
State your degree course grades, especially the high ones or the ones of particular relevance to the role you are applying for.
Include references — perhaps your work experience manager or personal tutor.


Miss an opportunity to mention the skills that distinguish you from others
Construct a chronological CV and do yourself a disservice by focusing too much on the professional experience section.
Forget to look the ExpressCV range of CV templates for CVs without experience and students!

Ready to apply?