Going straight into employment? Follow these top CV tips for first time job hunters

When you have just left school writing your first CV can be daunting. However, it is possible to shine. Sam McIlveen, the general manager of, shares his advice on how to tackle this common CV challenge

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Looking for a job when you have just left school can be a nerve-wracking experience. You may want to dive straight in with your job hunt, but it’s worth spending time crafting a top-notch CV. 

Some thought and consideration at this stage can pay dividends for you in the long run. Let’s start out with some of the basics. 

The standard rule of thumb is that your CV should be no longer than two x A4 pages. 

The good news though is that as a first-timer, you can write a little less. It is better to provide useful information concisely rather than filling two pages with stuffing. Recruiters would prefer to read a short, well-written CV than one padded out with waffle. 

Another cast iron rule for CVs is that spelling mistakes and typos are absolutely unacceptable. It is a sure fire way to guarantee your CV ends up in the bin. So, before you send your CV to a recruiter check, check and then check again. 

One of the great things about CVs is that they follow a tried and trusted formula. 

The following structure is as useful for a 20-year work veteran as it is for someone seeking their first job. The big difference is that for first timers you will be emphasising skills above work experience. 


The first thing you must include is your personal information: Your name, address, email address, and phone number is sufficient. Next up is the opening personal statement, which is a crucial part of any CV. 

It is your opening pitch to the recruiter; it’s here you tell the reader about the type of applicant you are and why you are the best person for the job. 


You should enter your key skills and important achievements in bullet point form. This is to ensure that the skills standout when the recruiter skims your application for the first time. 

They should be able to tell straight away that you have the right skill set for the role. It can help if you align your skills with the qualities they specify in their job description. 

You also need to show you can produce results. Let prospective employers know that you can focus on tasks and are prepared to work hard to get what you want.

No matter what age you are, or what level of experience you have, it is always an advantage to include transferable skills. These are skills you can use in any industry and may consist of team working, time management, and communication skills. 


As a student, your educational prowess will be of particular interest to employers, so include details of the grades you achieved, and the subjects studied. If there was a project or task that is especially relevant to the job you are after, then you can highlight it here. 


If you don’t have much work experience, then include your hobbies and interests. It’s an opportunity to highlight transferable skills such as team working. 


There is no need to add in your references on a CV because employers tend to ask for them only when they are considering making a job offer. It is okay to write ‘references available upon request’ in this section. 

If you don’t have any work-related references, don’t panic. If you are asked to provide one, then you can get one from a teacher or someone affiliated with any volunteer work, clubs or organisations you are involved with. 

Just be sure to let them know that you would like them to give you a reference. 

It’s a hectic time in the job market in Northern Ireland right now. We help companies of all sizes and from all sectors find the right people for their jobs. 

You’ll find jobs from companies such as CDE Global and Graham Construction, customer service roles with Firstsource and Concentrix and a host of jobs in the hotel and catering industry with well-known hotels such as The Galgorm, The Titanic Hotel and the Hastings hotels group. 

As well as jobs we also advertise apprenticeships, so it’s well worth checking to see what is available. 

When employers advertise jobs for school leavers on, they are looking for two things - potential and passion. 

As a school leaver, if your CV can reflect your enthusiasm to get started in the world of work, showcase your promise and demonstrate your ability to work hard, then you are well on the road to enjoying a long and successful career.


Sign up for your free jobseeker account with We’ll keep you informed about new job opportunities and you’ll also find a wealth of information, helpful hints and tips on how to secure your ideal job.

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