As a college or University student looking for an internship or applying for your very first job, it’s understandable that you might be a little anxious about what you should do or how you should go about contacting companies with your resume, or how to even write that all-important CV in the first place.
With the recent influx of people into the job market, it is important to reflect your expertise and ability well in your CV in order to stand out from the crowd. As such, to ensure that you are ahead of the competition, I’ll show you how you can write a winning resume that highlights your capabilities.
Let’s first take a look at a sample CV recently written for a student who has yet to graduate (i.e. she’s still studying!). I’ll show you the final CV first, then we’ll take a look at the section-by-section example, which I’ve annotated with our thought process and reasoning behind what we’ve written in the CV.
If you’d like a second opinion, feel free to approach me. I offer free consultations on CV writing – I remember all too well what it’s like struggling to write your first CV as a student 🙂
The Final CV:
Now, here’s the annotated version of the CV. Pay attention in particular to my thoughts outlined after each important section – the comments are [formatted like this].
Do You Need Help With Your College / University CV?
Do be sure about what job you want to apply for when crafting your resume, and gear its content towards that – after all, it’s no use for you to highlight your programming skills if you’re applying for an internship in an industry where programming isn’t used at all.
Also, make sure that the information in your CV is relevant and current – it’s usually better for you to include information about the recent academic paper you got published, rather than about your Singapore Youth Festival accomplishments way back in your JC days. Your CV is your profile now – keep it up to date!
Let’s take a look at some additional tips and tricks for writing your CV:
What Hiring Managers Look For in College Student Resumes
- Your resume should provide a complete overview of your skills and experience, detailing in whatever length necessary your experience with in the industry that you’re applying to, as well as your own educational credentials and certifications.
- Important qualities that you can consider including in your resume include critical thinking and problem-solving skills, communication (both written and verbal), resourcefulness, and the ability to work both independently and as part of a larger department. You should make sure to showcase these skills and abilities in your resume.
- The important thing to have in your CV is transferable experience, skillsets, and competencies. How can what you’ve done apply to the employer’s firm?
- Watch the fluff! There’s a tendency for college/university students to inflate job descriptions and achievements. This is perfectly natural – most students are extremely good at languages, and this translates to CV writing. At the same time, keep it down-to-earth – CV puffery can easily be seen through by a competent HR officer. There’s nothing wrong with phrasing a role in ‘good resume language’, but don’t oversell yourself too much!
Common Challenges Faced when Writing CVs and How to Overcome Them
Writing a CV as a university student is challenging, regardless of whether you’re in your first year or your last. These are a few common issues I’ve seen when advising uni students on CV writing:
I’ve got nothing to put on my CV ☹
Applying for your first internship? This often means your CV is rather sparse – you don’t have any previous experience, as this is literally your first experience in the professional corporate world. What on earth do you put on your CV?
- Part-Time Work: If you’ve taken up part-time jobs in the past, for instance as a waiter, retail executive, tutor, etc., include it! Oftentimes, the skills you learn are very transferable – for instance, retail teaches you to be good at a client-facing role, and to be effective in communicating with others, which is applicable to a huge range of roles in almost every industry.
- CCAs: If you’ve participated in CCAs, OCSPs, CIPs, event or camp organisation, etc., you can include such information on your resume. Similarly, the process of participating in these areas often equips you with skills which are sought after in the working world.
- National Service: If you’re a Singaporean male, chances are you’ve done NS before entering University. While I don’t personally like including this in a CV, you can choose to write about your NS duties and responsibilities, as again, some skillsets may also apply to the working world. However, try to include NS only as a last option – space is at a premium in any CV, and ‘civilian’ working experience may be a better use of that space.
I haven’t done any of that yet – I’m a freshman/sophomore!
- In general, I’d leave out JC and secondary school experience when writing CVs. They’re just so far in the past for most of my clients. But for you, they’re quite recent! You can include JC CCAs and achievements on your CV, but try to include university-level ones where possible.
My grades suck, what should I do? Do I put them on my CV anyway?
- Grades aren’t everything, although they’re useful in getting yourself through the door. You can simply omit your GPA/CAP when writing your CV. Alternatively, if your grades are excellent, and you’re on the Dean’s List, won a scholarship, or received some award – include that on your CV!
- You can also leave out your A-level and O-level grades. Your CV should focus on your tertiary experience (poly or uni-level). Remember – a CV is a picture of you now! You should therefore try to include the most up-to-date info when writing your resume.
My past internships/working experience have nothing to do with the field I want to join. What do I include and what do I leave out on the CV?
- Not a problem! Internships are a way of seeing whether you want to pursue a full-time career in the field anyway.
- You should include past experience in your CV anyway. It demonstrates that you have previous working experience, and as I keep emphasising, transferable skills are really the name of the game in any college-level CV. Employers don’t expect as much when you’re still a student – it’s perfectly fine to have experience in different fields on your CV (and that might even be a benefit!).
Additional College Resume Writing Tips
- Your resume needs to be easy for employers to read quickly and absorb key points. You may, therefore, wish to break your previous internship/work experiences into two parts – your daily workscope, and your achievements. For daily workscopes, make sure that is it short and to the point – workscopes which are implied in your job title can be omitted. Remember, you want to keep your resume short and sharp for recruiters.
- As a student with little or no work experience yet, it would be unusual to have a very lengthy resume or CV. Make sure to keep your resume to 1-2 pages with all relevant information presented.
- Make sure your CV looks presentable. As there’s very little to judge you on, you must make a good first impression. When the reader first sets eyes on your CV, they should see your professionalism, organisational skill, and attention to detail. Spelling errors, poor formatting, and other careless mistakes like these are huge turn-offs. I’ve seen many CVs get rejected out of hand because they are poorly formatted or hard to read. Most employers take 6 seconds to scan through your CV – make them count!
- You can look through my other CV writing guides for more information – my Ultimate Guide to Resume Writing goes into great detail on every section of your CV and how to properly write them; my Guide to CV Fonts shows you the different fonts and considerations for the presentation of your CV, and I’ve also published some CV templates you can look at.
Job and Internship Opportunities for College Students
- Usually, as a college student, your university will organise regular job fairs for you to network and learn more about various companies in Singapore. These fairs are a good place for you to get a sense of who is hiring, as well as where you might wish to apply to for internships/jobs.
- Networking is important as well. Your professors may have industry connections; CCAs and internships are also good ways to meet professionals in the industry, and to learn from them.
- Many local universities also have their own career services offices, or career coaching. Seek out and use these resources to your advantage! Some offer advice on CV writing; others also go a step further and teach you how to interview, search for jobs, network, etc. Many students don’t use these until it’s too late. They’re excellent advantages to have, and great starting points – most career counsellors are very experienced in their respective fields, and can advise you on your career trajectory, how to break into the industry, etc. Don’t waste the opportunity.
Job Hunting Tips from our Resident Headhunter
- Consider new and relevant licenses, certifications, and workshops if you would like to specialise in a certain area. For instance, the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) qualification is a common route into the Big Four accounting firms in Singapore, and so is the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification.
- Create a winning cover letter and send it along your resume. The cover letter will serve as an introduction about yourself and is a great venue to answer the question “Why should we hire you?”
- Keep working hard. Get ahead of the competition!
All Done with your CV?
Before you start sending out applications, get a free CV Feedback Session with our team!
All the best!
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