Competition for jobs can be fierce, particularly when the job in question has fixed hours, good conditions and a decent rate of pay.
Many reputable employers get far more applications for any advertised vacancy than they can deal with – which means they won’t have time to read each one in detail.
For young people with little or no work experience, it can feel like there’s no point in even applying when the chances are that they will never hear back from the company concerned.
Rather than accept defeat at the first hurdle, the best approach is for a young person to focus on writing the best-possible CV (the letters stand for curriculum vitae) which highlights everything they can do, even if they haven’t yet had a job.
It’s important for them to practice their interview skills too, perhaps doing some role play to get into the swing of things and boost their confidence.
Writing a great CV
No employer will expect someone who has just left school or is studying for their A levels to have an extensive employment-based CV.
They will simply want to want to know that the young person is the right fit for the organisation and will do a good job if they are taken on.
It’s not all about work-related experience; employers also value skills that can be gained at school and college, or during extracurricular activities, e.g. good communication skills, motivation, initiative, time-keeping and being able to work in a team.
Here are some ways a young person can make their CV stand out:
- Identify what it is they do best and link it to what employers are looking for:
- Being in a school sports team demonstrates good teamwork
- Individual sports like athletics show motivation and drive
- Writing articles and blogs highlight good written communication skills
- Being in the school’s debating team proves good verbal communication.
- Include out-of-school activities and interests, e.g. Scouts, sports clubs, Duke of Edinburgh, etc.
- Don’t forget to mention the obvious, e.g. a driver’s licence, languages and the computer packages they use.
- List any volunteering experiences, including school or college-based voluntary roles, e.g. class representative or helping out at open days.
- Don’t rush writing a CV – read it through a few times and make sure there are no spelling mistakes.
- Don’t be tempted to lie on a CV – it’s never worth it.
Even if the employer isn’t asking for a CV, it’s always useful for a young person to have an up-to-date version which they can use as the basis for any online job applications.
Careers Wales has a CV builder and templates to help young people put together their CV.
Going for a job interview
The ultimate purpose of a CV is to get a job interview – and hopefully the job.
However good a CV, very few employers will take someone on without meeting them first in person. Interviews can vary dramatically in format, with some being very informal and others involving several stages, group interaction and panel interviews.
It’s natural for a young person to feel nervous before a job interview; however, being well-prepared – and anticipating some of the questions – will help them feel more confident on the day.
Some things that are important before and during an interview are:
- Research – know a little about the company, the position being advertised and the industry generally.
- Be aware that some recruiters will check out an applicant’s social media accounts – remind the young person to use privacy settings and be careful what they post and/or are tagged in.
- Dress appropriately – smart outfit, clean shoes, tidy hair, no low necks, etc.
- Focus on what they can do for the company – and not vice versa.
- Prepare questions in advance – it shows an interest in the company.
- Make plenty of eye contact but don’t be over-confident.
- Don’t seem too preoccupied on the pay, hours and benefits.
The Prince’s Trust has interview tips for young people.
Careers Wales has more tips on what to do – and what not to do – at interviews.