How to lay out an Entry-Level CV

For entry-level candidates, who may not have much relevant work experience, it can be useful to make use of a skills based CV. These are also useful if you have had numerous jobs with no clearly defined career path, or if there have been lots of gaps in employment.

Typically, you can abandon the traditional reverse chronological format and instead emphasise your relevant skills and achievements, but you MUST tailor these to the job you are applying for.

In addition to overcoming the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), the trick is to grab the readers attention within the first sections.

Since most geo-jobs require an academic qualification, you might want to put your education section first so that you immediately convey your suitability. One possible layout could be:

  1. Personal Details
  2. Education
  3. Key Skills
  4. Employment
  5. Additional Skills & Courses

Should I include a personal statement?

Don't even bother. It's highly unlikely you will have enough experience to provide a compelling personal statement, and it will be extremely difficult to make it sound unique and not cringingly generic.

Rather than telling someone you're an impeccably 'organised'  'team player' who has great 'communication skills', use the relevant skills or achievements sections to demonstrate it!

Education or work experience first?

Typically, whatever contains your most recent achievement is usually the most relevant eye-catcher in your application, and therefore should go first. You should always aim to highlight the most relevant skills in the early sections of your CV.

For example, if you went back to university to complete an MBA or PhD, you may want to place the education section towards the top of your CV.

Do I include references?

Don't bother, it's a waste of space and is highly unlikely to help you get to the interview stages. Nor should you contain the phrase 'references available on request'; this should be obvious to all readers of your CV.

How many pages should it be?

For an entry-level CV, with limited experience, we really think you should be able to fit it within one page. It's tempting to cram all of your experience in, but it's better to focus on making it keyword rich by highlighting your skills-based achievements.

However, it should be your priority to make it ATS-friendly, and this often limits the formatting tricks you can use to save space, so two pages is acceptable.

Things to consider

  • Is it ATS-friendly? See our tips for this here.
  • Does it immediately highlight my suitability for the job?
  • Does it make you want to read more?
  • Does it look attractive?
  • Is it well laid out?
  • Is it too long?
  • Is it keyword rich, but concisely written?
  • Are the lines too close together?
  • Is it readable when printed?
  • Are the margins big enough to be printed properly?

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