Writing your CV can be a daunting task. How do you convey yourself on one page? What makes it stand out? For this article, contributors John Lonergan and Edith Nazhifah provide insights into the above-mentioned complexities.
If involved in UCL’s business life, you have likely encountered John; he currently serves as the treasurer for UCL Guild, but was previously the Vice President of Consulting in Business Society. During his time in the Business Society, he ran its mentorship program (where he vetted over 150 CVs) and the UK Case Competition (the UKCC). In another mentorship role for the UCL Investment Society, he helped first-year students improve their applications to secure internships. When not involved with business-related matters, he drinks a copious amount of bubble tea.
Edith Nazhifah is an equally impressive figure. She is currently a final-year Economics student at UCL with experience as First Year Representative and Vice President of Mentorship at the UCL Investment Society. In her first year, she secured seven spring week offers, but has also completed a summer internship in Trading at Barclays. This summer, she will intern in Investment Banking and Capital Markets at Credit Suisse. Fun fact: she recently started drumming and looks forward to buying an electronic drum kit.
With our candidates introduced, let’s get into some of the questions.
Where Should I Start?
Starting out, both Edith and John recommend compiling work experience, extracurriculars, and interests onto one large document. Then, start cutting.
“People have a bad habit of thinking that their CV will be read much more in-depth than it actually is.” Therefore, it’s crucial to get to include content that will immediately attract attention. “Most of the CVs I looked at in the mentorship experience were quite good, and some of them had really good experiences–but they focused on the wrong things. If something is noteworthy, spend some time on it, even if it’s unrelated to the position you’re applying for.”
“People have a bad habit of thinking that their CV will be read much more in-depth than it actually is. It’s crucial to get to include content that will immediately attract attention.”
Edith agrees, explaining: “Most first years don’t have any relevant experience for the position they’re applying to.” In this case, you can still catch the recruiters eye by highlighting what makes you unique.
Still unsure about what’s valuable and what’s not? Consider joining a mentorship scheme by one of the Guild Societies (Business Society consulting mentorship can be found here and the Investment Society mentorship here). John encourages mentees to give mentors their CV, as “they’ll give you an honest take, and they’ll probably be much harsher.” Feedback may feel intimidating, but it’s worth putting aside your pride for future goals you want to achieve.
What Opportunities Should I include?
For online opportunities, be wary. In response to this question, Edith guides: “Do not include participating in fairs… If you’re applying to a certain firm and learned more about it by talking to a representative at a fair, you can elaborate on this in your cover letter. The CV is mostly about you, while your cover letter sheds more light on your relationship with the firm.” Similarly, she advises to “maybe include open days,” explaining that “more selective open days may look impressive.” Finally, Edith encourages to “include online internships, highlighting what you did and learned from the role.”
As a general rule, John notes: “you should have been through some sort of selection process” to include the experience on your CV. Though, he muses, attitudes towards online opportunities will likely change due to current circumstances.
Whilst interests make your application more interesting, don’t devote too much time to them. “Put a quick list down at the bottom of your CV.” Consider what’s unique, whether it’s music, sports, or volunteering. If you’re a bit short of work experience, consider fleshing out what holds significance to you–but refrain from padding up your CV too much.
Moreover, when writing about extracurriculars, Edith encourages students to “[list] your achievements and transferable skills for each role, [making] sure to focus on what you personally did instead of the collective… If your team won an award, think about how you personally contributed to the effort.”
How can you show passion for a field without experience?
When prompted with this question, John replies: “honestly, that’s something I struggled with a bit… [but] generally, they like to see you’ve been busy. That’s where student societies are useful, as you can back up your transferable skills.” If you haven’t gotten involved in a society related to the position you’re applying for, consider partaking in business competitions, as they show interest, collaboration, and individual initiative (for updates on the Business Society’s UKCC and DECA competitions, follow their Facebook page here).
Finally, take inspiration from your course. “Obviously, many people are applying from courses that aren’t related. However, you can always find something useful to talk about.” Remember: opportunities are never open to just one degree–companies recruit from a variety of backgrounds.
If in doubt about applying, Edith notes that “most students will have very little idea about a particular field even going into a spring week, [but] this is exactly what the spring weeks [are] for! My advice is to just apply.” If you’re worried about not being qualified, John says to “give your purpose and be genuine.” If you don’t get accepted for an opportunity, you can always use it as a learning opportunity.
If you have any further questions, feel free to email us on our “contact” page, using the subject “CV advice”. Until then, good luck with writing future applications!