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Roland Coombes is a veteran recruitment consultant, highly accomplished careers expert, and master resume writer with over 25 years of industry experience.

Resume Tips for School Leavers

Congratulations! You did it—you’ve finally finished high school. This is a monumental achievement and the first big step on your journey to changing the world, making your millions, and realising your dreams of total freedom and independence.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to create a professional resume that showcases your strengths and makes a lasting impression on potential employers (and it’s all for FREE!).

Choosing the Right Resume Format and Content

First things first, you’ll need to decide on the right resume format that suits your personal preferences and style. Thankfully, there are plenty of free resources and templates across the Internet to help you on your way.

Did you know? A Cover Letter can make or break an application.

Download a Free Resume Template from Canva

We recommend Canva as there is a vast number of free professional resume templates available to suit every style. You can access these through a free account, although you need a paid version if you want better-quality downloads for printing. That said, the free version gives you ample opportunity to play around with different templates and create an on-the-go resume which you can quickly distribute to potential employers. The content boxes are fairly easy to manipulate, although you will need to play around with different areas of the template to suit your particular skill sets. This can take time and patience, but the results are well worth it.

Below is a example resume template from Canva.


Choosing the Right Format and Content

Most of these resumes have multiple boxes which you can adapt and manipulate according to your skill levels and experience. For school leavers, you will most likely need to focus the content on your skill sets, which is what we call a functional resume. These are more effective than a chronological resume unless, of course, you have practical work experience to offer.

Start with a Statement

An objective statement or summary is a great way to introduce who you are, what you’re about, and the types of roles you are targeting. It should outline your career goals and what you aim to achieve and should be tailored to the specific role or industry you’re targeting. For example, if you are pursuing a career in Chemistry, then you should mention this in the introduction, such as “Throughout my studies, I have demonstrated exceptional levels of attainment in chemistry and have a vast interest in gaining work experience at a laboratory…”.

School Leaver Resume Tips

Add a Skills Section

A skills section is a great way to quickly highlight relevant keywords to quickly target the reader’s interest. These are skills that should predominately be technical in nature, but also can include some soft skills. There are also a handy way to improve your ranking in applicant tracking systems (ATS).

Include Relevant Experience

Even if you haven’t had formal employment, you likely have relevant experience that can be included. This can be internships, volunteer work, part-time jobs, or even significant school projects. For example, if you have been working casually in a shop, this is a great way to show off your customer service and retail skills. You may have worked as a volunteer for a charity, demonstrating your ability to connect with the public and drive brand awareness. You may also have been casually taking dogs for walks or babysitting, both of which show a level of maturity and the ability to undertake casual jobs while studying. If you’re stuck for ideas, seek guidance from friends or family on what you might include. Never dismiss the mundane.

Showcase Extracurricular activities

Involvement in extracurricular activities demonstrates your initiative, leadership, and ability to balance multiple responsibilities. Highlight any clubs, sports teams, or organisations you were part of. Have you been part of a football team, a netball team, a school debate team? All of these are great qualities that can help separate you and highlight your identity as a team player and also as a leader. Don’t forget to include any awards.

Add in Personal Projects and Hobbies

As you will see from the example resume above, including personal projects or hobbies can give potential employers insight into your interests and skills, and create further individualism. If you have a keen interest in photography, building things, IT computers, or reading, you can use this to show a potential employer that you are actively involved in doing more. Be sure to focus on those elements that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Create Content that is Engaging and Professional

The content of your resume should not only be professional but also engaging. Use industry-specific terminology where appropriate, but avoid jargon that may be unclear or where you don’t have the knowledge to talk about in an interview. By tailoring the content, it shows that you understand the industry while keeping your resume interesting.

We recommend that each sentence should have a purpose. Bullet points will help break up large blocks of text. Each bullet point should start with a strong action verb and be concise. Rather than just listing duties, explain the impact of your work. For example, instead of saying “Part of the School Debate team,” you could say, “Part of a School Debate team, regularly presenting to upwards of 20 to 50 people, attending various competitions, building strength, resilience, and confidence in public speaking.”

Add a Photograph to Your Profile

There’s a huge amount of debate as to whether you should include a photograph on your CV or resume, and there is no right or wrong answer. However, a photograph can help your resume pop out head of others that purely text-based and add a personal approach. Try to keep the picture professional, yet casual in nature. Make sure the image quality is strong, and avoid strange postures. There are many free tools online to adjust the picture and to remove unnecessary backgrounds.

Resume with a Profile Picture

Make Changes if You’re Not Getting Results

If you are sending multiple applications and not getting any traction in the market, you need to make changes. Don’t continue down the same path, and do not lose hope. Make sure you seek advice and constructive criticism from your friends, associates, and peers. If possible, speak to recruiters who can give you a first-hand insight into how your resume might be performing.

Continue to Upskill Through Volunteer Jobs

Developing your skills through volunteer work and online courses is a great way to enhance your resume and gain valuable experience. Many websites offer opportunities to volunteer in various fields such as public relations, administration, and fundraising, allowing you to build a diverse skill set. Also, reach out across your network to see if there are any contacts where you can offer your services for free. This could be helping out in the office, helping with day-to-day tasks, and other potential areas for gaining experience.

Volunteer Jobs

Make Use of Online Courses

Platforms like The Open University, Deakin, UTS, Microsoft, and LinkedIn Learning offer a number of courses that are free to the public and can help increase your skills. You may also want to consider paid courses that will demonstrate your commitment to lifelong learning.

FAQs – Resume Tips for School Leavers

What is the best resume format for school leavers?

For school leavers, a functional resume format is typically the most effective. This format focuses on your skills and abilities rather than chronological work experience, making it ideal for those with limited formal employment history.

Where can I find free resume templates?

Canva offers a wide range of free professional resume templates that you can customize to suit your style and needs. While a paid version is available for higher quality downloads, the free version provides ample opportunities to create an impressive resume.

How should I start my resume?

Begin your resume with an objective statement or summary. This introduction should briefly explain who you are, your career goals, and the types of roles you are targeting. Tailor this section to the specific job or industry you’re interested in.

What should I include in the skills section?

In the skills section, highlight both technical and soft skills relevant to the job you're applying for. This helps quickly capture the reader’s interest and improve your ranking in applicant tracking systems (ATS).

How can I showcase my experience if I haven't had a formal job?

Include any internships, volunteer work, part-time jobs, or significant school projects. These experiences can demonstrate your skills and abilities. For example, working in a shop can showcase customer service skills, while volunteering for a charity can highlight your public engagement and brand awareness abilities.

Should I include extracurricular activities?

Yes, extracurricular activities can demonstrate your initiative, leadership, and ability to balance multiple responsibilities. Highlight any clubs, sports teams, or organizations you were part of, and any awards you received.

How can I make my resume content engaging and professional?

Use industry-specific terminology where appropriate, but avoid jargon. Tailor your content to show understanding of the industry while keeping it interesting. Use bullet points to break up text, starting each with a strong action verb and explaining the impact of your work.

Should I add a photograph to my resume?

Including a photograph on your resume is optional and depends on your preference. A professional yet casual photograph can make your resume stand out, but ensure the image quality is strong and the posture is appropriate.

What should I do if I'm not getting responses from employers?

If you’re not getting results, make changes to your resume. Seek advice and constructive criticism from friends, associates, peers, or recruiters. They can provide insights into how your resume might be performing and suggest improvements.

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