Writing an international student CV can be tricky. The job market is competitive as it is, but if you’re a student from another country, there can be even more barriers to success.
Perhaps you have different qualifications to those employers will be familiar with. Or maybe you’re not sure how to set out the right structure for UK recruiters. Writing a CV can be daunting at first, especially for international students who are unfamiliar with UK CV writing practices.
How to structure a UK CV for international students
It’s best practice to break your CV down into the following sections:
- Personal details – including your name, address, email and phone number (don’t forget to include the country code if you are using a foreign phone number)
- Write a brief professional summary
- List your education and relevant certificates
- State your work experience
- List relevant hard and soft skills and languages
Essential skills for an international student
When putting your CV together, focus on the essential skills of the role. This may include:
- Research ability
- Computer literate
- Quick learner
- Clear communication
- Well organised
You could also have these desirable aptitudes to set you apart and make your CV stand out:
- Specific industry knowledge
- Analytical approach
- Problem solving
- Attention to detail
- Time management
Education and relevant certificates
Education is one of the trickier parts of a CV for international students, because you’ll typically have qualifications from your native country. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include them. It just requires a little more work to ‘translate’ them into qualifications that recruiters are familiar with.
Qualifications to include
Even if you haven’t completed your current course yet, it’s still a good idea to include it within your CV. You can do so in your personal statement, mentioning the course you’re studying. Or you can list an expected degree in your education section. This lets employers know more about the subjects you’re studying and your experience with relevant topics.
You should also include any professional qualifications that you have gained that are relevant for the role you are applying for, e.g. an Accountancy or Health and Safety qualification.
Whilst it’s important not to delve too far back into your education history, it can help to include some details of your qualifications at secondary/high school level as well as college, before university. International students will need to show they have equivalent qualifications to this level of study. When listing qualifications from other countries, it’s good practice to clarify what the UK equivalent is on your international student CV.
So, how should you display this information?
- Date – include the date the qualification was achieved. If you’re still working on it, you can list the date it will be completed or omit the date altogether and write ‘expected’
- Level of qualification – this can include the type of qualification and the grade. You can also include prospective grades
- Institution – you’ll need to include the name of the institution you studied at, including the location
State your work experience
Your work experience, no matter where it was gained, is very important. You should follow the same format for this as any experience gained in the UK, ensuring you highlight your achievements and relevant skills for the role you are applying for.
Even though you’re a student, that doesn’t mean you don’t have valuable work experience. If you’ve taken a job as a barista to support your study or worked as a babysitter on the weekends, you could be surprised at how relevant your experience is to the job at hand.
If you do have some work experience, it’s usually best to go with the reverse-chronological format – listing your most recent experience first and working backwards from there.
Other advice for writing a UK CV as an international student
Write in plain English
As an international student, you might be tempted to show off your mastery of the English language with complex words and winding sentences. However, this can make it much harder for recruiters to read and find out about your expertise and experience. Instead, short sentences and simple language are best when writing a CV for international students.
Target the job at hand
In some countries, it’s standard practice to use the same CV for all applications. In the UK, it’s usually best to tailor your CV for each job you find. That doesn’t have to mean a complete re-write. Simply read through the job description to find out how your ability and experience match the requirements, then emphasise them whenever possible in your CV.
Don’t forget to hit key phrases
Another UK recruitment practice you might not be aware of is the use of Applicant Tracking Software. This is often used to scan CVs for key phrases and filter down the number of candidates. To make sure your international student CV meets the grade, check the job listing for key phrases and include them in your CV.
Proofread your CV
It is very important that you proofread your CV to ensure that there are no grammar or spelling mistakes and that all the dates are correct.
Why not get someone else to read your CV and look at the job you are applying for, to ensure you have hit all the relevant points and there are no errors?
Last updated on 5 February 2024Share this article