CV mistakes to avoid as an international student

Posted on: 15 December 2022 by Aditi Gupta in Hints, tips and advice

This blog from Aditi, our International Employability Experience Graduate Intern, looks at some of the common mistakes made on CVs and how to avoid them.

The UK application process can sometimes prove to be difficult to understand, especially for international students who may be more used to the application processes of their home countries. Without the right guidance, you might make these common CV mistakes while making your job applications in the UK. Read on to see the common mistakes that students can sometimes make in their CVs and how to avoid them.


Not highlighting your skills

In the UK job market, a heavy emphasis is placed on “skills” as employers look for certain transferable skills in their job candidates. You would typically get an understanding of the kind of skills that your potential employer is looking for through the person specification section of the job description.

CVs of students can often lack emphasis on the skills that they bring to the table. It is always advisable to highlight relevant skills on your CV in order to show your potential employer that you can provide them with the skills that they are looking for in their candidates. A potential employer may look at your CV for a very brief period of time so your job is to make it easy for them to find that information about you.

In order to make the presentation of your skills even more impactful, demonstrate where and how you have used that skill in the past. These will provide context on how you have gained and used these skills. For example, if a job that you are applying for requires leadership skills, it might be worth highlighting your leadership skills as part of your experience as a class representative where you may have managed group(s) of people.


Top Tip: Using the STAR method, you can make the language of your CV more effective while presenting your skills.  


Not enough information about your educational history

While the title of your academic programme is important, I would argue that providing some context to it is even more important. It is always advisable to add a short description of what your degree programme entails, under the title of your degree.

This is used to give your recruiter some context of what academic knowledge you bring to the table. From the job description, you will be able to understand what your daily responsibilities would be in a role that you are interested in applying for. Think about which parts of your degree will be most important to that role and that organisation. According to this, add relevant modules or any projects/groupwork that you may have completed as part of your programme.

You may also feel that your academic programme may not be relevant to the job role you are applying for. In this case, mention the transferable skills you have gained from your studies if your degree is unrelated to the role. For example, my undergraduate degree in Philosophy was not the most relevant to my current job role. However, in my application, I highlighted the transferable skills I gained from that degree which included communication, presentation and teamworking skills.


Top Tip: Include any significant academic achievement (like prizes and awards) as part of your description.


Reluctance to include home country experience.

As an international student, you bring in some unique employability skills. These can be demonstrated using your work experience from your home country so it is advisable to add that as part of your CVs and application forms.

Your home country experience can bring in diversity in a team’s thought process and foster a culture of innovation which can ultimately result in profitability for the organisation. Your understanding of a foreign job market and professional networks in your home country may also potentially unlock international expansion of the organisation that you may work at. Your ability to speak multiple languages will enable an organisation to communicate with clientele from different parts of the world. Lastly, your cultural awareness and adaptability may positively enhance customer service of international customers.

Moreover, if you possess work experience in the same field that you are now interested in, it is worth to highlight that you possess relevant work experience, even if it is from a different country!


Top Tip: Always emphasize on the unique skills that you bring from your home country experience as well as the relevant skills needed for the role.


Hesitancy in adding part-time job experience

Part-time jobs, internships, placements, work-shadowing and voluntary work are all perfectly relevant experiences to add on your CV. In fact, they would give you an extra edge over candidates who do not possess these experiences! As part of your experience section, you can start by stating what you have achieved (or what skills you have gained) and what your main responsibilities were as part of these professional experiences.

In simple terms, start by describing your role and extract relevant skills from them, with regards to the person specification of the job role. For example, position of responsibility at a student society demonstrates leadership skills, volunteer role at a charity shop demonstrates communication skills, part-time role as a retail assistant demonstrates customer service skills, etc.


Top Tip: If you have a lot of work experience, you can consider separating this into different sections like “relevant”, “other” and “voluntary” experience.


Not tailoring CVs for each application

Your CV should first and foremost demonstrate that you possess a through understanding of the job description and the person specification section. It should clearly identify and include the key skills, qualities and experiences that your potential employer is looking for. This means you need to tailor your CV for each role you are applying for. For example, a CV for a part-time role at Greggs would be quite different from a CV for a graduate role at KPMG.

It is advisable to think about who is going to be reading your CV and what they need to know about you. This will change depending on the specific nature of the job role and organisation you are applying to. It is generally a good strategy to tailor your CV as CVs that are not tailored are often unsuccessful. I understand that it might look like a lot of work but it is the best way to secure your chances of getting selected in the first stage!


Top Tip: Think about which aspects of your CV will be most relevant to your potential employer who will be reading it and prioritise information according to that.



Not asking for help 

If you are looking for some more detailed guidance on CVs, be sure to check out this resource on Handshake. You can also build a CV from scratch or score your current CV and get instant feedback to make your CV shine through one of our digital tools - CV360.

Lastly, for more personalised support around CVs, do visit the Career Studio on a weekday between 10am and 5pm. In order to make the most out of your interaction with a Career Coach, it is advisable to get a copy of your CV which can be reviewed.

After reviewing your CV, a Career Coach will then provide you with feedback which you can later incorporate in your next edit!







Keywords: hints and tips, apply.