How to Make a Great Resume With No Experience
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As a new graduate, one of the biggest challenges in finding your first job is writing a resume that will attract the attention of recruiters, even though you have little or no work experience.
Work experience, however, is not the only factor that employers look for when considering an applicant.
In this article, you will find plenty of other ways to build an impressive resume that will make you stand out from the crowd.
The key to writing a resume when you have no or little work experience is to concentrate on what you have achieved and worked on in your life up to this point, whether through education, internships or in your spare time.
Here are 10 key tips on creating your resume.
A resume objective is a statement, usually at the beginning of your resume, which explains what type of position you are interested in and how you can apply your skills and qualifications to that position.
A self-motivating recent graduate in Finance and Economics, looking for an entry-level position within the banking industry to utilize my financial knowledge, communication skills and management understanding.
Your resume objective is not a fixed statement. Ideally, it should be altered to fit each role that you apply for.
For instance, you apply for two roles within the same organization. One role relies on your ability to research and analyze. The second requires that you communicate with clients and negotiate deals. Your resume objective should be altered to focus on the specific skills that each role demands.
The purpose of the resume objective is to show that your skills are a good fit for the position and that your attitude is a good fit for the organization.
To delve into how to use a resume objective in more detail, have a look at How to Write an Objective for a Resume.
This is another opportunity to show that you are the ideal candidate for the job.
Just as you alter your resume objective to match what is needed for each role you apply for, you should also choose which experiences to include in your resume.
For instance, you apply for a marketing role. On your resume, you could outline how you helped to design flyers, posters and social media posts for a candidate in the student elections at your college or university.
Working on your school newspaper would be an appropriate experience to include in your resume if you apply for a role as a journalist or copywriter.
You apply for an accountancy position. On your resume, you could outline the experience you gained working as the treasurer for the school chess club.
Include experiences that are relevant to each job application.
Relevant employment history is not necessarily what will make you stand out from the crowd of applicants. What most employers are looking for are relevant skills; for instance, leadership, negotiation or working as part of a team.
Start by looking at the information you already have about the vacancy. This will be from the job advert itself and any further information that was forwarded to you when you expressed interest in the position. What skills are mentioned?
These could include:
- Analyzing data
- Customer service
- Being able to drive and holding a current license
- Design skills
- Computer programming
- A foreign language
The next step is to think back over your experiences, hobbies and education to find examples of the skills needed for the vacancy.
For instance, for a position that requires sales, communication and negotiation skills, you could mention the stall you ran at a school or college fayre to raise money for your favorite charity and how you approached your local supermarket to donate goods for free.
To find out more, read The 10 Most Important Skills to Show on Your CV.
You may not have work experience specific to the role you are applying for, but past work experience, volunteering and internships are worth listing on your resume if they are relevant.
For instance, your work experience as an activity leader at a summer camp displays communication and leadership skills.
When you volunteered during high school as an Earth Team Volunteer, you learned how to work in a team and how to communicate with people from other walks of life.
Your internship may not have been to carry out the specific role you are applying for, but if it was in the same industry, for example, finance or politics, you already have relevant knowledge of the arena you wish to work in.
If any of your work, volunteering or internship experiences are relevant to the vacancy, include them on your resume.
Listing your hobbies on your resume can:
- Show your interest in and knowledge of industries and topics that are relevant to the vacancy
- Flag up relevant skills
- Show off your personality and help you to stand out from other applicants
For example, your time spent acting on the amateur stage not only shows that you have an outgoing personality and can work in a team. The fact that you helped to write the copy for publicity material shows that you have copywriting and marketing skills too.
Your hobby as an athlete shows that you are competitive and willing to push yourself to achieve the desired result.
This is the one area where the fact that the hobby is not relevant to the vacancy does not matter. This is about setting yourself apart from the competition and being memorable.
It should be clear by now that one of the key ways to produce a successful resume is to customize it for each job application. Taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach may produce a passable resume but it will not set you apart.
Examine the requirements of the vacancy (qualifications, skills and, in some cases, suitable qualities, such as self-motivation) and the culture of the company.
Does the management hierarchy suggest an organization with a traditional structure and career path of working your way up through the ranks? Is the company forward-thinking, innovative and open to taking suggestions from their employees?
Tailor your resume to be the best possible fit for all of these factors for each application.
Most recruitment processes, whether handled by the employer’s HR department or a recruitment agency, will use an applicant tracking system (ATS). The ATS will decide which job applications to process on to the next stage by scanning each resume for suitable keywords.
It is important, therefore, that your resume includes keywords that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
Go back to the job advert and requirements. What skills are listed that you could mention word-for-word in your resume?
For example, the keywords for a copywriter vacancy might include:
- Content creation
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Web copy
The use of keywords in your resume will generally apply to skills, but if you have the qualifications listed in the job advert, treat those as keywords too.
Make it easier to stand out as a suitable candidate to the ATS by including the right keywords for that particular vacancy.
Now you have all of that information collated, make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors and that the text reads well.
Take time to check your skills, experience and keywords against the job advert and requirements.
Finally, check to make sure there are no silly typos or mistakes, such as a six instead of a seven or ‘on’ instead of ‘or’.
At this stage, when you have little to zero work experience, your resume should be no longer than one page.
Having said that, do make sure that your resume fills a whole page. If you have to bulk out the text with spacing or a few additional words here and there, do so.
A recruiter rarely wants to read all the way through an unnecessarily long resume, but equally, a half-page resume will suggest a lack of effort on the applicant’s part.
So your resume is as polished, tailored and full of keywords as possible. Increase your chances of success by crafting a well-written, relevant cover letter to accompany it.
This is your chance to further impress by:
- Highlighting areas of your resume that are especially relevant to the vacancy
- Explaining why you are a good fit for the company
- Expressing your knowledge of the company and the industry
Keep the tone professional and positive, and address your cover letter to the relevant manager by name.
Now that you know what to include in your resume, here’s what not to include:
Do not include your age or date of birth in your resume. This will avoid any preconceptions or bias on the part of the recruiter.
However professional you think it may look, do not include a photo in your resume.
Most US employers feel that it is easier for them to show that they have adhered to equal opportunities legislation if an applicant’s resume does not include a photo.
The only exception to this would be where the employer has directly asked for a photo, such as for a modeling position.
At the point of application, it is not necessary to provide references. If you wish, you may add a 'References available on request' line.
If your application progresses, you will be asked for references at that stage.
Unless you have a website, your personal email address will probably be a Gmail, Hotmail or Outlook account. Where it may have been fun to have an email address such as \email@example.com when you were simply sending emails to your friends, this is not suitable for a job application.
Make sure that your email address is professional. The best format is a recognizable form of your name, such as \firstname.lastname@example.org.
While it may be tempting to exaggerate your accomplishments, try to be as truthful as possible when writing your resume.
Equally, do not add fictitious experience or qualifications.
This example is relevant to a charity sector marketing role:
A self-motivated graduate seeking an entry-level marketing role in the charity sector. Strong communication skills and an excellent team-worker. Experienced in charity events publicity and content creation.
- St Michael’s High School, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Graduated 2016
- University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Graduated 2019 with a degree in Marketing (GPA 3.7)
- Content creation – physical and digital
- Social media marketing
- Event and fundraiser organization
- Clean driving license
- Good team-worker
- Helped to promote fundraisers for a local amateur theatre group by creating publicity material and running their social media campaign.
- Volunteered in a local charity shop and also wrote for their blog and social media channels.
- Completed a paid internship in the marketing department of a web design company where I was involved in web content creation.
- Amateur theatre
- Helping out at my local charity shop
Available on request
Crafting a successful resume when you have no work experience is far from impossible.
If you match your skills, life experience and personality to the job you are applying for, and to your potential employer, you will be sure to stand out from the competition.