For recent graduates and others who are entering the workforce for the first time, writing a résumé can feel like a daunting task. After all, without formal work experience, what exactly do you put on a résumé that will convince employers to take a chance on you? With or without a solid work history, job seekers shouldn’t agonize. There are ways to write an impressive résumé with no experience. We’ve gathered our best tips to help you get started on a path toward the job you want.
Consider a new résumé format
When writing a résumé with no experience in the workplace, what you want to emphasize are your skills. Most résumés utilize a chronological résumé format, which places the most weight on a solid work history and the job seeker’s professional trajectory. A functional résumé, on the other hand, can help you emphasize your education, internships, and other work-like experiences such as volunteer work to showcase your strengths. More importantly, a functional résumé format puts the focus on your hard and soft skills to get you the job you want.
One caveat about the functional résumé is that some recruiters don’t like them. The chronological résumé is the preferred format because it’s easy to scan and assess a candidate’s credentials. Some recruiters even feel job seekers who use a functional format are trying to bury their lack of experience. If you don’t want to roll the dice on a functional format, choose a chronological format with a twist. Write a detailed summary section at the top that highlights your strengths and briefly explains that you are new to the workforce. Here’s an example of what you might write:
Recent graduate with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in Women’s Studies. Completed an internship at Women at Work, a nonprofit focused on assisting women to open small businesses. Strong written and verbal skills, attention to customer service, and demonstrated mastery of critical analysis.
Then, rather than creating a “work experience” section, create a “core proficiencies” section that details some of your most sought-after skills.
Highlight your transferable skills
When you’re writing a résumé with no experience, transferable skills are your friend. But what’s a transferable skill? The simple definition of a transferable skill is a skill you acquired in one situation—in school, for example—that can transferred to another, which in this case is the workplace. Everyone has transferable skills, and emphasizing your unique set of hard and soft skills is critical to getting your foot in the door when you have no work experience. For example, if you’re a recent graduate with no work experience, highlight skills you learned in school or during internships. If you’re new to the workforce for other reasons—say, because you’ve been raising children—you might consider experiences you’ve had as a volunteer, coach, or doing part-time work.
Don’t forget the soft skills
Soft skills, or those hard-to-measure characteristics that make people great at their jobs, are highly sought after by employers. This is good news for job seekers who have little to no work experience. After all, your future employer can teach you how to use Microsoft Office, but they can’t teach you how to be detail oriented. Some of the most sought-after soft skills include customer service, strong written and verbal communication skills, organization, and problem-solving. Think back on experiences you’ve had that required you to use these skills and add examples to your résumé of times you’ve used soft skills to effectively complete a task.
How do you write an effective résumé when you have no work experience? Here are four simple tips to get you started.
1. Gather information
Having your awards and the names and addresses of your educational institutions and organizations where you’ve interned or volunteered at your fingertips will make the process much easier when you fill out the sections of your résumé.
2. Choose a résumé format
Begin compiling the information you’ll need to fill out the five main sections of a résumé: the résumé header, professional summary, skills, work experience, and education.
3. Study the job ad
Personalizing your résumé for each job you apply to can make all the difference. Up to 90% of companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to screen candidates. By studying the job ad; making a list of all the skills, experience, and education requirements it calls for; and adding those to your résumé, you’ll improve your chances of passing through the first screening.
4. Proofread your document
Read your document several times for errors that spellcheck may have missed. Double check the spelling of the school and company names you have listed. It’s difficult to see your own mistakes sometimes, so ask a trusted friend to read it as well.
You don't have to feel intimidated if you don't have a lot to write about on your résumé. Just follow these tips to get the job you want with limited experience. Employers will take notice, and you'll be off the job market before you know it!
Need more help crafting the perfect résumé? Check out our Internships and Careers section for all the job search advice you need!