The old catch-22: You need a job to get experience, but you need experience to get a job.
Finding work can be tough, and it can be even more difficult when you don’t have a laundry list of references or a surplus of experience to work off of. But just because you don’t have existing skills or experience in a traditional work setting doesn’t mean that you can’t craft a convincing résumé.
So … How do you write a résumé with no work experience?
- 1. Include a summary statement
- 2. Pay attention to technical details
- 3. Focus on your education and skills
- 4. Internships, internships, internships
- 5. Include extracurricular activities or volunteer work
- 6. Keywords, keywords, keywords
- 7. Customize your résumé for each job
A résumé summary statement sums up who you are professionally, in a sentence or two. It’s placed at the top of the page and creates the first impression a hiring manager will see. Your goal is to entice them to keep reading.
When editing your résumé, make sure there are no punctuation, grammar, spelling or other errors that will make your résumé look unprofessional. Be sure to vary your language and utilize action verbs throughout your résumé, to keep your reader engaged. Then, have a friend or family member read it again to catch any mistakes you might have missed — you can’t afford a typo or missing word.
In lieu of work experience, it’s best to expand and focus on your education and skills you’ve developed. What can you do well that this job requires? What will be useful to the hiring company? What have you done in school and what have you studied that have prepared you for this job? This task is generally a little easier if you’re a college graduate with specialized education, but even a high school graduate can talk about their electives, why they wanted to take them, and what they learned from the class.
Paid and unpaid high school and college internships are one of the best weapons you have against “experience required.” Not only do they give you some real-world work experience, they also allow you to network and make connections that can put you in a job later. When applying for a job without experience, be sure to list any internships that you completed.
When surveyed, the majority of employers say that they take volunteer experience into consideration alongside paid work experience. So any volunteer work that highlights your talents or where you learned a new skill should be put on your résumé. Only include hobbies if they are relevant to the position and have equipped you with transferable skills that would be useful for the job role.
Most employers use some form of an applicant tracking system (ATS) to scan and sort résumés. This may seem unfair, but it is the harsh reality of modern-day hiring. To combat this, you will want to come up with and include a list of keywords in your résumé when applying for any job. The best place to find these keywords is in the job ad itself, or in ads for similar jobs.
The last and most important thing to remember when creating a good résumé is to customize it for every job to which you apply. Different job postings are going to have different keywords, different job duties listed, and so on. Appealing to each individual employer’s needs and job requirements is the best strategy for getting your application noticed.
At the end of the day, the only perfect résumé is the one that gets you the job.
Be prepared to tweak and update your résumé, even when you’re comfortably employed. Focus on your skills and education when you don’t have any work experience to show. Sooner or later, you’ll land that job and gain that much-coveted experience.
(written by: wc)