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Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

How to write a resume with no experience

25 min read
How to write a resume with no experience
Artwork by:Lizabeth Zaft
Everyone looks for jobs with no job experience so don't worry! There are several ways to show what you are capable of!

The question of how to write a resume with no experience is something that every person encounters at the start of their professional journey.  What you have to remember when wondering how to make a resume for a first job is that recruiters and managers are likely to understand your situation.

Everyone looks for entry-level jobs at the beginning of their careers. Everyone starts by wondering how to make a resume with no experience. The hiring manager has been there, likely remembering the dread when cobbling together their resume; and will be primed to look for the signs of potential in anything that they read. Keep your messages in the letter simple, avoid any hint of exaggeration, and put yourself in their position. 

The thought in the hiring manager’s head when they read any resume, let alone one with no experience is this: “Why should I give him/her the job?”. When you write your first resume, this does not need to be a scary question. 

Note the positive intent of the question in the manager’s mind. They are looking for reasons to hire you rather than to disqualify you, so when applying for jobs with no work experience, view it as an opportunity to craft your resume with no experience in a different way.

Don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to demonstrate your attitude and aptitude and set yourself apart from your peers. You don’t have to deviate from the normal structure of writing a resume and while there are indeed jobs that require no work experience, there are also plenty of others that offer fantastic training and development to applicants on the first rung of the career ladder. Demonstrate your potential and doors will open.

You simply have to embrace a more creative approach. Play to your strengths

Expert tip

How should a teen make a resume for the first time? A teenage resume will not typically contain much work experience, and while their first job might be in a shop, cafe, sports coaching, or dog walking, it is still important that they let their first employer know what attitude they will bring to the role. They can show their mental aptitude by including their academic achievements, share their hobbies to demonstrate an ability to hit their goals, and share their thoughts on why they want the job. Motivation is everything when you are 15-17.

How to make a resume for a first job or with little experience?

Actually, we’d like to suggest that you have plenty to talk about when making your “no experience” resume.

When you are sitting there with a blank sheet of paper, wondering how to make a resume for a first job, fine, you might not have any formal work experience, but that does not mean that you are lacking in relevant achievements that you can call on to make the best possible start in your career. To write a resume with no work experience, you need to tell the story of your potential. This doesn't mean making up some fairy tale future - you can still be perfectly logical and credible when you outline the next steps in your career. 

Your education, internships, volunteering and various projects and hobbies will likely contain the most fascinating insights into who you are as a person. You might be surprised at just how many transferable skills you actually possess when you sit down to make your resume for a first job. Just because they weren’t acquired in an office setting doesn’t mean that they can’t be put into practice in one. In actual fact, employees without a lot of office experience are sometimes preferred by employers. They can mould you into their kind of people, immerse you in their culture and ensure that you are a positive influence on all of the older new hires whose mindsets are a little harder to change.

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It has long been a job search rule that experienced professionals should not put hobbies and interests on resumes. However, as work/life boundaries shift, employers are increasingly interested in the broader aspects of a candidate’s personality. Time for a rethink.

If you carefully curate how to write your resume to match up with the demands of the job, your absence of work history will matter less. If you show the right blend of attitude and aptitude, employers will hire for potential.

Expert tip

What should a first-time resume look like? A little tip: there should not be lots of white space on that page. While you should not pack the page to the brim with irrelevant facts and personality traits, your future employer will expect you to make enough effort to match your previous life experiences, education and skills with the requirements of the role. A resume for a first job should look like any other resume - just with less emphasis on work experience and more emphasis on life experience.

Sample resume with no experience

Here is a sample of how to make a resume for a first job. Over the next few chapters we seek to break down how to make a resume that is just as impressive. 

Sample resume with no experience
Sample resume with no experience

Structuring the no-experience resume

While employers don’t expect to see a document that is packed with workplace achievement, they (subconsciously) do expect you to write a resume with no experience that is structured in a traditional way. Anything that deviates from the norm when you make your resume for that first job risks creating a sense of unease.

As it is likely your first guess at how to write a good resume (especially the slightly more tricky “no experience resume”), here are the sections to include:

Header. Your name and contact information should feature prominently at the top of the document. ATS software will expect this to be there and you want to be easily contactable if a hiring manager decides to invite you to interview.

Expert tip

What is ATS software? Familiarize yourself with the concept, you’re going to encounter it more and more as you progress in your career. In short, these are algorithms that process resumes and filter out the “bad” ones so recruiters only get the cream of the crop. Find out more in our blog on optimizing your resume for ATS programs. You will also learn how to write a better resume - useful if it is your first time.

Summary. You might wonder how a resume with no experience could be summarised, but we suggest that a less-experienced applicant uses this section as a taste of their attitude and aptitude as well as describing career objectives. Who are you, what do you want and what can you give? It may be a resume with no work experience, but compel the reader to read on.

Education. There is more to the years that you spent in education than your GPA. Think of all the useful behaviours that you acquired, the projects that you slaved at and the creativity that you had to find. The ability to learn will be central to your early years in a first job.

Relevant Experience. You may not have work experience, but this does not mean that you have no relevant experience. You have been tasked to achieve something within a period for time countless times before. Pick some relevant examples and focus on your progression along a learning curve, ensuring there is every reason to expect that you can grow further.

Skills. Everyone acquires skill as they face the tests that life throws their way. Softer skills are harder to teach, but easier to exaggerate in a resume. Harder skills are possible to develop through training, but so valuable in a resume that should be as factual as possible. Finding the right blend of skills for the job in question will be central to your success.

Education would not normally feature so prominently when making a resume, but as this is one of your more tangible achievements when you think about how to make a resume for a first job, it should be included above the experience section

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Relevant experience could be called employment history, but this phraseology is more effective when applying for jobs with no work experience. Hobbies and interests might also feature at the end of the document, but it is possible that certain of your interests may well have taught you some incredibly useful lessons. 

Expert tip

Is it ok to lie in your resume? Who could possibly check that you did some fruit picking work at that farm last summer? How will they be able to check whether you were a dog walker? Well, you never know how a conversation might evolve. If an interviewer senses that you have not been telling the whole truth, it puts everything else under a cloud of doubt. You never quite know if they did some fruit picking in the teenage years too. Tell the whole truth and you will have nothing to worry about.

The best summary when you write a resume with no experience

Everything that you write in a resume summary with no experience should be targeted towards the role, showcase your attitude in achieving your goals and offer a sample of your aptitude. After those first few introductory lines, the reader should be keen to join the dots of how your potential could translate into performance. Choose your adjectives and examples carefully and make sure that it aligns with the job description.

Statistical insight

A study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) shows: of the graduating seniors who received at least one job offer, 57.5% previously had an internship position. 

What does this mean? Applying for zero-experience level positions is the norm for many people who have successful careers later on. Don’t be afraid to start from a point where you don’t yet have workplace achievement. Write your no experience resume with the knowledge that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Your summary should skew towards describing how your career objectives fit in with the role in question. Too many resume profiles with no experience are too general and if the employer feels that your resume is not written for them, they will be unlikely to read any further. Play the game in terms of choosing the information that will be digested first.

Perhaps most importantly, start to share some of your personal qualities. It is obvious that you will have a lot to learn when you start the role, so give your future employer a sense of what it is like to have you around. Being true to yourself here is important because it is in both of your interests to find a fit in terms of personality and culture.

Expert tip

Do I need a resume for my first job? Imagine walking into a company and asking them to hire you on the spot. You don't give them a reason, you simply hand them a piece of paper with your bank details for your first monthly pay packet. That is the equivalent of not having a resume for an employer to consider you for a role. There is no excuse for not creating a resume for any role. If you are making a resume for a first job, follow the tips in this blog and you are guaranteed to impress.

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Highlight education if you have no employment experience

The education section of a resume with no experience should ideally feature towards the top of the document as it will likely be the most tangible indication of your capacity for learning and development – something important in the early years of any career.

Make sure that you do not spare the detail when making this resume section, especially if you are in the upper percentiles of academic achievers. Ideally include: name of degree, institution, years attended, location, GPA (if above 3.5), and any honors received. Include research interests and any published works if they are relevant to the role. 

Your education will be compared with your peers and it is one of the few common aspects of every resume with no experience. Make sure that it demonstrates how great you are at learning.

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A successful education can showcase many skills that employers value and it is worth writing a couple of lines to outline your growth. It doesn’t matter that you have no employment experience. Whether the job requires attention to detail, comprehensive research, effective communication or attentive team work, the rigours of higher education demand excellence in all these areas and many more.

What to do with the employment history section in a resume with no experience

While you may consider your employment history with no experience an obstacle as you make your resume, the lack of paid (contractual) experience does not mean that you have not developed skills via other opportunities. 

This section could still be titled “employment history” partly because the ATS software will be searching for relevant keywords here, but also because your time over the past few years has been employed in a variety of ways. Use the experience section to talk about them:

Volunteering. Any volunteering projects do not need to be industry specific. Pick out the behaviours that will be useful in your first role and share any functional hard skills that you have acquired. Volunteering is a great opportunity to learn from other colleagues.

Internships. A formal internship might be classed as employment by some, but the core value for a first employer is to demonstrate that you understand what it takes to work in an office. Even if the internship was for a couple of weeks, you are going into your first role with your eyes open. Invest in an unpaid internship now if you haven’t done it already.

Projects. Whether it is an academic or commercial project, time-limited activity with an end goal that needs to be met is the bread and butter of any new employee’s first year or two. Successful projects showcase organizational skills, team work, turning strategy into outcomes and gives individuals confidence in their ability to complete a tough task.

Extracurricular. The importance of sharing your personality is underrated in the modern recruitment process and many experienced professionals try to keep their persona separate from the professional achievements on their resume. This in itself is a mistake. Any resume should have a sprinkling of personality, but a resume with no experience should be full of it. Extracurricular sports or hobbies are a great way of showing what you are about.

Employment really means when you have been set a task and achieved it. Applying to jobs without no work experience will be so much easier if this section is packed with relevant insights into your alternative activities. These life experiences add depth to your application and should be as tailored as possible towards the role that you are applying for.

In fact, remember this rule of thumb for the rest of your successful career: as you make a resume for a new job hunt, tailor EACH document for EACH specific position. Don’t just write one resume and hit send to a dozen recipients. Custom tailoring can dramatically raise your chances of success.

Expert tip

I understand how to make a resume for a first job, but I don't know where to start. Creativity is always a challenge for anyone writing a resume, let alone someone who is pondering how to make a resume for a first job. Sit down in a quiet room with a pen and paper. Think about what you want out of your next role and write down any possible links from your past experiences and current skill set. Don't feel you have to write a resume with no experience at the first attempt. Pressure will only stifle your thought process.

How to handle resume skills if you have no work experience

The resume skills section is where the process of making your resume with no experience can truly come alive. The soft and hard skills that you choose to describe yourself will be used as a starting point for conversations at an interview stage, so make sure that they reflect what value you can add.

Double check with the job advertisement and consider the company culture that you are applying to – are you painting a picture of someone who would thrive in that environment?

Soft skills. Softer behavioural traits are harder to teach but easier to exaggerate. Most students are adept at creative writing, so give situational examples of these behaviours in your resume document to back up the skills section. Examples of soft skills: managing others, customer service, communication, team work, research, creativity, rapport building.

Hard skills. Filling your no experience resume skill section with quantifiable hard skills such as technical expertise, social media knowledge or industry-specific knowledge will elevate your resume with no experience above the rest. Online courses offer the chance to learn about all sorts of hard skills, and while you might not have had a lot of chances to practice, a theoretical base is a great start. 

How you describe your skill set shows how you perceive your impact.

10 tips on how to make a resume for a first job

There are a few extra tips and tricks that you might consider using to make your resume for a first job. You need to craft it into a compelling document that no employer can resist. Here are a ten bullet points to think about:

  • Mirror the employer’s language from the job description and pass the ATS test.
  • Tell a story of progression – show how your learning has accumulated over time.
  • Link to your social media feeds but only after you have “cleansed” them first.
  • Be factual wherever possible – quantify your achievements where possible.
  • Format the resume professionally – consider using a ready-made resume template.
  • Use different words to repeat your core messages. Repetition is your friend.
  • Edit your no experience resume mercilessly – is every sentence hitting hard enough?
  • Proofread it with extreme care – attention to detail is key for a young professional.
  • Never lie or embellish the truth. You will be found out and you risk losing your job.
  • Include action words where possible and use devices such as bullet points for effect.

Writing a resume for a first job does not have to be a fruitless exercise. If you have a clear vision of where you want to go in your career, you will certainly be able to find enough relevant experience in your previous exploits to demonstrate your potential.

Key takeaways

Crafting a resume with limited work experience requires emphasizing your transferable skills, education, volunteer work, and personal projects. By showcasing your relevant coursework, extracurricular activities, and unique accomplishments, you can demonstrate your potential as a valuable employee. 

Remember to use specific examples and quantify your achievements when possible. Tailor your resume to the job you're applying for, highlighting the most relevant aspects of your background. Although you may have limited work experience, a well-structured, targeted resume will effectively communicate your abilities and potential to prospective employers. They will be hiring you for potential, so give them enough reasons to be curious.

  • Pick enough transferable skills to enable you to make a decent case.
  • Be as specific as possible as to your fit with the role in question.
  • Tell them a story about where this job will lead you next - what is your journey?
  • Be proud about where you want your career to go - everyone starts somewhere.
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