As you prepare to enter the job market for the first time, you may be asking yourself that eternal question: How do I get a job with no experience when many job advertisements specify experience? The surprise answer is that you have more experience than you realise.
Never fear. You can write an excellent CV that will get you that first job and then, you’ll have the experience to update your CV. For now, let’s focus on documenting the attributes you already offer that will make you a desirable candidate in the eyes of recruiters.
Keep reading as this blog will address the following topics:
- What recruiters seek in an entry-level employee
- Playing up the skills and attributes you have now
- The format for a first-job CV
- How to write your profile section.
What recruiters seek in an entry-level employee
No matter where you are in your career, writing a CV is a challenge. Writing a CV with no work experience, simply means that you must assess yourself without the benefit of an employment structure.
The first piece of the puzzle is understanding what recruiters are looking for when they peruse no work experience CVs. Much of what they seek will fall into the category of soft skills, which include interpersonal abilities and work habits.
Here are examples of soft skills for entry-level employees, according to recruitment software developers Wisestep:
- Communication: This includes not just your ability to impart information, but active listening, diplomacy, non-verbal messaging, and written communication.
- Adaptability: It’s not just technology that is constantly changing; it could be the tasks you are asked to accomplish, the environment, or your team. You need to be able to quickly shift gears to accommodate these changes.
- Positive attitude: Saying “yes I can” is much appreciated in the work world. A bad attitude brings the whole office down.
- Goal orientation: Recruiters look for employees who can set goals, break tasks down, and keep their focus on those goals until they are achieved.
- Teamwork: Even if you work remotely, you will not work in complete isolation.
- Work ethic: Your employer wants workers who seek to contribute and that take their work seriously.
- Initiative: Taking initiative means offering assistance, getting out ahead of problems, or suggesting efficiencies.
- Problem-solving: There are few jobs that are completely rote and problems occur. A standout employee can smooth the path with a solution that adds value to the team
- Passion: A love of your work is contagious.
- Creativity: Do you see answers others don’t? Can you brainstorm with the best of them? Your CV will benefit if you can demonstrate this.
This is not to say that you should neglect the hard skills you have learned in school. Every job requires specific knowledge, and your CV will be stronger if you list what you know.
You will choose your top 5-7 attributes for your skills section, making sure you match the skills you list to the requirements of each job for which you apply.
Playing up the skills and attributes you have now
It’s time to assess yourself honestly. You likely have at least some of the soft skills listed above. Do probably have others that we have not yet mentioned. Your first step is to brainstorm a “Master List” of any and all skills and attributes that you have.
Once you have completed that list, go back and think about how you can demonstrate those skills in your CV. Above, we said that you have more experience than you realise.
“CV with no experience” is really a misnomer because you have been working, even if it hasn’t been at a formal job. Answer the following questions:
- Were you a member of an organised club that met regularly? Better yet, were you an officer of the club?
- Did you participate in sports? Were you a captain?
- Have you completed group projects? Were you the point person on any of them?
- Were you a volunteer or did you complete community service hours?
- Do you have a hobby?
- Did you have a casual job such as mowing lawns, babysitting, or pet caring?
All of these activities count when you are writing a CV with no experience. Any or all of these may demonstrate some or all of the soft skills HR personnel look for in an entry-level worker.
The format for a first-job CV
You’ve listed all your skills and can attach them to one of your activities. But how should you format a CV for students with no experience? Typically, CVs include the following sections:
- The CV header
- The CV summary (aka profile or personal statement)
- The employment history section
- The CV skills section
- The education section
Yours will, too, but the emphasis will be different and you may add sections for activities and/or hobbies.
In your case, move your education section to just under your profile. (More on that section next). If you have had a temporary or casual job, list that in your employment history section. If not, convert that into your Activities and Hobbies section. Use that section to illustrate your greatest successes and skills in bullet points. Each should start with a strong action word.
Adding your education to your CV
Your education plays a heavier role on your CV because you have little to no employment history. Here, in order, is how you should list your academic achievements:
- Postgraduate degree
- Undergraduate degree
- A levels (or equivalent)
Your A levels are only relevant before you get your first job. List your best grades first or choose those that are most related to your career choice. List the specific grade only if it is A-C.
GCSEs are also only relevant on a CV for students with no experience. Simply state how many GCSEs you took and summarise your grades.
Your profile section
The profile section of your CV takes on added importance because you don’t have work experience to demonstrate your talents. In this space, you can explain to the company (and you should direct each CV to each company at which you apply) exactly why you deserve a chance.
You may also be able to expand this section from the typical 3-4 lines. We don’t recommend much more than 4-5 sentences, however. Save that for your cover letter.
Here’s an outline you may consider when developing this prose section:
- Introduce yourself with positive descriptors. Example: “Recent university graduate with an honours degree in data analysis and human rights.”
- Describe your greatest success to date. Example: “Earned top honours in the sociology department with my team for our analysis of hunger in the UK and our proposal to mitigate the problem.”
- Tell why you want to work for the company. Example: “Grand Experiment’s mission to raise the standard of living of our most impoverished citizens inspires me.”
- Add a sentence that describes your personality and skills. Example: “I have a can-do attitude and an ability to connect with people by truly listening.”
- Show what you can do for them. Example: “With my combination of data analysis and passion for helping those in need, I can help develop solutions to Britain’s poverty dilemma.”
Because you lack experience, you need to present a strong case for yourself in your profile. This formula applies no matter what type of job you seek.
- You have more skills than you think even if you have never held a formal job.
- HR personnel hiring for entry-level positions are looking mostly for soft skills, although you do need basic knowledge in your field.
- Your clubs, activities, and school projects all demonstrate talents you can demonstrate on your no work experience CV.
- Use your profile to make the case that you deserve a change to enter the working world.