No Experience? Here's the Perfect Resume

By Barbara Mason

Don't let lack of experience discourage you from applying for the job you want! If you are a student, recent graduate or entry-level applicant, it is understandable that your experience might be a bit thin.

Lack of relevant experience is a common problem for many people entering the workforce or even changing careers. Here's advice from professional resume writers on how to create an effective resume, even if you don't have a lot of experience.

Where to Start: Your Summary
Make sure there's a Summary section at the top of your resume. A Summary is made up of 2-3 sentences that describe who you are and what you can do for an employer. It is your resume's “elevator pitch”. Since you lack experience, you will want to highlight your skills and education in your summary.

Here's an example:

Summary
Recent graduate with BA in economics. Excellent research, time management and problem solving skills. Highly organized with the ability to manage multiple projects and consistently meet deadlines.

Which Skills to Include in Your Summary

From the example above, you might notice that there are several skills listed. Which skills should you include? The answer is simple. Look at the job description or ad. In the qualifications section of the job description or ad, you'll find a list of skills that the employer is seeking.

If you're not responding to a specific ad or don't quite know exactly what job you want, then take a few minutes to search job boards online. Look at 2-3 job ads for some jobs in industries you are considering and make a list of the common skills that appear in these ads.

Make sure that your summary includes the skills that they have listed. Of course, only list skills that you actually have. If you don't have all the skills, then only include the ones you do have. If you don't have any of the skills listed, you probably should think twice about applying to the position.

Having the exact same skills an employer is looking for displayed at the top of your resume, will give you the best chance of getting noticed by the recruiter.

Tackling the Dreaded Experience Section

For entry-level candidates, the experience section is probably the biggest challenge. What you want to avoid is having an Experience section that is almost empty or one that is filled with experience, like summer waitressing jobs, that are not relevant to your target position.

The approach that most experts recommend for candidates that lack experience is to focus, again, on your skills. Refer to the job description or emphasize the same skills that you mention in your Summary. Then, group your experience under these skill headings.

Here's an example:

Research Skills

  • Developed and conducted surveys to measure current attitudes towards personal financial planning.
  • Evaluated reliability of online and offline information sources for inclusion in research study.

Time Management Skills

  • Met weekly editorial deadlines as Sports Editor for university newspaper.
  • Managed detailed project plan to coordinate activities among team members for final group presentations.

Since you may not have a lot of experience, it is important to include coursework, class projects, volunteer work or extracurricular activities that are related to your target job. While these may not be paid experiences, they are still valid experiences that you can list in your resume.

You'll notice that company names and job titles are not mentioned here. That's because these will be listed later under Work History. A resume that is structured this way, where the experience is listed under skill or “functional” headings is called a Functional Resume.

Work History 
Since employers inevitably want to see dates and positions, include this information in the Work History section. You've already described your experience, so you don't need to describe what you did in each position.

Also include any internships or volunteer positions that lasted 3 months or more. If you do not have any work experience at all, then leave this section off.

If you lack experience, the secret to writing an effective resume is to emphasize your skills. For students, recent graduates or entry-level candidates, a functional resume more powerfully showcases your skills and highlights your true potential as an employee.

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No Experience? Here's the Perfect Resume

Advice from professional resume writers on how to create an effective resume even if you don't have a lot of experience.

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