Don’t let lack of experience discourage you from applying for the job you want! If you’re a student, recent graduate, or an entry-level applicant, it’s understandable that your experience might be a bit thin. You may feel that you have a resume with no experience, or very little at all. But, don’t worry. We all have to start from somewhere.
You’re not alone! Lack of relevant experience is a common problem for many people entering the workforce, and for those who want to change career paths. Here’s advice on where to begin to create a more effective resume, especially if you’re starting a resume with no experience.
Where to Start: Your Summary Statement
Make sure there’s a summary statement at the top of your resume, after your header. A summary is made up of two to three sentences that describe who you are and what you can do for an employer. It should also touch on some of the crucial requirements and skills listed in the job ad.
Think of the summary statement as your resume’s “elevator pitch.” It’s a place where you provide a few quick personal/professional details for the recruiter or hiring manager to review before reading your full resume. It’s critical that this section be strong; many hiring managers won’t read a resume in its entirety if the summary doesn’t speak to their needs (more particularly, the position’s needs). This is one of the best places in your resume to brand yourself. This section is especially helpful if you’re starting with a resume with no experience, because a strong summary can help you go far with standing out in the crowd.
Since you lack heavy-duty work experience, you may want to use the summary to highlight your skills and education. Here’s an example:
Recent graduate with Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering. Excellent research, time management, and problem-solving skills. Highly organized with the ability to manage multiple projects and consistently meet deadlines. Seeking a project management opportunity where I can use my expertise to communicate effectively across organizations, and increase project efficiency.
Which Skills to Include in Your Summary
From the example above, you will notice that there are several skills listed. Which skills should you include in your resume with no experience? The answer is simple. Print out a copy of the job description or job posting. In the qualifications section of the job description, you’ll find a list of skills that the employer is seeking. Use a highlighter to highlight the skills they’re looking for that you can provide.
If you’re not responding to a specific job posting or don’t quite know exactly what job you want, then take a few minutes to search job postings online. Look at two to three job descriptions for some jobs in industries you are considering, and make a list of the common skills that appear in these postings.
Make sure your summary includes the skills the hiring manager has included in the job description. Of course, it’s important to list only the skills that you 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 may want to look for other job opportunities that are a better fit.
Including the same skills an employer is looking for in your summary will give you the best chances of impressing the recruiter/hiring manager. If you have the same skills already included in your resume (but with different language), customize the wording to match the job description.
PS: If you think you’re going to need an extra helping hand creating a resume with no experience, check out LiveCareer’s Resume Builder.
Tackling the Experience Section
For entry-level candidates, the Experience section can sometimes be the biggest challenge. After all, yours is a resume with no experience! This isn’t entirely true, however—more on that soon. What you want to avoid is having an experience section that is almost empty, or one that is filled with experience that’s not relevant to your targeted 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 experiences under these skill headings. Here's an example:
1) Developed and conducted surveys to measure current attitudes towards personal financial planning
2) Evaluated reliability of online and offline information sources for inclusion in research study
Time Management Skills
1) Met weekly editorial deadlines as Sports Editor for university newspaper
2) Managed detailed project plan to coordinate activities among team members for final group presentations
If you’re starting with a resume with no experience, you may want to include coursework, class projects, volunteer work, or extracurricular activities that are related to your target job. While these may not be paid work experiences, they are still valid experiences that you can include on your resume.
For each position, you’ll want to include your job title and company name. If you’re including unpaid experience, create a job title that reflects what you did (such as “Intern” or “Volunteer”) and then list the organization name where the company name would typically be. You’ll want to also describe what you did for each position, and the dates that you worked there.
PS: If you’re curious to see what a resume with no experience typically looks like, check out these no experience resume samples.
Adding Your Skills
A very important part of your resume is the Skills section. This section is a great place to highlight your technical skills and expertise. It’s also a perfect place to list out various computer programs you have experience with. Be specific with your skills. For example, if you’re a social media expert, be sure to also list the various social media sites you have expertise in. Don’t assume the hiring manager will know every technology you’ve used.
If you have a resume with no experience, the secret to writing an effective resume is to emphasize your strengths and skills. For students, recent graduates, or entry-level candidates, look beyond the traditional format to find a way to highlight the strengths you bring to an organization. In other words, don’t get hung up on where you fall short. Focus on what you bring to the table.
For help with your education section, check out this article. And consider LiveCareer for additional help with job applications! Our Cover Letter Builder offers users top-to-bottom guidance on how to create the perfect accompanying document to your resume.