How to Write a CV Without Work Experience
Have you just completed your education or your studies? Then, it is likely that you have little or no work experience to mention on your CV. However, is it actually possible to create a CV without work experience? You may be surprised to hear that the answer is yes. As a new entrant to the job market, you can still create an effective CV that will grab the attention of recruiters. We’ll show you how with these 11 tips.
Despite popular belief, it isn’t always the candidate with the most experience that gets the job. Recruiters are looking for a mix of experience, skills, and personal qualities; while you may have little to no work experience, you can still sell yourself through your education, skills, internships and other activities.
There are also ways to structure your CV so that the focus is on your skills rather than on your work experience.
Make the most of your personal profile or statement
If you don't have any work experience to include on your CV, it’s recommended that you include a personal profile or personal statement. This is a short, introductory statement of four or five lines where you introduce yourself to recruiters and give them a brief overview of your background.
As your personal statement is the first thing recruiters will read, it’s important to emphasise your skills and show recruiters what you have to offer.
Rather than using bullet points, write in ‘I’ statements to showcase the skills and qualities that make you unique to other candidates.
Tailor your CV
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a recent graduate, the same piece of advice applies to all CVs: tailor, tailor, tailor!
Recruiters and employers don’t want to see just any work experience on your CV – they want to see relevant experience. Tailoring your CV shows employers that you understand the requirements of the position.
A good place to start is by reading the description carefully and picking out keywords and phrases that you can sprinkle throughout your CV.
Most candidates spend no more than 76.7 seconds reading job descriptions! If you read each and every line, you already have a head start over other candidates. Pay attention to the language used. This gives you an indication as to whether requirements are rigid or set in stone. For example, if an employer specifies ‘2 years of experience minimum’, you’ll know that this is non-negotiable. If, on the other hand, their wording is ‘2 years of experience desired’, you can be sure that there’s a little leeway in their requirements.
Using keywords from the job description also makes it easy for ATS software to scan your CV which, in turn, increases your chances of getting through to the next stage.
Write a targeted education section
You may lack work experience, but you will have knowledge and this is what you need to show employers in the ‘Education’ section of your CV.
Instead of just listing the name of your course or degree and your institution, mention any specialised courses or seminars that have helped you develop your understanding of a topic.
You could also mention project work or occasions where you delivered presentations as these demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge.
Include a skills summary section
Include a ‘Skills Summary’ section to your CV which includes a mix of hard skills (specific to the knob or industry) and soft skills (personal traits).
This makes it easy for recruiters to determine whether you’re a good fit for the role and organisation.
Hard skills generally include technical skills or knowledge that you’ve picked up in education or volunteering, internships, etc.
Soft skills are personal traits which can be applied in any job or industry, for example, communication, problem-solving or leadership skills.
Consider a skills-based format
With a skills-based or functional CV, you draw attention away from your lack of experience and place the focus on your skills, abilities and achievements. As your skills are organised by headings, recruiters can immediately see what you have to offer.
Under each skill heading, add examples of situations where you acquired the skill to give a more detailed picture.
List your internships
All work experience, whether paid or unpaid, is valuable experience. In fact, listing your internships on your CV could make the difference between your CV being overlooked or getting called for an interview.
According to research, 91% of employers prefer candidates to have work experience. Even if some of your tasks included fetching the coffee or the daily newspaper, internships provide ‘official’ work experience and proof that you developed your skills in a professional environment.
You can choose whether you list your internships in an 'Internships' section or in the 'Work experience' section.
Include your achievements
A great way to impress recruiters and employers is to include your achievements in your CV. Achievements prove that you’ve made a tangible impact somewhere.
Perhaps you won a prize for a project you managed at university or you helped organise an important school event? What about fundraising for charity or keeping a personal blog? These are just some of the achievements you can mention in your CV. You can either include these in a separate ‘Achievements’ section or work them into your personal statement and other sections of your CV.
A tip to keep in mind when writing about achievements is to think about the quantifiable results you achieved when carrying out an activity. For example, if you kept a personal blog, how many readers did you attract?
Include volunteering experience
You may not think it, but your volunteering experience could put you ahead of the pack. According to research conducted by Deloitte, 82% of hiring managers are more likely to choose a candidate with volunteering experience.
Alongside experience, employers want candidates who share the same values (e.g. care for the community, growth mindset and initiative) and interests as their teams. If you can show this through your volunteering activities, whether it’s fundraising, care work or helping out in a soup kitchen, you’ll stand a great chance of landing an interview.
List your extracurricular activities
Employers are not just interested in your education; they also want to know if you spent time outside of your studies developing your skills.
If you participated in the many clubs, associations or sports teams on offer at most universities and colleges, you’ll probably have gained a whole host of skills such as leadership, teamwork, public speaking, planning, etc. which you can include in your CV.
Extracurricular activities can include a wide range of activities including team sports, student mentoring, arts clubs, debating societies and volunteering.
A word of warning about mentioning political and religious affiliations on your CV: while your personal beliefs are part of your identity, you never know how a recruiter may take this information. Therefore, it’s best to leave off activities that might lead to discrimination, however unfair that might seem.
Mention your hobbies and interests
Your hobbies and interests say a lot about you and your personality as well as displaying a wide range of skills. Do you like solving puzzles? Then it shows that you have an analytical mind. What about travelling? Then, you’re probably more outgoing and adventurous. If you play a lot of sports in your free time, you’re likely to enjoy working in teams.
When adding an activity to your CV, ask yourself how it adds value to your application and whether it fits with the image you’re trying to convey. If you’re applying for a position as a banker, it’s probably best not to mention that you enjoy listening to heavy metal music.
Experiment with the layout
Try playing around with the layout to see what works best for you. You may find it beneficial to place the ‘Education’ and ‘Skills Summary’ sections first, depending on where you want to draw attention.
As recruiters spend seconds scanning CVs, it’s important to include the most important information at the top of your CV, where possible.
You can also make use of headings, bullet points and white space to ‘pad out’ your CV. However, be careful not to increase the font size too much if using a font such as Arial, Trebuchet or Verdana as this can make text look out of proportion.
Everyone started off, at one stage, without any experience. If you can show recruiters that you’ve gained the necessary skills through other activities, you’re in with a stronger chance than you think.
Personality and enthusiasm can also go a long way towards making up for lack of experience. At the end of the day, employers are looking to hire well-rounded people and not just candidates who have the right dates on a piece of paper.