Struggling to write a CV when you have no work experience? Here's what you need to know

The job search can feel like an uphill battle when you don't have any work experience yet. How are you supposed to write a CV when you don't have anything to write about? Well, having no experience for your CV shouldn't stop you from applying for – and successfully landing – your first job. 

How to write a CV with no work experience

Truth is, the candidate with the most experience doesn't always get the job. Recruiters are looking for more than just those work hours, so it's important to use your CV to showcase who you are and why you are a great fit for the role. If you're looking for answers about how to write a no experience CV, here are tips to help you get started:

1. Lead with your skill set

First things first, make sure your CV is tailored to the job you're applying for. This is important. 

If you have no experience, your CV must focus on your soft and hard skills, rather than the experience you don't have. Here's what you should do: 

  • Scan the job posting and pull out all of the relevant skills and qualifications the recruiter is looking for. This could include things like attention to detail, customer service experience, or good time management. 
  • Include hard and soft skills in your skills section. You want to show the hiring manager that you're a well-rounded candidate by including relevant skills that you may have learned and acquired in school, volunteer groups, or outside any formal place of work.
  • Pepper each section with skills. You can include them in your personal statement as well as your CV's dedicated skills section, for example. 

Your goal with a no experience CV is to make sure that the recruiter can see that this is not a generic CV. You want to send the message that you possess the skills relevant to the job posting. While that can be a tall order, leading with your skill set is the smartest move here. You may even want to use a functional CV format to emphasise them.

2. Perfect your personal statement

Your personal statement is the first thing a recruiter will read on your CV, so it needs to be good. Spend time writing three to five lines about yourself, your skills, and what makes you the perfect candidate for the role. Check out our expert-backed advice to get this section right:

  • Keep it short and concise. It shouldn't be a story but a snapshot of what makes you a great employee. Don't overcompensate by writing too much detail here.
  • Be formal and persuasive. This is the only freeform section. You may have no work experience, but your CV can still show off your charming personality.
  • Use action verbs. Include a selection of action verbs in your personal statement. These will catch the reader's attention when reviewing your no experience CV. 

If you're lacking work experience, you can allow your personal statement to do much of the heavy lifting. Be clear about what you are bringing to the table. 

3. Think outside the job

Treat your extra-curricular activities and volunteer work like jobs. Evidence shows that employers are willing to take voluntary experience into account when considering a candidate for a position. Use everything that you have in your arsenal.

Spend time mentally sifting through the last 10 years and think about the times you may have volunteered at a company, conducted charity work, completed mandatory work experience or relevant coursework in high school or at a university – anything that will look good on a CV. It may not have been paid work, but you certainly would have gained some valuable skills doing it. 

The takeaway is simple: whatever experience you happen to have is likely to be valuable to the hiring manager.

4. Leverage your transferable skills

91% of talent professionals agree that soft skills, also called transferable skills, are increasingly becoming more important in the workplace. 

The truth is that most candidates will have these transferable skills. Whether acquired in university, volunteer work, another job or industry, these skills, such as communication, leadership, organisation, and customer service, can be used in any job and remain relevant across the board. 

If you're a candidate with little to no relevant work experience, it's important that you recognise these transferable skills and highlight them in your CV. Take the time to consider what transferable skills you have and how they overlap with the role. It may be worth returning to the original job advert and looking at the skills listed there.

5. Add a cover letter for context

There isn't always room on a CV to go into detail about why you're the best candidate for the job, and this can be problematic if you're lacking in work experience. You need to be able to show the recruiter who you are and what makes you right for the job. Submitting a cover letter with all the essentials alongside your CV is a great way to do this. 

Your cover letter is your chance to showcase your personality and highlight the relevant skills you possess to succeed in the specific role. Remember to keep it professional and concise, and lead with a great opener. Here are some of the things that you may want to include in your cover letter: 

  • The reason you want this job. Why is this job important to you? What career plans do you have in the future? What do you already know about the sector and vacancy?
  • Your enthusiasm. Choose the right, appropriate words that will express your genuine enthusiasm for the role. 
  • Education. Spend some time talking about the education and training that you have under your belt. Where possible, relate this back to the job you're applying for. 
  • Explanations. While you don't want to over-explain your position, it may be helpful to fill in the gaps. Detail why you have any career gaps and what lessons you have learned. 

When you're writing a no experience CV, you don't have much space to make your case. That's why including a cover letter is always the way to go. This simple move could make all of the difference when it comes to whether a hiring manager decides to take your CV forward. 

6. Use the right keywords

The recruiter (or their applicant tracking system) will be scanning your CV for keywords. Usually found in the job posting, these are the specific skills and qualifications relevant to the advertised role. 

It's important to mention these keywords in your CV (assuming you have the right skills), otherwise your CV has little to no chance of passing the ATS. Here's how to do that: 

  • Look at the job posting. If the job advert highlights leadership experience as an essential skill, then make sure your CV includes the keywords “leadership experience.”
  • Choose your words wisely. Streamline your CV so that you speak the same language as the recruiter. Incorporate the same terminology and tone that they use into your CV.
  • Avoid using synonyms. You might think that you're being smart by using synonyms. However, if you want to get past the ATS software, you may need to use the exact same keywords. Often enough, this software is looking for an exact match. 

You don't want to fall at the first hurdle. That's why it's so important to make sure that your no experience CV includes the right keywords for the job. Take the time to review your CV for keywords before you submit it.

7. Showcase your personality

Enthusiasm counts for more than you may think. If you can show your personality and your enthusiasm for a role in your CV, you're already in a stronger position than most candidates. When working on your no experience CV, allow your character to shine through.

You may not have the exact experience the recruiter is looking for, but if you can create a CV that stands out and oozes with personality, you just might get that phone call you've been waiting for. 

Recruiters look for more than just the right work experience related to the job. They're also looking for the right personality to fit with the company culture. Keep this in mind when you're working on your next batch of applications. 

Get hired even with no experience

When it comes to your CV, it's important to think beyond just professional work history. Look at the potential skills, accomplishments, and personal traits that may be desirable to an employer for a particular role. Remember, even with no experience, you can create a CV that works. After all, there's a lot more to you than dates on a piece of paper; it's your job to make sure that the recruiter sees that.

Are you trying to write a CV with no work experience? Submit it for a free CV review today and we'll tell you where you stand.

This article has been originally written by Rikki Wimmer and has been updated by Charlotte Grainger.

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