How to Write a CV with No Experience

Fantastic news! You’re ready to enter the workforce and you've found a junior job that doesn’t require years of experience already! This is just what you've been looking for. But how do you write a CV when you don’t have any experience to write about?

Whether you’re a new graduate, or pursuing a career change, a lack of relevant work experience could leave your CV feeling a little sparse. Even entry-level applicants need something to differentiate themselves, so that recruiters can decide who to shortlist. How can you prove that you have what it takes?

Thankfully, you can definitely still put a CV together! Follow this guide to see how…

CV Building Blocks when you have No Experience. 1 - Start with a Personal Statement. 2 - Add a skills section. 3 - Education, include notable modules/coursework/projects/research papers. 4 - Alternatives to Employment History - Volunteering, extracurricular activities, hobbies & interests

1. Start with a personal statement

That little paragraph at the top of your CV, sometimes known as your opening statement, is so much more important for junior candidates. Since you don’t have much evidence to demonstrate what kind of worker you are, recruiters need to make their decision on what kind of worker you promise to be if given a chance. Writing a great personal statement is how you tell them that.

Do not rush this section. And do not use the same statement for every application. Instead, tailor it to the requirements of each role – bonus points for using the same key words that appear in the job ad. For example, if the ad as says you’ll need to manage workload autonomously, don’t say “can work well on my own”, put “can work autonomously”. See how you’re saying the same thing but using their language?

If you’re making a career change, your personal statement is where you can explain why (briefly – you can explain in more detail on your cover letter).

A man sits at a table with a laptop, writing his very first CV

2. Add a skills section

A skills section is generally a good idea on any CV, but is usually kept brief, only highlighting the most impressive ones. On a junior candidate’s CV however, you don’t have to worry about keeping this section short. In fact, this is your opportunity to prove you have all the relevant, transferable skills even without explicit experience.

Split this section into hard and soft skills. i.e. skills or abilities that are teachable and quantifiably measurable, and skills that are more intuitive and subjective. Here are some ideas to get you thinking…

Two boxes. One for hard skills, including Fluent in French, Adobe Illustrator, Fork-lift Trick License, Advanced SEO Certificate, Python, Excel Specialist. And one for Soft skills, including time management, adaptability, willingness to learn, empathy, creative thinking, teamwork.

3. Include notable class projects

As we start to delve into your education history, here’s something that you probably wouldn’t see on a CV with more work experience. But you see, without work experience, you have to draw more upon your education.

If you’re a graduate, your degree might be the best weapon in your arsenal, so you want to make the most of it. Which modules did you choose? Did you do any projects designed to model a work situation? Did you receive any special commendations?

Close up of people's hands as someone hands over their CV

Obviously, you only want to include this if it’s relevant to the job you’re applying to. But, for example, maybe you’re applying for a Civil Engineering position. If so, it is relevant to mention that you took the optional module in Water Resources Management, and your final year project was based on a real-life challenge in dam design. You may not have the practical experience, but you do have the theory and that’s worth something.

4. Make your own sections

A classic mistake people make on CVs is focusing too much on the header ‘Employment History’. This header implies that you can only include experience where you’ve been paid, but there are so many other places you could gain relevant skills.

Graphic showing four alternatives to Employment History on your CV; Volunteering, Extracurricular Activities, Personal Projects, and Hobbies & Interests

If you’re graduate who spent a year as Chair for a student society, and a year before that as Treasurer, you will have developed multiple relevant skills. You’ll have learnt about project management, problem solving, managing people, negotiating disagreements, liaising with external stakeholders, budget management, regulation compliance, and much more!

You can also demonstrate your skills learnt through volunteering, or through personal projects. If you’ve learnt how to use Adobe Illustrator by doing the occasional design work for friends and family – that’s still a great skill to show off!

Don’t save this stuff for the interview. If you don’t include it in your CV, you might not get the chance.

An HR professional looking over several CV applications

How We Can Help

Job hunting is hard at the best of times, never mind when you’re just starting out. Working with a recruiter can help to lighten the load.

Not only will your recruiter help search for jobs, they’ll also be your personal advocate. Your recruiter can speak directly to the employer when recommending you as a candidate, and that personal connection says so much more than a CV can.

Register with us today and our team will help you find your first step on the career ladder!

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