Making a resume early in your career feels like a classic catch-22: A good resume highlights relevant work experience, which you don’t get until you land a job.
The truth is you don’t always need professional experience for entry-level jobs. By highlighting your existing skills, coursework and extracurricular activities, you can craft a resume that will impress employers — even without work experience.
Writing a resume with no experience
Even if you lack professional experience, you likely have plenty of other applicable experiences that you can tap into for your resume. You can highlight your education, skills, internships, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, volunteering experiences and school projects.
How to Write a Resume With No Experience
The job descriptions you come across are probably loaded with required credentials you don’t have and job responsibilities you’ve never done. There are ways around it, though.
Consider the Full Breadth of Your Experiences
Instead of focusing on all the requirements you don’t meet, think about any transferable skills or experiences you might have gained from internships, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, volunteering or school projects. The more diverse the experiences, the better.
Jill Silman Chapman, director of early talent programs at Insperity, said she favors candidates who have a well-rounded set of experiences. It shows they are able to multitask, work in different types of environments and adapt to changing circumstances.
“In today’s workplace, we’re changing all the time,” she said. “That ability to adapt is critical.”
Define Your Accomplishments in Each Role
For each experience you list, mention what you accomplished. Showcase the results, and list them in bullet points. These accomplishments don’t need to be groundbreaking. But you might have to reflect deeply and think creatively to recognize and articulate the value you provided in each role.
“Sometimes I think the hardest thing for students is to think of an achievement, because they think it has to be a super big deal,” said Lesa Edwards, founder of Exclusive Career Coaching and the former director of the career center at Truman State University. “So much of it is a shift in mindset of what constitutes an achievement.”
Imagine holding up a magnifying glass to each activity or project on your resume, Edwards said. If you took an action that demonstrated leadership or made an impact, that’s worth noting as an accomplishment. Most recent graduates make the mistake of simply listing their job duties without explaining why they stood out on the job, she said.
Quantify Your Accomplishments
Quantify your impact through metrics, if possible. For example, don’t just rattle off what you did as president of a school organization, highlight how many new members joined during your tenure. Position those accomplishments in a way that aligns with the responsibilities in the description of the job for which you are applying.
What to Include on Your Resume
Career coaches have mixed opinions on including a short professional summary at the top of your resume. Edwards is in favor of a professional summary because it can set the stage and contextualize the experiences that follow. It also allows you to set yourself apart in a large stack of resumes. When writing your professional summary, ask yourself: What do I bring to the table? What do I have that other candidates don’t have? If written well, this two-to-three-sentence summary could encourage recruiters and hiring managers to take a closer look at your resume and cover letter.
Here’s an example:
Recent college graduate with customer service experience that has supported revenue growth by organizing a campus fundraising event and researching sales prospects through an internship with ABC Company. Resourceful self-starter with a track record of doing whatever it takes to support sales teams in achieving growth goals.
If you recently graduated from college, put your education experience as one of the first headers on your resume. You should also list your major, any academic honors and your GPA (if it is 3.5 or higher). The education section of your resume can also include a subsection for industry-relevant certifications. As your career progresses, the education section will be bumped further down the resume to make room for relevant professional experiences.
A skills section is a good way to make up for a lack of professional experience. This section might include your software proficiencies, as well as softer skills like organization, time management, communication, adaptability to change and the ability to work as part of a team. If you are going to highlight those skills, though, you should also include evidence of a role or situation in which you demonstrated those skills.
“It may not be numbers, dollars or percentages,” Edwards said, “but maybe you could talk about how you took a leadership role in a class project that was presented to a community organization.”
Even if you do not have much of a work history, you likely have plenty of other applicable experiences that you could tap into for this section of your resume.
Internships are the best way to gain relevant work experience before entering the professional world. They offer an opportunity to apply the lessons you’ve learned in the classroom in real world situations and hopefully add some accomplishments to your resume. Internship programs typically assign a mentor or advisor that can teach you how to tackle issues that come up on the job.
If you worked in a service industry job and you are seeking your first professional job after college, you could highlight the time management skills needed to juggle school and work responsibilities. Customer service is an especially underrated skill, Silman Chapman said, because those translate to customer-facing roles and interpersonal skills within the workplace.
This could include student government, fraternities and sororities or any number of campus organizations or community activities. Athletics is also a resume-booster in some industries, especially sales and other professions that tap into a competitive spirit. You might also might note if you were an Eagle Scout, helped out at a peer tutoring program or volunteered your time in other ways that show you are engaged in your community.
Projects you worked on as part of a class or online certification program can also be incorporated into your resume. This could include, for instance, your marketing class working on a semester-long campaign that culminated in a big presentation. If your class partnered with a company on a large project, that could be relevant real-world experience for your resume.
Online certification programs are also a good way to gain professional experience, show initiative and demonstrate your interest in a given field. These programs often provide a chance to apply your learnings to a project, which can then be highlighted on your resume, said Karen Scully-Clemmons, assistant director of career services and employer relations at the University of Texas at Austin. You’ll want to detail what you accomplished, what technologies you used and what you learned. If possible, you should also link to your project on your resume.
What Not to Include on Your Resume
While a professional summary (discussed above) could help a hiring manager place your experience into context of the role, experts advise against an “objective” statement that lays out what you are looking for in a job. These statements typically include flowery verbiage that is not valuable to the recruiter. Instead of talking about what you want, use that space to describe what value you can offer the employer.
Hobbies and Interests
Experts have mixed opinions on including overly personal information like hobbies and interests. While you could argue that this might humanize the applicant, Edwards said it is of little practical interest to recruiters and hiring managers. It’s probably best to leave it out.
You may be looking for extra items to fill out your barebones resume, but including a GPA below 3.5 is not likely to win over a company. If it’s below 3.0, it could only hurt your chances.
Headshot or Photo
You might be proud of your haircut and outfit, but recruiters and hiring managers don’t need or want to see what you look like. Unless you are applying for an acting job, pictures are not used on resumes, because they could be potentially used to discriminate against candidates.
Your Full Address
In the electronic age, there is no need to put your address on your resume — although an employer might still ask for your address in their online application process. If you are applying for a local job, you may want to put your city and state, but putting your specific address on the resume could cause an employer to judge you by your neighborhood. If you are applying for jobs in other areas of the country, including your current address might limit your chances of being hired.
The internet is chock-full of resume templates with fancy graphics and fonts. Before you start picking out your favorite colors and designs, you should know that those heavily formatted templates might not make it to the hiring manager. That’s because most companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS), a technology tool that sifts out resumes that don’t match the keywords in the job description. These ATS readers cannot interpret graphics, special fonts, columns and other special formatting tools. (If you are wondering if your resume can be read by an applicant tracking system, you can convert it to a .txt file and see how it turns out. You can also run it through ATS resume scanners like JobScan.)
Example of Resume With No Experience
Below is a sample resume for you to take inspiration from as you get started.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I put on my resume if I have no experience?
In lieu of professional experience, you could highlight your education, skills, internships, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, volunteering experiences and school projects.
How to write a professional summary for a resume with no experience?
A well-written professional summary will draw upon the experience you’ve gained from school, internships and other extracurricular activities to demonstrate the impact you have made and the value you would bring to your desired role.
How do you say you have no experience but are willing to learn?
Employers are often willing to train entry-level candidates who have shown initiative and a hard work ethic in school, internships and extracurricular activities. You can emphasize your willingness to learn through your professional summary statement on the top of your resume or through the cover letter that accompanies the resume.