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
- Start with a professional summary
- Emphasize your education
- Include relevant experience like internships and extracurriculars
- Highlight your accomplishments
- Showcase your skills
- Don’t include a headshot, hobbies and other unnecessary details
How to Make a Resume With No Experience
Even if you don’t meet all the requirements described in a job description, there are still ways to write a resume that catches a company’s eye. First, you may want to get your hands on a resume template (word processors like Google Docs and Microsoft Word have resume templates to guide you with a general structure). From there, you can fill in the details by following the tips below.
1. Start With a Professional Summary
Career coaches have mixed opinions on including a short professional summary at the top of your resume. Lesa Edwards, founder of Exclusive Career Coaching and the former director of the career center at Truman State University, 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.
If you decide to include a professional summary, ask yourself: What do I bring to the table? What soft skills could I transfer over to this role? 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.
2. Emphasize Your Education
If you recently graduated from college, put your education experience as one of the first headers on your resume. You should 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, you can bump your education section further down the resume to make room for more relevant professional experiences.
3. Include Relevant Experience and Activities
Instead of focusing on 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.
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.”
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.
If you worked in a service industry job and you are seeking your first professional job after college, you could highlight soft skills, like time management skills needed to juggle school and work responsibilities. Customer service is an especially underrated skill, Silman Chapman said, because it translates 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 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 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 a relevant real-world experience for your resume.
Online certification programs are also a good way to gain professional experience, and 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.
4. Highlight Your Accomplishments
For each experience you list, showcase the results in bullet point format, and look for ways to quantify your results. 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 or how much money you raised while leading fundraising efforts.
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. Just be sure to align these accomplishments with the responsibilities in the job description.
“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,” Edwards said. “So much of it is a shift in mindset of what constitutes an achievement.”
5. Showcase Your Skills
For a skills section, you can include your software proficiencies, as well as soft 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 soft 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.”
6. Don’t Include These Elements
You only have so much space on your resume, so be sure to leave off these unnecessary details.
Don’t include an “objective” statement that lays out what you are looking for in a job. Instead of talking about what you want, use that space to describe what value you can offer the employer.
Hobbies and Interests
While you might think a job is related to your hobbies and interests, Edwards said these are of little practical interest to recruiters and hiring managers. Leave them out of your resume.
A GPA below 3.5 is not likely to win over a company, and a GPA below 3.0 could only hurt your chances. Only include your GPA if it’s above 3.5.
Headshot or Photo
Recruiters and hiring managers don’t need or want to see what you look like. Unless you are applying for an acting job, don’t attach a picture to your resume because it could be potentially used to discriminate against you.
Your Full Address
In the electronic age, there is no need to put your address on your resume. Providing your city and state is typically enough, unless an online application requires your full address.
Don’t employ resume templates with fancy graphics: most companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS), which can’t read resumes that are decorated with graphics, special fonts, columns and other formatting tools.
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.
Do I need a resume if I don't have experience?
Yes, you need a resume when applying for a job, regardless of your experience. Most word processors, like Google Docs and Microsoft Word, offer free resume templates to get you started.