How to Write a Résumé with No Relevant Experience (Example)

You can still put your best foot forward.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How to Write a Résumé with No Relevant Experience

We will all have times in our careers when we need to consider applying for jobs with little to no experience. Often, this is when we’re starting out in our careers, but also you might be thinking about relocating or changing jobs.

Applying for a job with no relevant experience is challenging, but it can be done. The process starts with a great résumé, and this article will cover what goes into one. We’ll discuss how to write a résumé with no experience, what to focus on, résumé tips, and also a sample résumé for your inspiration.

Should you apply for a job when you have no relevant experience?

There are plenty of valid and perfectly acceptable reasons for applying for jobs when you have no relevant experience.

For starters, if you’re a college graduate or looking for entry-level jobs, then you will likely have no experience at all to share with employers. Secondly, if you’re considering changing careers, then you might also have no relevant experience to share.

In many cases, employers love to hear from candidates with little to no experience. Such candidates can bring fresh perspectives and new ideas. They will often come with a wide variety of transferable skills that can be applied to many different jobs or educational achievements that can be applied to new industries.

Candidates who show a great attitude, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn can bring many benefits to the workplace, and all it takes is to ensure your résumé stands out from the crowd when the time comes to apply.

What should you include in your résumé?

A résumé should never be a list of skills and experience, and when writing a résumé for a job when you have no relevant experience, this is doubly so.

A good résumé starts with a strong personal statement, as this is where you want to grab the hiring manager’s attention and encourage them to keep reading. After this, focus the résumé on transferable skills: abilities that can be used in a variety of settings, such as communication skills, administrative ability, or technical credentials like programming ability or word processing capability.

Also include your academic achievements and qualifications, as these also hold relevance to a wide variety of situations. Talk about coursework and projects, as these can highlight transferable skills too. Also, if you have held volunteering roles or undertaken community work, these can also add an extra dimension to your application.

What’s the best résumé format?

If you have no relevant experience, steer away from a traditional chronological résumé format, which is geared to showcase work history. Instead, consider both functional and combination résumé layouts. Both are well-known and understood by recruiters.

Combination résumés balance soft skills and qualifications with an abbreviated work history section. These are good to use when you have some work history but also want to highlight academic achievements.

Functional résumés focus on categorizing skills, putting them into sections, and explaining how you have used these skills. These résumés are best to use when you have little work experience or are changing careers.

Résumé writing tips when you have no relevant experience

Carefully preparing your résumé is critical when it comes to applying for a job with no experience. Here are 10 tips to help you do just that:

1. Start with a strong objective or summary

The key to any résumé is to pique the reader’s interest.

If you have no relevant experience, then the most important thing to start with is to create an eye-catching personal statement or objective that illustrates why you want the job and what skills, education or achievements mean that you are qualified for it.

Ensure this section is tailored to the job you’re applying for (using keywords from the vacancies or job descriptions), and keep the language punchy and positive.

A good summary section should only be a few lines long. If you feel you want to add more, consider attaching a cover letter to your application as well.

2. Emphasize what you can do, not what you can’t do

When applying for a role with no relevant experience, it’s important to think positively and reference in your application everything that you can bring to the organization.

Avoid using phrases like “Although I have not worked in this field before” or “I might not have the experience you need, but I can…” as this language is passive and presents a negative “you” that might discourage recruiters from considering your application further.

Instead, ensure you reference in your résumé everything that is relevant and transferable to the role, and explain these points positively.

3. Pick and choose what to include

Focusing on what not to include in a résumé is just as important as focusing on what goes into it.

When applying for a job with no relevant experience, sometimes certain elements of a traditional résumé can be left out. This can include specific work experience that is not relevant to the job or even some qualifications that will not be applicable to the role you are applying for.

Certain résumé types, such as functional and combination formats, are structured in such a way to support you in omitting the right information so that your application is laser-focused on the things that will matter and add value to your application.

4. Proofread

When writing a résumé with no relevant experience, it's too easy to focus on the wrong information or go off on a tangent, writing about things that might not matter, just because we think more information is better.

When you have written your résumé, either proofread it yourself the day after you have written it or ask someone with a fresh pair of eyes to go over the document and see whether it makes sense and if it is concise and focuses on the job.

Go through the drafting and proofreading stages a couple of times until you are sure that you have a résumé that isn’t waffling and is highlighting the right things about your credentials.

5. Hire a professional writer

When you’re applying for a role with little to no experience, creating a résumé that will resonate with recruiters is challenging. The role of a professional résumé writer is for them to support you and write a professional modern résumé that is ATS compliant and gives you the best chance of success.

Professional résumé writers can be a great investment. They will meet with you to understand your career needs, and once it's written, you can use it over and over again.

6. Use action verbs

Action verbs can really make your résumé come to life. They are especially useful in functional or combination résumés, as they can make your skills and achievements jump off the page. They also convey experience, even if you don’t have much. Examples of action verbs include “led”, “executed”, “increased”, “managed”, “facilitated” and “analyzed”.

Using a combination of action verbs gives the best impact in a résumé, as does using them to start off bullet points. Make them even more powerful by tailoring them to job descriptions and ensuring you are using them in the same tense throughout the résumé.

7. Emphasize achievements

When writing about your skills and education in your résumé, it's important to make them jump off the page.

Tying achievements into your résumé brings it to life and shows recruiters that you not only have credentials, but you have put these to work as well. You can also talk about your achievements when writing about your extracurricular activities.

Where possible, when adding your achievements into a résumé, relate them to the organization or industry you are applying to for maximum impact. Give particularly important achievements emphasis by highlighting them in your personal statement.

8. Tailor your résumé for each application

Tailoring your résumé for each application ensures that recruiters see the context and reasoning behind your application. This can be done by talking about your motivations, education and skills, and referring to the industry or the job description at the same time.

Similarly, you might want to only include relevant skills or education that are aligned to particular roles.

Tailoring your résumé also ensures it’s ATS friendly. Aligning verbiage to words and phrases in the job description means that the résumé’s information is parsed effectively, making it pass automated screening systems.

9. Emphasize your skills section

When you have little to no relevant experience when applying for a job, your skills section is your best friend. When emphasizing your skills section, bump it to the top of your résumé, under your objective or personal statement.

But don’t just list your skills: explain them, detailing accomplishments and aligning them to the job you’re applying for.

Furthermore, highlight two or three of your strongest or most relevant skills in your personal statement. This drives home to recruiters your competencies and what you are strongest at.

10. Get the formatting right

When applying for a job using a résumé, the document is making your all-important first impression to your potential employer. Therefore, you must ensure it’s professionally laid out and expertly written.

Sure, professional résumé writers can help with this, but expert formatting only requires following a few fundamental rules.

Format your résumé consistently and spell check it too. Make sure the relevant information is meaningful, concise and accurate. Finally, ensure you present yourself positively and professionally in the résumé, as this will make recruiters sit up and take notice of your application.

Résumé example

Below, you will find an example combination résumé for someone with a finance background wanting to work in sales.

Finance Graduate Resume Example

Get the ATS-Friendly template

Final thoughts

When you have little to no experience, a great résumé focuses on all the positive things you can bring to an organization in place of a work history. Typical résumés in this regard are functional or combination-based and will focus heavily on relevant skills and the education section.

Ensure that your résumé is created with care and detail, and tailored to the role you want. Ensure that it positively showcases all that you have to offer, and that everything relevant is included and everything that doesn’t need to be there is minimized or omitted. This will ensure your application is seen as relevant and aligned to the role you are applying for, giving you the best chance of success.

Got a question? Let us know in the comments section below.

Originally published on June 5, 2015.