Applying for jobs when you don't have any work experience can be challenging, but we have some tips for you that will make things easier.
Applying for your first few jobs can be tough. You’re entering an already difficult process without experience, which is - frustratingly - something that most open positions will ask for.
Getting your resume up to scratch and ready to show the world can be even more daunting - just what is there to include if you don’t have any work experience?
The answer is plenty, surprisingly enough!
We’re here to help you put your resume together, piece by piece, so that it’s perfect for applying to jobs, even with no experience behind you.
Whether you’re a high school student, college student or recent graduate, we think you’ll find this how-to guide useful for locking down that first role.
And here's something to feel good about: the fact you're looking for resume advice already puts you ahead of a lot of other applicants!
To begin with, here are 10 ideas of what you can add to your resume if you don’t have experience:
- In-depth education section
- Profile / Summary about yourself
- List of all your skills
- List of all the software you can use
- Volunteer experience
- Extra-curricular achievements
- A list of your interests
- Additional certifications
- Personal projects
- Languages you speak
You see? There’s plenty you can do to wow an employer without having past work experience!
Take a look at the resume sample below that shows how you can stand out without experience (excuse the color scheme; we’ve got to stay on brand!)
Now, let’s break down that earlier list and see what you can add to a no-experience resume to make it pop.
1. Taking your education section in-depth
Your resume should always include an education section, but how do you treat it when you’re a teenager or a student without work experience?
Our answer is that you run with it. Instead of just listing the grades you achieved and the areas you studied, talk about what specifically you learned how to do in your studies and what you achieved.
We don’t mean list everything you learned, but you’ll likely be able to draw a few transferable skills from your time in school that could impress an employer.
Remember all the group projects you worked on? We’d say that shows the capability of working in a team. So let’s include it!
Under your most recent period of education, drop some bullet points that highlight your time there. Maybe you were in the top 10% of your class for a semester, or won a coveted award. These are all things worth mentioning when you’re applying for jobs without experience.
Hitmarker High School
September 2015 - September 2017
- Graduated September 2017
- Recognized as an outstanding student in science
- Class President for 2016-2017
- Contributed frequently to group projects
You can go on and add more bullet points than this depending on what your school experience was like - we just wanted to give you an example of the sorts of points you can make. Just remember to think how each bullet point you write relates to the job you’re applying for!
2. Profile / Summary
This section is absolutely key for students and graduates applying to jobs with no experience. It’s your window of opportunity to capture the interest and admiration of the hiring manager by telling them exactly why you’re the perfect candidate for the job.
Typically, your Profile section would be somewhere near the top of your resume, or on the sidebar if you have a design that includes one.
What you should include here is a brief summary of who you are as a professional, even if you’re not working yet. Don’t feel embarrassed of admitting that you’re looking to break into the workplace. Often, companies will appreciate the transparency!
Be sure to address what kind of job you can see yourself working in, why your skills make you a great fit for the kind of jobs you're applying to, and talk about how you can add value to the company you’re applying to. Check out the example below to get an idea of what we mean:
“I am a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkley looking to carve out my dream career in communications. Supported by my degree and a life-long love of language, I’m ready to elevate how people perceive the Hitmarker brand. My excellent command of the English language combined with the easy manner I communicate with makes me the perfect candidate to interact with your clients and users alike. In our digital industry where every mistake is catalogued, I know I can be a great custodian of your brand, and make a real impact from day one.”
The above example is perhaps a little wordier than you might be used to seeing, but we’d encourage you to go fairly in-depth here, at least until you’ve established some more experience to fill your resume.
Bonus point: reference the company by name and how you can benefit them specifically, and you’ll really get their attention!
3. Skills section
Listing out your hard skills is a fantastic way to grab the hiring manager’s attention by showing them that the skills you have match up with what they’re looking for. There’s a few caveats to mention here, though:
When we say “hard skills”, we mean things that are definable. So while it’s great to be a detail-oriented person that is confident, but you wouldn’t list that in the Skills section of a resume.
Instead, list the skills that are relevant to your industry and the job you’re applying for. Here’s a hint if you find yourself stuck: see if you can begin your skills section with a word or phrase from the job you’re applying to. For example, it’s fair to list “Digital Marketing” as a skill if you’re applying for a role as a Marketing Manager!
Secondly, keep this list realistic! If you have 15 different skills on there ranging from contract negotiation to video editing, chances are the hiring manager is going to think that you threw whatever you think they wanted to see on there. Make sure your skills are targeted towards the job you’re applying for.
That means if you’re scoping out a career as a marketing professional, then you might list skills such as:
- Digital Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Telephone Marketing
- Social Media
- Community Management
The hiring manager can then look at these and recognize several of the core responsibilities in the job as being areas you already have expertise in. And that's a big win!
4. Software Proficiency
Here’s a great section to include if you’re applying for jobs that will require you to use lots of different software applications in a given day. If you can show a company that won’t need training in the software they use then that will definitely score in your favor.
Whatever your industry, it’s definitely worth adding a Software Proficiency list to your resume. Here’s what the list of someone looking to work in administration might look like.
- Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint)
- Email Clients
- Scheduling Tools (Calendly, Google Calendar, Doodle)
- Social Media
- Content Management Systems (WordPress, Squarespace)
We’ve gone for 5 types of software here, but that’s not a strict rule you need to keep to. Just be sure not to go overboard and list every piece of software under the sun!
Bonus point: put the software you believe to be most relevant to the job you’re applying for at the top of the list! You can usually find this out by looking at the job description; if software knowledge is required in a job, you'll usually see it in the requirements section of a listing!
5. Volunteer Experience
Just because you don’t get paid for something, doesn’t mean you don’t learn from it!
The industries that we operate in - esports and gaming - both have a lot of volunteer roles for students and junior candidates to build up experience. Other industries will, too, such as helping out at your local sports club.
A fantastic way to pick up volunteer experience is by reaching out in your local community. Speaking to your school and any local businesses or stores that you’re a fan of is a good way to find somewhere where you can spend your time learning in the workplace. The sort of volunteer experience you can pick up depends greatly on the industry and area you want to work in.
If you have volunteer experience, then we’d suggest listing this above your education, and laying it out as you would if it was traditional work experience. Include a job title (that makes it clear you were a volunteer), the company name, the dates you volunteered with them and then a description of what you did in the role, as well as any specifics you learned or achieved while there.
Take a look at this example entry from the perspective of someone volunteering on our website for an idea of how to present volunteer experience (although we don’t take on any volunteers ourselves!)
Volunteer Data Entry Assistant / Hitmarker
January 2019 - April 2019
- Assisted the esports jobs website Hitmarker maintain their databases.
- Worked with large datasets and learned how to quickly navigate around and use a Content Management System.
- Gained a deep understanding of common trends in job posts, and how to define jobs into different sectors.
- This role especially taught me the value of precision and made me value being thorough in everything I do.
6. Extra-curricular achievements
If you’ve picked up any extra-curricular achievements, then showing them off in your resume is a great way to demonstrate how you go above and beyond in everything you do, which is a trait employers love to see in prospective hires!
In the UK, the Duke of Edinburgh awards is something often quoted as fitting in a section like this. Globally, you can lean on achievements picked up in sport, such as captaining a team or placing highly in a tournament. Take a look at our example section below for an idea of how you can present your achievements:
- Captained my high school softball team in the 2016 academic year, ultimately leading us to place 3rd in state championships
- Came in the top 5 of our annual school school science fair in 2013 & 2014
- Founded a gaming club at my school that I presided over and grew to over 20 members
Any achievements from around your community or your hobbies would also be great to place here.
7. Interests / Hobbies
An interests section can be a fun way to add another level of detail to your resume and let some of your personality shine through, too. This isn’t just there to look pretty, either: there are some real benefits to including this section!
Whatever you’re applying to, you can adjust your interests section slightly (so long as it’s still true to yourself!) to play to the role you’re going for. If you’re applying for a job in sports, then watching and playing sports should definitely be on there. If you’re applying for jobs as a chef, then a love for cooking is a no-brainer to include. Certainly in our industry of competitive gaming, we’d be surprised if someone applied for a job with a gaming company or team and didn’t include gaming in their hobbies!
Here’s what the hobbies section of someone applying for a job in gaming might look like:
- PC Gaming
- Board games
- New tech
Ultimately, people want to work with other people they get along with and like, and shared interests is a large factor in this. An employer seeing that you love sci-fi when it’s a popular interest in the office might help endear you to them.
Do you have specialist training in a certain area? If there’s room on your resume, we’d say you should let the hiring manager know!
Whether this comes in the form of medical training, which is mandatory for some jobs, or other certifications in areas like security, they’re well worth listing if you don’t have much work experience.
And get this. If you’re applying in digital industries where you're likely to be working on software that tracks web traffic and advertising, then Google has a whole load of online certifications you can earn by passing tests about their analytics platform, advertising network and more! We see people regularly reference these even with past work experience, so they’re worth looking into if your career path is in a tech-based industry.
If you were applying for a job in marketing, then having a certifications section that looks like this would be a great addition to your application.
Officially certified in the use of:
- Google Analytics
- Google Ads
It doesn’t need to be long, but quickly showing the hiring manager that you took the time to study and pass these online tests is a really strong mark to your character.
9. Personal Projects
In lieu of traditional work experience, you’re certainly able to lean on the skills you’ve picked up from any personal projects you might have.
Bands you’ve been in, blogs you’ve started, YouTube channels you run - if you’ve got anything like this that you actively do now or have done in the past, think about if it can display your skills to an employer.
We’d suggest throwing anything like this into its own section called “Personal Projects”, and speaking about it as if it was a piece of work experience.
Founder of mymusings.com
- Built my own blog on WordPress to write about my travels, my passions and life in general
- Learned how to market content as well as write it to a high standard
- Continued to improve my level of writing through the 30+ blog posts I published there
And hey, you’ll get bonus points if you have a personal project around the area you’re applying in!
Even in jobs that don’t require bilingual proficiency, we’ll often see companies include secondary languages in the Bonus or Nice to Have sections of their job descriptions.
It doesn’t take up much room on your resume to include a small section like what you see below, and is another thing that’s perfect to add in a resume sidebar if yours has one!
- English (Native)
- German (Business-proficiency)
So if you can speak more than one language, be sure to include it (and how well you speak it!) It takes up such little room but can add so much value!
Hopefully with this list you’ll be feeling a lot more confident in applying to jobs with no work experience behind you.
Don’t forget that almost everyone has been at this stage at some point in their life, and the job hunt is bound to get easier for you from here on out!
Just remember that even without past experience, you’ll have picked up lots of valuable skills and experiences through school and through life. Follow our checklist above, think about if you have anything relevant to each of those sections and then include it on your resume.
Wishing you the best of luck out there,
Image credit: DreamHack / Frederike Schmitt