How to Write a Resume with No Work Experience

The BLS says the US unemployment rate hovered at 3.5% to 4% in the last two years. Despite that, about 8.8% of them are unemployed while 18.3 are underemployed according to a different study from Deloitte.

Although many have bachelor and post-secondary degrees, it doesn’t seem enough to compete in today’s competitive job market.

One way to stand out is by having someone refer you when applying for a job. But that’s not always possible, so we’ll start with the next best thing — a well-written resume.


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How to Write a Resume for the First Time

This article will show you how to write a resume for the first time, including how to list education on resume so it doesn’t get ignored or make you look like someone with no useful work experience. 

1. Structure and Layout

How can you write a resume with no work experience? 

Fresh graduates should put details of their education on the resume below the career objective or summary section. This is pretty much the only difference between the resume of fresh graduates and experienced professionals.

Don’t puff up your resume with hobbies or interests irrelevant to your job. Details of your thesis and dissertation work, however, will boost your credibility so don’t forget to include it in a separate section of your resume. 

2. Resume Summary or Objective

“Determined Graphic Designer looking for a position in a marketing agency…”

Have you seen resumes like this?

It does nothing to put the candidate in a good light. Yes, your objective is to get a job but the recruiter already knows that so don’t waste space stating the obvious. 

Talk about your skills instead. Be clear about the job you want and explain why you’re the right person for the job.

Example:

“Creative English Major looking to apply excellent communication and problem solving skills as Marketing Intern for ABC Creatives. Wrote for the news and sports column of the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s online news portal.”

Yes, the example above still says the applicant is looking for an internship role. It’s still better compared to the generic ask you’ll see in many resumes because it mentions the applicant’s skills and relevant experience on campus.

3. Work History

Sick of job ads that require two years of experience for entry-level work? Everyone is. 

Unfortunately, a survey from Millennial Branding showed that 91% of about 200 employers surveyed expect fresh graduates to have two internships by graduation. 

There’s nothing you can do about this expectation. You just have to make the most of it.

Follow the tips below so you can write a compelling professional narrative that will get any recruiter’s attention.

  • Replace everyday duties with statements about your accomplishments. For instance, instead of writing about your waitressing duties, talk about the strategies you used to get more tips. 
  • Turn vague claims into quantifiable accomplishments. Write about time saved, money earned, percentage increases, or any other numerical value to help employers picture your contributions.
  • Add other details like big names you’ve worked with or project scope. As an intern, you may not be responsible for the success of the whole project but your contributions helped. Use words like “collaborate,” “coordinate,” “partnered,” or “assisted” to describe your contribution to make it clear that you’re not claiming the whole project as your own.
  • Write about your own projects, including what you learned and how it helped others. School projects, especially those with tangible results, like an app you developed, a product you sold, or an event you organized, can show employers that you have experience applying what you learned in school. 
  • Use the Challenge – Action – Results formula when writing the bullets for your job history. Example: “Developed a new procurement tool to minimize product stocking delays by 15%.”

Fresh graduates who don’t know how to write a resume with no work experience might ignore their internships or school projects because they don’t last long or aren’t paid like normal jobs. That’s a big mistake because you need every bit of experience to bolster your credibility for the job. 

Volunteer and extracurricular activities can also beef up your work history. Just make sure you select relevant activities so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to puff up your application needlessly.

4. Select the Right Combination of Hard and Soft Skills

There are two types of skills you can include on your resume: soft skills and hard skills. 

Soft skills are those that can’t be quantified, like leadership, customer service, or time management.  In many cases, these skills are applicable to multiple jobs or industries. 

Hard skills or technical skills, include job specific skills and programs or software required to do the job, such as Photoshop CS6, market research, or video editing.

3 Tips on How to Write Skills on Resume:

  • Don’t just list random skills off the top of your head. Check the job ad for the skills they want and list those that you have on your resume’s skills section.
  • Organize skills according to the main responsibilities of your job to make it easier for the recruiter to scan.
  • There are many strategies on how to list computer skills on resume, it just depends on whether you’re in the tech industry or not. Applicants applying for an IT role will benefit from organizing their skills according to the programming languages they code, systems used, software, programs or operating systems they use, and other tech skills. 

5. Education

Write the name of your school, major, and the year you graduated. List the date you expect to graduate if you’re still in school. Include your coursework and GPA for relevant subjects higher than 3. Mention special honors like Dean’s List or summa cum laude as well. 

Example for Listing Education on Resume

B.S. Finance Relevant Coursework
University of Maryland International Finance
2018 Advance Portfolio Management

Data Modeling

Intermediate Accounting

Some say employers don’t read this section because they’re not interested in an applicant’s academic work. 

Of course, it’s impossible to say for sure if every recruiter thinks this way. Either way, listing education on resume like coursework and academic honors add relevant keywords to your application, especially if the curriculum subjects are listed as required skills on the job. 

These keywords will help your resume surface on the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) companies use to screen online applications. 

Customize Your Resume for the Job You Want

Don’t let lack of experience stop you from going after the jobs you like. 

Everyone has to start somewhere, right? For a fresh graduate or young professional like you, that starts with learning how to write a resume for the first time.

After that, send it with a customized cover letter that describes your main selling points as an applicant. 

Find someone who can refer you to the company. But if you can’t find anyone, a gentle email follow-up is also a good way to make sure the recruiter takes time to read your application. 

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Charley Mendoza
Written By Charley Mendoza
Charley is a freelance copywriter and content marketer specializing in career and entrepreneurship. When she’s not stringing words for her latest copywriting project, you’ll find her trying new recipes, or planning yet another trip.

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