Applying for a job when you don’t have any experience can often feel like a Catch 22. You don’t have any work experience because no one will hire you, and it’s impossible to get work experience because no one will hire you.
If you don’t have any relevant experience don’t worry, you can still demonstrate to employers that you are the perfect candidate by relating any past experience you have to the job. Entry level jobs often don’t require extensive work experience as employers understand that if you’ve just left school or university you wouldn’t have had time to build up your experience. Instead, employers are looking for transferable skills and a willingness to learn. If you’re applying for a job where you don’t have much work experience, make sure you mention the following 7 topics to make your CV stand out.
Coronavirus restrictions have made finding work experience placements harder than usual, find out how you can secure a virtual placement to enhance your CV from the safety of home here.
1. Start With A Personal Statement
Your personal statement should go under your name on your CV and is the first thing potential employers will see so you need to make sure it’s a good one. Your personal statement should be 3-5 lines which summarises your education, core skills and why you’re the perfect candidate for the role. Go through the job description and pluck out the key words and competences required and ensure you mention them in your personal statement. You can discuss these skills in more detail later on.
Learn how to write the perfect personals statement here.
2. Emphasise Your Education History
If you don’t have much work experience, put the education section just below your personal statement. Make sure you add your education history from GCSE level upwards in reverse chronological order with the most recent qualification first. If you’re waiting for results you can put your predicted grades or your mock grades and then put (Expected) after the grade so the employer knows you haven’t got your final results yet. You don’t need to list out your grade in every module or every GCSE, to save space you can summarise and only mention the ones most relevant to the job. For example, instead of listing out all of your GCSEs you can say ‘12 GCSEs A*-C including Maths (A), English (A), and Chemistry (B).’
The education section is also an opportunity to mention any specific modules or projects you’ve worked on such as EPQ or your dissertation that are relevant to the job. For example, if you’re applying for a marketing job, mentioning any marketing classes you’ve taken such as Hospitality Marketing and Consumer Behaviour demonstrates to the employer that you have some knowledge of the industry and are interested in finding out more.
If you had any positions of responsibility at school such as serving as a school prefect, head of house, captain of the hockey team etc. or any achievements such as getting the highest grade in the year make sure you mention them. This will show prospective employers that you’re driven and dependable.
3. Play Up Your Part Time Job
It doesn’t matter if you’ve only had a part time job working at Pizza Express, you’ll have developed lots of transferable skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Whilst employers are looking for candidates with work experience, they understand that not everyone has expensive experience so are interested in the skills you’ve learnt elsewhere that can help you be successful at the job you’re applying to. If you’ve spent any time volunteering treat this like a job and add it to your work experience section.
Describe your duties and give examples of your responsibilities, here you should also mention the important skills you’ve learnt. Bring your CV to life by giving examples of your accomplishments instead of just listing your responsibilities and tasks. For example, saying “Whilst working at Cineworld I consistently won upselling initiatives and achieved the highest sales in my team two years in a row” is far more impressive than simply saying “I worked at Cineworld selling popcorn and tickets”.
You may not think you have any relevant skills but you’d be surprised at the number of sought after skills you’ve developed. For example, If you worked in a typical customer service facing role you’d develop the following transferable skills that can help you in your future work:
- Customer Service
- Problem Solving
- Conflict Resolution
- Time Management
4. Add Your Hobbies & Extra-Curricular Activities
Don’t underestimate the importance of adding extra curricular activities and interests to your CV. Mentioning your hobbies and interests can help you stand out from the crowd and suggest to recruiters you have vital skills that will help with the job.
For example, if you’ve played for a football team for years, a hiring manager will know it’s likely that you work well under pressure, are goal-oriented, committed, and skilled in teamwork, all without you having to explicitly list the skills!
You can also use this section to demonstrate your interest in the industry, and can prove to you want the specific job. For example, if you’re applying for a job in the cosmetics industry and run a beauty blog where you try and compare products, not only are you showing the recruiter you’re enthusiastic about the beauty industry and knowledgeable, but you’re also suggesting that you have writing skills. Employers want employees who are passionate about the industry and eager to learn more.
Whilst there’s nothing wrong with spending your time doing passive hobbies and interests such as watching football or enjoying going to the cinema, these hobbies are extremely common and mentioning them will not help your application. Before you add your hobbies, think about if they make you a more attractive candidate, if they don’t add anything then leave them off your CV.
5. Show Off Your Qualifications and Awards
It’s human nature to downplay your achievements but your CV is not the time to be humble, other applicants will be talking about their successes, so it’s important to mention yours. If two candidates are both lacking in work experience, discussing any qualifications and awards you have will help you stand out over the competition.
In this short section mention any training you’ve completed, any softwares you’re proficient in (e.g. Adobe Suite), your competencies in different languages, and any programmes completed such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award or NCS. If you’ve been trained in softwares or programmes that are mentioned in the job description make sure you emphasise this, and also add it to your personal statement.
6. Tailor Your CV To The Job
If you’re applying for lots of jobs it’s tempting to save time by sending out the same CV to each one, but tailoring your CV to the job increases your chances of being offered an interview. There are sometimes hundreds of applicants for each job role and an easy way to stand out from the crowd is to make sure your CV is exactly what the hiring manager is looking for.
When recruiters look at applications they’ve got a checklist in their heads of required skills and experience, so you need to make sure you’re checking the boxes. Go through the job description and make notes on the key requirements and skills. Then add these keywords to your CV, use the same/similar language as the job description to avoid any doubt. Larger companies often use CV scanning softwares, the computer scans for key words from the job description and dismisses CVs that don’t mention the keywords.
7. Make The Most Of Your Cover Letter
Your CV is focused on telling the recruiter about how your skills and experience make you the perfect candidate, but your cover letter is an opportunity to tell the recruiter why you as a person are the best candidate for the job. Before writing your cover letter, research the industry and the company you’re applying for, think about what specifically attracts you to the role. In your cover letter you can discuss why you’re interested in the job and what you’re specifically interested in. Employers are looking for candidates who are passionate about the industry and have a genuine desire to learn more, your cover letter can demonstrate to the reader that even though you don’t have that much experience this is something you’re really interested in and that you have the necessary skills and willingness to learn.
Discover how to craft the perfect cover letter here