How to Write First Resume with No Work Experience? [Examples]

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How to Write First Resume with No Work Experience? [Examples]

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Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

Joanna Ryś

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So you’re about to get your first job — what an exciting time! This is it: the moment when all of the education you’ve put so much work into getting is finally going to be put to use. And then you’ll be able to finally get your very own place, maybe that car you’ve been eyeing but couldn’t afford as a broke college student 😄 Now all you have to do is make that first, all-important leap onto the job market. But first — write your first job resume!

And that’s where things get a little tricky. Because it turns out that everyone wants you to have experience. Even though you’ve never had a job. Yeah, you read that right. And you know what you need to have had to have experience? A job. And what do you need to get a job. Experience

Ay ay ay. Talk about a vicious circle. 

And how does one even go about writing a resume anyway?
How should it look?
What should you include?
What should you skip?

So many questions!

Luckily, you don’t have to get through this alone — I have all the information you need to write a great first resume right here. 

If this isn’t your first run around the block and you’re looking to find ANOTHER job, not a FIRST job, check out my detailed guide on how to write a great resume here.

But if this is in fact your first ever resume and you need some help writing it, you’ve come to the right place — let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work! 😄

Picking the right resume format

By format, I mean layout — what goes where, which order you list things in.
There are 3 main resume formats:

  1. the reverse-chronological format
  2. the functional format
  3. the combination, or hybrid format

Each of these is best-suited to a different type of candidate, with a different work history. You will want to go with the reverse-chronological format, a recruiter favorite.

This means you will be listing your education starting with the most recent, then moving on to the education you got before that, and so on. 

No need to mention anything earlier than high school, and that’s only if you are in high school. If not, your higher education alone will do.

Picking the right resume format

Resume sections

So, now that we’ve picked a general layout, let’s get down to the specific sections your resume should contain. 

Header

The header is the first thing a recruiter will see when they look at your resume, so you need to make sure it is informative and organized.

A resume header section includes the following:

  • Your name and surname
  • Your phone number
  • Your email address
  • Links to LinkedIn profile and/or website
  • Your resume objective statement

You should have a professional-sounding email address made up of your name and surname and perhaps a number or two. Sending your resume from an infantile email address like “dandaman@hotmail.com will probably cause the recruiter to click Delete so fast your head would spin. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to act seriously. Sorry not sorry.

Make sure your your website looks relatively neat and professional before sharing it with the recruiter — better you not mention you have a website at all than subject the recruiter to those terrible emo poems you wrote after that middle school breakup in 2013.

Typically, candidates get to choose whether they would like to write a resume objective statement or a career summary. But you don’t have much of a career to summarize 😄 Not yet, anyway. That’s why an effective resume statement is probably your best bet. 

And what is that, you ask?

A resume objective statement is, as the name itself suggests, a few-sentence-long blurb you should put at the top of your resume, just below the header, telling the recruiter a bit about your plans and ambitions concerning the position you are applying for. 

In a resume like yours, it should include information on your field of study, as well as a few key skills and experiences that could be relevant to the position you are applying for. Add a sentence about why you want to work for the company and you’re home!

Not sure how to write an attention-grabbing resume objective statement? No problem. As ever, check out my guide and learn!

Education 

This section is going to be one of your strongest points, so make it shine!

As I mentioned before, you will be listing the educational institutions you have attended in reverse-chronological order, so starting with the most recent one and then moving to the more distant ones.

Make sure to include:

  • the name of the college or university
  • the years you attended
  • what degree you received
  • any honors you received, i.e. summa cum laude, or your GPA, granted there is something to brag about 😄

Experience 

Yes, I know we have already established that you don’t really have any experience. At least, not work experience. But luckily for you, that is not the only experience that can count.

Take a look at the list below to see what you can substitute for work experience.
Things are shaping up!

  • Internships
    Aren’t internships work experience? They sure are! And they are definitely worth mentioning. If you have done many, mention the ones that are the most relevant to the company you are applying at.
  • Extracurricular activities
    Were you head of a student organization, por maybe you helped plan events in your local area? This is information that could come in very handy for a recruiter who is looking for someone with good organizational skills. In general, if anything you did outside of class was at all potentially relevant to the position you are applying for, bring it up!
  • Volunteering experience
    Not only does doing volunteer work say a lot of good things about you as a person, you likely picked up some skills along the way. All in all, listing volunteering experience in lieu of work experience is gets a big YES from me.

Skills

The skills that someone can have are virtually innumerable, so I’m not going to get into describing them one by one — after all, you know best what skills you have

Skills

But I will tell a little bit about the 2 most basic groups skills are divided into on the job market, and these are:

  • hard skills and
  • soft skills.

Both are equally important, and both are required in almost any modern workplace.
So what are they? 

Hard skills

Hard skills are teachable, measurable skills that you can prove you have with some sort of diploma or official qualification. Not to be confused with STEM-related skills, hard skills can range from writing computer code to mixing drinks to linguistic proficiency, say B2-level Spanish or Chinese. In short, hard skills are the technical abilities required for a certain job.

So, before listing your skills, make a list of every certificate and qualification you have, because each of them proves you possess a specific hard skill. 

Soft skills

Soft skills, on the other hand, are not specific or unique to any job.
They include:

  • teamwork and communication skills, as well as things like
  • etiquette, creativity, adaptability and work ethic.

As such, soft skills are in many ways more complex than hard skills, or at least harder to put your finger on — they are often simply part of someone’s personality. 

Soft skills are also highly transferable, meaning they are useful in almost any work environment.

So if you think you don’t need to worry about soft skills because you are, say, a programmer, think again — the modern workplace is built on teamwork, with international team members often residing in different parts of the world.

Being able to have good relationships with your fellow team members is key to both your and your employer’s success!

Listing your skills can be tricky — I mean, it’s hard to assess yourself, right? If you’re having any problems, click this link for a step-by-step guide I wrote on how to list your skills properly.

Optional sections to add extra oomph

If there is anything else that could potentially be relevant to your candidacy, feel free to add another section.

A Languages section is a good example of this — if you speak more than 1 FOREIGN language, consider listing the languages you speak in their own separate section. 

Spanish, German and Japanese, all on a communicative level?
That is impressive, and definitely something worth highlighting.

Resume example

Okay, that’s enough theory for now. Here’s an example of what your resume could look like:

Maryanne Washington 
18 Sunnyside Boulevard 
Columbus, OH 16543 
mwashington@gmail.com 
231-778-1289  
https://www.linkedin.com/in/maryanne-washington


Ambitious and hardworking Business Management student looking to apply for the role of Secretary at XYZ Inc. Extremely organized with good multitasking skills. Practical experience in management gained through coordinating various charity activities. Looking to expand my knowledge of office work in the well-known and trusted company that is XYZ.

EDUCATION  
The Ohio State University
Sept 2017 — Present
Business Management studies
3.6 GPA
Arlington High School, Arlington, NY 
CLASS OF 2017

EXPERIENCE  
Babysitter — Ashville, OH 
JUNE 2015 — AUGUST 2017 
Provided child care for several families after school, weekends, and during school vacations.  
 
Soup Kitchen Volunteer — Ashville, OH
SEPTEMBER 2016 — PRESENT  
Act as weekend/holiday volunteer manager at local soup kitchen, scheduling volunteer time slots, managing intake of donated food, and assisting with preparation and distribution of meals on Sundays and holidays including, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

SKILLS    
Planning
Delegation                                               
Customer service 
Teamwork  
Conflict resolution                                
Hospitality                                   
Microsoft Office    
Spanish (communicative in speech and writing)

AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS  
Vice-President of Ohio State LGBTQ+ Allies
Honor Roll 
President of high school Volunteer Club        

Formatting your resume

A chaotic resume written using several different fonts of varying sizes and filled with random bolding is exhausting to look at, much less skim for useful information.

Do both yourself and the recruiter a favor by formatting your resume properly, and by properly I mean:

  • A clear, aesthetically-pleasing font such as Calibri, Verdana or Helvetica
  • A 12pt font, with 14pt or 16pt for heading specific sections
  • Even, 1-inch margins 
  • Single or 1.15 spacing 

Believe it or not, following these short, simple steps is all you really need to keep your resume looking crisp.

Formatting your resume

Make sure to use the same formatting when writing your cover letter as well.
The human brain loves symmetry, so use that to your advantage!

If you’d like to know more about how to format your resume and cover letter to keep the recruiter from going cross-eyed, check out my guides here:
👉 3 Best Resume Formats for 2020
👉 Cover Letter Format: Best Layout Tips for All Job Seekers

The cover letter

Whew, so your resume is actually looking pretty good, all things considered, am I right or am I right? Now all you need is a great cover letter and you’re good to go!

What is a cover letter, you ask?

A cover letter is a letter you should be sending off with every resume, unless the job offer explicitly states the company does not want one. 

As you’ve likely noticed while working on your resume for the last little while, all a resume really is is a list of the places you have studied and worked.

A cover letter, on the other hand, is a one-page letter that lets you showcase your personality a little more and helps the recruiter get to know you as a candidate.

Under no circumstances should a resume just be a rehash of your resume — the recruiter has already presumably read your resume; don’t waste their time by making them do the exact same thing again.

A good cover letter demonstrates how who you are will benefit the company.

And that brings me to another important point: you should be sending a tailored cover letter to every company you are applying at — none of this one-size-fits all stuff.

Sending the exact same cover letter over and over again shows that you couldn’t be bothered putting in a little extra effort to find out more about the company and its needs.

The cover letter

A who will hire a person who doesn’t care either way about who they work for?

Now, to the point. How should you go about writing a cover letter?
Check out my cover letter guide here to find out all you need to know to introduce yourself to the recruiter in style.

Do’s and Don’ts

Take a look at this quick checklist to make sure you’ve got the little things right, too.

Do:

  • Run a spell check.
    A little effort can go a long way! How simple is it to run a spell check, no matter what word processor you are using. A typo-free resume looks a hundred times more professional!
  • Have someone you trust read through it.
    This is not quite the same thing as a spell check. I mean, a computer can underline misspelled words, but it can’t (yet!) tell you whether you are being clear about what you mean or in general making sense. Giving your resume to someone else to read might help you spot phrasing that needs to be worked on.
  • Save your resume in PDF format.
    Unless the job offer explicitly asks for another for mat, use PDF. This is to make sure your resume looks the way you intended it, no matter the program or device used to open it. Don’t let all that harde formatting work go to waste!
  • Scan the job offer for useful keywords
    Don’t just guess what the recruiter wants! Read the job offer to see what keywords have been used so you can use them in your resume objective statement.

Don’t:

  • Make your resume objective statement a mini-cover letter
    This is not what a resume objective statement is supposed to be. This means you should never start it with anything like, “Dear Hiring Manager”, as all that does is show that you have little idea what you are doing.
  • Make it too long
    Granted, seeing as how this is your first resume ever, you may not have all that much to write down. But just in case you took part in every extracurricular activity in the book, keep in mind that a resume should be 2 pages long TOPS.
  • Lie
    It might seem tempting to fib a little, pretend that you have had a job before, just to avoid admitting you haven’t. Contrary to what you might be hoping, though, this will not help you. In fact, it is bound to sink your chances of ever working that company you like for good, because recruiters tend to make phone calls to former employers every now and then. And when they find out Vandelay Industries does not in fact exist, you are done for.
  • Include any overly personal information or photos of yourself
    Sure, the recruiter needs to know your name and basic contact details, but anything beyond that is just TMI. This includes your date of birth, marital status, and political affiliation. These things don’t, or at least shouldn’t matter to a recruiter, so don’t waste precious space on your first resume ever by putting them on it.

    The same goes for photos. Unless the position you are applying for is that of model, your appearance is irrelevant — in fact, adding a photo might come off as very unprofessional, as if you were hoping to get hired by virtue of your appearance alone. Long story short, save it for Instagram 😄

I think you have all the information you need! And when you get invited in for an interview and need to prep for that, come right back here and we’ll do it together!

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Joanna Ryś

Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

Joanna has 8 years of experience in the recruitment industry, and currently works as the Chief Strategist for Sourcing in the EMEA area at HAYS. Microsoft, Rolls Royce Aerospace, Abbott, AB Inbev are several companies from the...portfolio of clients with whom it has cooperated, and its tasks include defining strategies for obtaining candidates in Europe, independent management of recruitment tools, monitoring the rate of return on investment, implementing initiatives from the area of Employer Branding into processes recruitment and data analysis. Sharing knowledge and discussions about working with candidates is her passion, which is why she eagerly creates new training programs, conducts postgraduate classes, organizes workshops with students of Krakow universities, employees of her company and free students from various social organizations. Passionate about computer games and socioeconomic issues.