A Guide to Writing a CV with No Experience

A Guide to Writing a CV with No Experience

Career Advice, Creating a CV, Job Search

When writing a CV with no experience there are alternative ways to showcase skills and emphasise achievements. The starting point is to remember that everyone has some kind of experience that they can draw from. Although sometimes it’s just not exactly in the field they want to work in. That’s when writing a skills-based CV is necessary. This guide is to assist you in knowing what to include and how to write a CV when you have little to no work experience.

What are Skills-Based CVs?

A skills-based CV (also called a skills-based resume or functional CV), emphasises what skills someone has instead of their job experience. It focuses on transferable skills, achievements, and broader experiences. None of which necessarily come from formal employment. Instead, they can be gained from school and educational settings, volunteering or even by turning a hobby into a career.

Thus, a skills-based CV showcases crucial information relating to abilities. Thereby putting the skills that a potential employee is looking for, front and centre in the CV’s format.

What are Skills-based CVs used for?

There are several reasons to have a skills-based resume. For example, if you don’t have a set vocation such as an accountant, teacher, or doctor. Alternatively, you might want to use one when you’re switching industries and your skill-set is transferable but you don’t have industry experience. Furthermore, a skills-based resume is an excellent option when you are writing a CV with no experience and entering or re-entering the workforce. One of the advantages of a skills-based CV is that it can be written to reflect the specifications of an exact job advertised. This means that by using one, you’re better able to emphasise why you’re a strong candidate, than if you use a traditional CV format.

How to Write a Skills-based CV

What can make starting to write a skills-based CV easier is to look at current job advertisements. These can give you an idea of the skills that employees are looking for. Ideally, use a job ad from the industry or sector that you’re looking to work within. Take time to study job ads and write down all the skills that appear in them. Then separate the listed skills into hard and soft skills. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to begin writing up the different sections of your own skills-based resume.

1. Personal Information

This first section is where you have your personal information. Include information such as your name, address, contact numbers, email and where you are currently based. Some people like to have a photo of themselves. It’s usually a personal preference and in most cases not required. However, there is a growing number of companies preferring to see professional headshot images, and  in some industries such as the sailing and yachting industry, it’s expected. 

Look at the job advert and check if there are additional requirements. For example, being able to travel to a particular country. If this is the case, emphasize your citizenships and any current/ongoing visas you have.

2. Career Aims (Personal Statement)

While this section can be left out, it can boost your CV especially if you are writing a CV with no experience. It’s essentially a short narrative about who you are, what you’ve done and where you want to get to. It needs to be focused on your career ambitions. This is a section that can help you stand out from other job seekers. Therefore, spend time making sure it shows that you’re ambitious, interested in getting ahead and want a successful career. Ensure that it’s realistic. You can also briefly contextualise your claims where you can with what you’ve done or are doing. For example, community involvement, volunteering, job shadowing, part-time studying, or online courses etc…

If you prefer, this section can follow your name and serve as a 3–5-line introduction to your CV. 

3. Education and Qualifications

Here is where you list your educational background and any qualifications you have. Rather than just list the courses you’ve completed, elaborate by highlighting specifics. For example, a course module that’s directly relevant to the job you want. This is especially true in relation to post-graduate thesis submissions.

If you’ve got software experience include it here as part of technical expertise. Think of the software you used at school, during a course or in your everyday life. Amongst others, it could be MS Office, PowerPoint, QuickBooks, SAGE, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, GIMO, Clipper, dBase or Slack

Include any awards you have won or achievements that are relevant. A class medal, and what it was for, is a good type of award to list. However, unless you want to work with animals, being the best neighbourhood dogwalker is something to add under hobbies and interests.

Note that if you prefer, this section can come after your work history information.

4. Tailored Skills Overview

Never lie or pad the skills you have; most companies will do background checks. You can always upskill and add something later. But retracting a skill listed or being found to not be proficient in something you’ve claimed will count against you. Some companies will even flag and record it as a reason not to consider you for future job opportunities. Of course worse than this is being dismissed for not having the skills you claimed to have.

Using the list of skills you compiled from the job ads, mark off the ones that you have. Then add any more you can think of. In addition to looking through job adverts, read online articles and lists of hard and soft skills. This can assist you in recognising skills you might otherwise have overlooked or not regarded as sought-after. What is very useful to employers is you knowing which skills you enjoy exercising and which you know you are particularly good with.

When listing skills give examples of how you’ve successfully used them. It could be while enjoying a hobby, during a volunteer session or working a job. The purpose is to show that you’re proficient and to contextualise the application of your skills.

What are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are those that are learned or acquired through educational experience or by occupying a specific role. They’re easier to measure than soft skills because they are often confirmed through a certificate or qualification. Hard skills are also known as technical skills.

10 Types of Hard Skills
  1. Computer software knowledge.
  2. Computer programming.
  3. Project Management.
  4. Social Media.
  5. Customer service.
  6. Sales.
  7. Digital Marketing.
  8. Graphic Design.
  9. Copywriting.
  10. Fluency in foreign languages.

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are human skills. This means that they relate to how you work alongside and interact with other people. They include social skills, emotional intelligence, people skills and communication. 

10 Top Soft Skills
  1. Teamwork.
  2. Good communication (verbal and/or written).
  3. Problem solving.
  4. Adaptability.
  5. Self-motivation.
  6. Own initiative.
  7. Leadership.
  8. Presentation skills
  9. Commitment to a job (Work ethic).
  10. Good time management.

Soft skills are often a little intangible which makes them more difficult to measure. Therefore, rather than just list them, relate them so that they are more contextualised. By doing this you create a direct link between what you can do and what an employer is looking for. 

For example

  • Ability to adapt approaches and initiate solutions to problems while applying critical thinking.
  • Commitment to professional and self-development both at work and outside of work hours.
  • Enjoy working within or leading a team.

5. Work History

If you’re writing a CV with no work experience then this section will be short. However, think a bit further than paid employment when deciding how to approach your work history. What roles have you occupied and where did you gain experience or how did you upskill yourself? For example, were you part of a committee or body corporate and what were your duties?

If you have volunteer experience this is where you can list it. Depending on how extensive it is, you could have a separate section focused on volunteer work.

When writing a CV with no experience, another option is to merge the employment and skills sections of your CV.

6. Hobbies and Interests

The purpose of this section is to show that you’re a well-rounded individual. While it shouldn’t be too long, this section can be a valuable way of catching a potential employee’s interest or helping you to stand out from other job-seekers. Therefore, keep it simple, and honest and ideally lead with your most relevant to the job hobbies or interests. Some people prefer to put their volunteer experience under this section instead of listing it within their work history.

7. References

Not all references are job-related. Therefore, if you don’t have an employee or work experience affiliated reference you could use character and academic references. Or a reference from a mentor, a coach, or a trainer. Standard practice is to supply at least three different references in your CV. Alternatively, you can state that references will be supplied upon request and then provide them when asked to. 

Always check ahead and get permission to use someone in your reference list. Only include people who you know will be supportive of your abilities and if possible, avoid family references.

Should a CV have a Cover Letter?

Unless specified otherwise, a CV should always have a cover letter. Preferably, it should be tailored to the specific job being applied for and addressed to the appropriate person. It doesn’t need to be long or complicated. The purpose of a cover letter is to let the recipient know why you’re sending your CV to them. It therefore should include what position you’re applying for and touch on how your qualifications/experience/background match the job’s description.  If a CV is submitted via email, it can be the accompanying email, otherwise, it is a separate page on the top of your CV document.

What Makes a Good CV?

A good CV reflects you and is honest about what skills and achievements it showcases. It’s essentially an application to be considered for a job shortlisting. This means that you need to shine through it and highlight why your skills profile could be a great fit for the role.

Many employers will consider employing someone who has less job experience if they come across as enthusiastic, teachable, and reliable. The Key Recruitment Group provides expert advice for job seekers and assists in linking job seekers with the jobs they’re best suited for. This is why, once you’ve polished it up, submitting your CV to a recruitment agency is a great next step. Click HERE for more information.