Finding your first job feels like a catch-22: you need a job to get a job. So how do you impress an employer and get hired?
It’s a question we hear all the time – and don’t worry, there are ways around it. Here are 4 ways to write a hirable resume without any experience.
1) Study The Job Posting
It goes without saying that employers are trying to find the perfect candidate to fill an open position. In order to fit the bill, it’s important that you’re precisely aware of what the employer wants.
One way you can do this is by studying the job posting you’re applying for. But don’t just skim through it, I mean really dissect it. Jot down keywords that stand out to you and take note of keywords that come up more than once. Let’s take a look at an example.
In a Digital Marketing Manager job posting I found on Amazon’s career website, the term “email marketing” came up 7 times, “data-driven” 3 times, “demand generation” 2 times, and “digital marketing” came up 5 times (quick tip: you can quickly find the number of times a keyword comes up by using ctrl+f).
This tells us that Amazon is looking for a “Data-driven digital marketer who has experience with demand generation and email marketing.” And boom! We know exactly which skills we should include in our resume.
Of course, this is for a senior-level position, but it still applies to entry-level positions as well! By using this technique hiring bots will rank your resume higher and you’ll impress employers in no time.
And before you ask, YES – most companies are now using bots called ATS to filter through the hundreds and thousands of submitted resumes. More on that later so stay tuned.
2) Get Experience!
Hey! I know you rolled your eyes!
I remember this advice from way back when I was looking for my first job. Trust me, I was worried I’d go full Bruce Banner and Hulk Smash whoever dared share this nugget of wisdom.
But it’s true: recruitment statistics show that more than 90% of employers expect at least some work experience from freshers. Most of them (65%) require relevant experience.
If employers want experience, give them some. And don’t worry, you don’t have to pull double shifts as an intern to make your resume better.
Here are some ways you can go from zero to hero in a few minutes of work:
- Do volunteer work.
- Get an internship.
Again, you don’t want to be a full-time gofer. You just need to get your foot in the door.
Browse online job boards, college websites, and simply ask around. Even a few days or weeks volunteering for an NGO is way more than an empty experience section on your resume. (Not to mention you’d be making the world a better place, so kudos to you!)
I get it. Landing an internship is oftentimes hard in its own right. In a way, it’s like applying for a job in the first place: you might need to submit your resume, go through the equivalent of a recruitment process, and nail the interview. But you’re not trying to land an internship with Google here! Just enough experience to prove you can navigate the workplace and you’re done (but if you are looking to apply to Google, respect! Check out this article for some tips on acing a Google interview).
Moving on, let’s talk about freelancing. Freelancing might mean creating a basic website for that mom and pop store down the road, helping some people move houses, doing some translation work for a few friends — whatever is somehow relevant to the career you want to pursue.
At this point, your focus is to get some work experience and get a feel of what it’s like to make decisions, take orders, and prove your application is worthy of being considered by the Wizard of Oz (i.e., the hiring manager).
Still asking yourself, “How am I supposed to get experience if every job requires experience?”
Now, time for plan B—
3) Highlight Relevant Experiences and Maximize Education
No work experience? No internships? No volunteering? No time to make up for that?
The only thing you can do now is to brainstorm:
- What skills do you possess?
- What education you have and what courses you took?
- What interests and extracurricular activities seem relevant?
Pro Tip: If you truly don’t have a single project to showcase on your resume, move your Education section above the Work Experience section. Always put your strongest assets as high up on your resume as possible.
a) Beef up Your Education and Coursework
Now, when you sit down and write up your education section, highlight any job-relevant courses you took.
For example, if you’re applying for the position of the customer service representative, you might want to mention courses that helped you build computer and communication skills.
If the job you’re applying for is something you learned about at school, make sure you mention this.
Perhaps you majored in English Literature, but took a course in digital marketing and caught the bug. Expand your education write-up by including that course.
Pro Tip: Some experts argue that GPAs don’t matter, but if yours is solid, i.e., as close to a perfect 4.0 as possible, you might want to put it on your resume. Some companies actually require candidates to disclose their GPA and looking it up is the first step to sieve out the majority of the candidates.
c) Make the Most of Your Skills
Next, go through any skills you possess that are job-relevant.
Applying for an entry-level position at a young company? Know your way around G Suite? Put it on your resume.
Will your job require lots of travel? Have a driver’s license? Great.
Skills like these are referred to as technical skills. Try to prove you possess them.
Let’s say the job ad requires you to update the company’s WordPress-powered website. Do you run a WordPress blog? Put that on your resume in the Project Section and explain what you can do. Don’t just write WordPress in the skills section.
When it comes to skills, you need to quantify whenever possible.
Let’s say your prospective job requires you to do a lot of typing. You could take an online typing test and show the recruiter how efficient you are!
Will you have to drive a lot? The employer will be happy to read you’ve had a clean driver’s license for five years.
What’s more, there are some transferable skills you possess. These are abilities that come in handy no matter what you’re doing.
Perhaps you helped out with organizing a concert or other events? There you go, you’ve got organizational skills. Again, be specific about what you did, and explain why you did a good job of this.
And then you’ve got soft skills. These are so-called people skills like communication.
Pro Tip: Don’t underestimate soft skills. Yes, they are less important than hard skills or technical skills, but the majority of recruiters expect their candidates to possess them.
Oh, and don’t forget any licenses or certificates that might come in handy on the job.
If you speak a foreign language, don’t hide that from the employer and put that on your resume.
4) Don’t Forget About Applicant Tracking
This point goes under wraps most of the time, but it’s extremely important that you build your resume for Applicant Tracking Systems.
First, let’s go over what they are. Applicant Tracking Systems, abbreviated as ATS, is a software solution to the recruitment process. Because recruiters at big companies are getting hundreds of thousands of resumes, they need a way to organize, manage, and filter through candidate applications. ATS accomplishes this by acting as an HR search engine.
Okay great, so what’s the problem? Well, the issue is that ATS also ranks resumes. This means that if your resume is missing essential skills or experience, the ATS will rank your resume lower than someone with those essentials included.
We’ve already covered the topic of using keywords so I won’t include it here. However, it is important to note that ATS will discard any “un-readable” resumes. In fact, ~43% of resumes are in “unreadable” formats. Well, what’s the big issue with that? Can’t a human HR manager just read my resume and pick up where the ATS failed? The short answer is, no.
The long answer? Human hiring managers spend only 7-10 minutes skimming through a resume. This means your resume is only allocated a certain amount of time, and a resume ranked higher will garner more attention than ones that are ranked low.
Here are some numbers:
- Only 25% of resumes are seen by human hiring managers (the rest are ignored).
- 99% of big companies use Applicant Tracking Systems.
- 26% of Fortune 500 companies use “Workday” as their ATS.
Okay, I Get It. ATS Sucks, But What Can I Do About It?
Luckily for you, there are some ways to kick this software in its algorithmic butt. We already mentioned one way, which is the use of keywords.
Once your resume is complete, use tools like JobScan to see how well your resume does in ATS.
Second, use ATS optimized resume builders and resume templates. Sure, they may not look as sexy as having fancy graphs, cool charts, or an option to add icons, but what’s the point of all that if human HR managers don’t even get a chance to read the resume!
Finally, here’s a quote from Amanda Augustine, a resident career expert at Talent Inc.:
“Avoid images, charts, and other graphics. While these may look nice to the human eye, resumes with embedded images become a garbled mess, or get completely omitted from your application, after it passes through the applicant tracking system.”
As you can see, ATS is not an imaginary threat. It’s here now and it’s here to stay. If you’re looking for career success, make sure you familiarize yourself with ATS ASAP.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the bottom line—
No matter what you think, employers understand that candidates looking for their first job and entry-level positions don’t have years of experience. Sure, they love to see a solid history of employment. Then again, there clearly are jobs for candidates with no experience out there.
In a way, what you have to do is to prove you can be trusted to learn fast on the job.
Make the most of what experience you already have and get more. Leverage your educational background to prove you possess some relevant know-how.
A Quick Summary Of What Was Covered
1) Use the job posting to get relevant keywords for your resume.
Remember: there’s a reason why there are repeating keywords. These keywords/skills hold more weight and value for the employer. Properly and efficiently use these keywords, and the ATS will rank you higher.
2) Free internships, volunteering, and freelancing are all great ways to get last-minute experience. Look for these opportunities.
Hiring managers just want to see that you have some experience. Try looking for relevant experiences that will help you perform better in the working environment/position you’re applying for.
3) Leverage your skills and coursework. Often times, these can come in handy to make up for the lack of relevant experience.
Don’t have the time to rack up relevant work experiences? No worries. You can leverage skills and coursework to show employers that you’re qualified for the position.
4) Know what ATS is and avoid using lavish resume templates when possible.
It’s not just a fancy new trend! ATS is here and here to stay. Make sure to stay up to date on ATS best practices and use ATS optimized templates when you’re writing your resume.