Tips on how to write a CV with little to no work experience

When you have just left university and are searching for your first job, you can feel stuck in a catch-22 situation – how do you get a job without experience in order to gain experience? Employers list their required skills and experience and if you have not had a full-time job before, you might struggle to think of good examples to provide in your CV that will get you to the interview stage.

Everybody initially starts off with little experience, so the key is to present your limited experience in a way that demonstrates to the recruiter that your skills are relevant to the job responsibilities and that you will be able to perform well in the role. Here is how you can do that…

Start with a personal statement

Your personal statement must be really strong to grab the attention of the recruiter. In this section of your CV you should succinctly summarise your qualifications, skills and experience and also explain why you want to apply for the job. It is important that you include details that are relevant to the job and it is better if your personal statement is written specifically for the job you are applying for. Make sure you tailor your skills and experience to match those included in the job specification.

Your personal statement does not need to be very long, usually a paragraph of under 200 words will be enough for you to summarise the key information. Remember, this is the area where you are making your first impression to the recruiter, so spend time making sure it is really good quality.

Focus on your education

If you have not previously had any type of relevant job to refer to, then you should put more of the focus on your education. Think about areas that you have studied that will be relevant to the job and state how they will benefit your ability to be successful in the role. If you have done any voluntary work, you can use examples from your experience, for example if teamwork is listed as a job requirement, you can include your voluntary experience, or working on a team project at university.

Draw out transferable skills

When you have limited experience, being able to draw on your transferable skills can persuade a recruiter that you will be able to competently do what is required in the job. Transferable skills are ones that you have acquired whilst studying and can apply to a job role. For example, skills such as communication, planning and problem solving are all skills that you will have used whilst studying, so draw on these by explaining how you have developed these skills throughout your education.

Take a vocational course

One way to get ahead of the other students and graduates is to take a vocational course that will show that you are skilled in the type of work that you are applying for. This is particularly important if your other qualifications are not directly relevant to the type of job that you are applying for. Not only does this show that you have the type of skills they are looking for, it also demonstrates your commitment to progressing your career in this area of work.

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.