Résumé Writing Advice for Students With No Experience
2017 December 5 | 5 min read
Students looking to break into the workforce often lack the most powerful weapon available to job seekers: work experience.
Even internships, summer positions, and entry-level roles seem to demand a certain level of practical experience. And if a company doesn’t demand an established work history in its job posting, chances are there are still going to be experienced applicants vying for the position. So how can unseasoned students compete for these roles?
The good news is that work experience isn’t everything when it comes to hiring decisions. It matters a lot for people further along in their careers, but recruiters are used to evaluating candidates with little to no experience for low-level positions.
The other bit of good news is that you probably have more experience than you think. You just need to uncover it. Seemingly trivial or unrelated experiences can be assets that enhance your job prospects.
Job seekers without a rich work history to draw upon must rely on these elements when crafting their résumés. While it may seem that they are at a disadvantage, by offering a strong initial statement, being innovative with content and structure, and tying everything together with a professional layout, inexperienced applicants can still dazzle recruiters.
Make a strong initial statement
Opinions vary on whether and when to include an objective and/or summary statement at the beginning of a résumé. A summary statement is intended to give a snapshot of who you are and what you offer. It’s like an elevator pitch for yourself, distilling your résumé down to a sentence or two. By contrast, an objective statement conveys your goals in applying for the position.
Many recruiters feel that the objective has fallen out of fashion and would rather see a summary statement. However, one of the notable exceptions is for people just entering the workforce, i.e., students.
This can leave students somewhat confused, but there’s an easy solution: A hybrid of sorts. At the top of your résumé, you can offer a statement that summarizes your educational background, your skills and where you want to go in your career. You also don’t have to label this content as being either a “summary statement” or “objective.” It can live on its own just after your contact information and before the core content.
Here’s an example of a strong initial statement for a recent accounting grad:
"Recent accounting graduate with practical financial analysis skills developed through project-based experience. Looking to apply knowledge of statement reconciliation and bookkeeping methods as a Junior Analyst."
This statement offers a glimpse of the applicant and the intention behind applying for the role of Junior Analyst. Also, notice the use of relevant keywords in this summary statement. Here the assumption is that terms like “financial analysis” and “bookkeeping” were a part of the job description. Thus, the initial statement can be an opportunity to immediately align yourself to the qualifications being sought for the job.
You’d be surprised by how relevant different experiences can be to certain positions. Don’t underestimate what casual summer jobs, volunteer work or involvement with student clubs or even sports teams can say about your skill set.
What you need to do is identify the connection between these experiences and the requirements of the job you want. Look at the job description and identify the skills and keywords that you’ve demonstrated in the past through alternative forms of work. Then highlight these areas on your résumé.
For example, imagine you’re applying for a job with a consulting firm that services clients. The job posting probably lists interpersonal skills as a key requirement. Experiences like working as a cashier or door-knocking for a local charity can offer concrete proof of your ability to engage people as a representative of an organization.
Also, be sure to highlight the array of skills that you’ve developed in your personal life, such as with different computer programs. While these may not be suitable to stand alone in the Experience section, they are a perfect fit for the Skills section, so long as you feel confident justifying their inclusion should you be asked about them during an interview.
Re-structure If Necessary
Generally, the Experience section contains the bulk of content on a résumé. Depending on how well you do at identifying alternative experiences, your Education section may become the most content-heavy instead.
Students with little to no work experience need to emphasize the knowledge they’ve developed in an academic setting. Furthermore, many projects at college or university can mimic the workplace, so the skills are considered transferable.
Based on your individual experiences, under the Education section of your résumé, consider developing several sub-sections for relevant courses taken and research/course projects. Provide a short description of this work using keywords related to the prospective job.
You may also have extra-curricular activities that you didn’t list under the Experience section that can be included in a sub-section. Finally, make sure to highlight any significant academic achievements like scholarships, being named to the honor roll, etc.
If you want to be considered for a professional position, your résumé had better read and look professional. It’s obvious that your résumé needs to be flawless for grammar and spelling, but less obvious is the advantage that a well-designed résumé can give you.
Design alone can make your résumé stand out by catching the eye of a recruiter. Organizing the content coherently with well-defined sections and plenty of white space to facilitate readability will also encourage the reader to review your résumé in its entirety.
There are plenty of advantages to using a résumé builder for laying out your résumé that can help your cause.
Even without rich work experience, your résumé can be crafted into an impressive, persuasive representation of yourself. In addition to the four areas discussed above, there are several other best practices in résumé writing that apply to both students and professionals that are worth reviewing.
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