How to Write a Resume With No Job Experience

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Landing Your First Job With a Great Resume

Maybe you went right from school into motherhood and have never punched a clock, or your teen is starting his quest for his first part-time job. In any case, sending out a half-empty resume won’t help you stand out from the competition. When you have no work experience, your resume should focus on other achievements that demonstrate your ability to work with others and achieve goals.

How Do You Write a Resume Objective With No Job Experience?

It used to be commonplace to include a summary or objective at the top of your resume, a place where applicants would spell out the type of job they were looking for. That’s outdated now. Instead, make the first section something like “Highlights” or “Strengths” and use bullet points to share the top four or five attributes that you believe will make you a good candidate for the job. These bullet points don’t have to be complete sentences. (Depending on how many jobs you’re applying for, you may need to create slightly different versions of your resume to highlight different skills that are relevant to each job.)

Try to pick characteristics that aren’t just you tooting your own horn, but instead really show an employer what you would be like as an employee. For a teenager who’s looking for a fast-food job, highlights might include attributes like: “Flexible schedule allows me to work early mornings all summer, plus weekends and holidays,” or “Respectful attitude toward my elders and peers.” For a mom trying to break into the workforce, your highlights could include things like: “Skilled and energetic multitasker” or “Quick thinker under pressure.”

What Do You Put on a Resume if You’ve Never Had a Job?

For most people, a resume should include three to six sections. Start with your name and contact information at the top. It doesn’t really matter how you format it, as long as it’s all there. The next section should be your highlights or strengths. Under that, add an “Education” section that lists any degrees in reverse chronological order. If you’re working on a degree, include the name of the school, the type of degree and the estimated completion date. If you have or had an above-average GPA (say, 3.0 or higher), include that too.

Normally, “Work Experience” makes up the bulk of a resume. Even if you’ve never had a paying job, you may be able to include this section. Have you had any internships or held any ongoing volunteer positions? Have you held any leadership positions, such as acting as the president of a school organization? If so, you may decide to put those under a “Work Experience” or simply “Experience” heading, as long as you’re clear in the way that you list your title and describe your duties that these weren’t paying jobs.

Be realistic about whether your position and accomplishments really rise to the level of being included on a resume. If you spent three days volunteering at an animal shelter, that’s not work experience. Sending out a few emails to organize your child’s ongoing play group doesn’t count either. But if you’ve shouldered real responsibilities in a work-like environment, add them. Don’t list parenthood as a job, though. Although it is one, it won’t impress hiring managers; after all, millions of people are parents. They look for people who can succeed in a professional environment, not just a personal one.

Round out your resume with sections named “Achievements” and “Skills.” Under Achievements, list any awards or honors that you’ve earned. If you’ve been out of school for more than a decade, your inclusion in your high school’s honor roll won’t impress hiring managers, but that’s a good thing for a teenager to add to his resume. Under skills, list your expertise in any computer programs you know (other than very basic ones like Microsoft Word), foreign languages you speak and certifications you’ve received.

Other Considerations

One way to get a hiring manager’s attention is to make sure that your resume looks clean, sharp and uniform. Use a single font; make sure the margins are even; and ask a few people to read the resume over to check for any spelling or grammatical mistakes. Don’t use bright colors, graphics or anything flashy. A traditional resume looks professional.

Even if the job posting doesn’t ask for one, write a cover letter to accompany your resume. A well-written, personality-filled cover letter will help you stand out and give you a chance to make a case for why you’ll make a great employee. That’s especially important when you don’t have any work history to point to as proof of your abilities.