How to write a CV without work experience
Yes! You finally graduated after years of hard work.
Congratulations. But… what’s next?
All those job opportunities… all requiring at least 3 years of work experience…
Where do you possibly start?
Beginning your professional career can be a big challenge.
On the other hand, companies are also actively seeking graduates.
You provide a fresh perspective… are enthusiastic… eager to learn.
Communicate this effectively in your CV and you will be totally fine!
Craft a kick-ass student résumé / CV and you will get that job in no-time.
(The résumé and the CV are not that different anymore).
Finding your first job can be hard… if you don’t know where to start
Yes. It can be really tough to start your career.
We live in a world where 51% of the graduates find themselves working for minimum wages while being under-employed.
That is the reality… for MOST graduates.
You will know EXACTLY how to convince the employer of your skills and qualities. Even WITHOUT work experience.
While everyone else is struggling with their CV, you will smile and show how your CV is 10 times more effective with my strategies.
It is not that difficult.
In fact, companies are eager to get the best graduates as they often bring new insights and can grow within the company.
You can adapt to the companies’ culture easily.
“But I am not one of the best graduates”.
Well, you don’t have to be.
Do you really think companies hire the most qualified candidates for every position? Think twice.
Recruiters play it very safe.
It are not the candidates with the best qualifications that get the job, but the ones with the best CVs.
After this article that will be you. You will have all my knowledge AND tools to create your kick-ass student CV that will blow the recruiter away.
Learn how to write your CV for MAXIMUM IMPACT!
What is the company looking for?
The first step in writing your effective CV is to identify what the company is actually looking for.
Go through the job application carefully. Ask yourself with every requirement WHY they ask for it. Why is it important to THEM.
Do it. This alone can DOUBLE your chances and increase your potential income significantly.
Pay attention to the required skills and the culture of the company. What type of persons does the company hire?
As your experience won’t convince, you will have to impress on other areas.
Now go through your own ‘experience’.
- Are there aspects in your jobs that you could use in your favour?
- Are there school projects that relate to these requirements?
The goal is to provide EVIDENCE of your suitability.
Do you lack the required skills?
Look at broader competences. State that you are a quick learner so it won’t be that big of a deal. But have examples ready!
Do you fit the type of person that you have to be in this role?
Make sure that your CV communicates that. I’ll explain how to do that in the personal interest section.
Your CV has to scream that you are the ideal candidate for the company. It is your job to find out what kind of candidate that has to be.
Forget the traditional CV formats
Every graduate is struggling with their CV. And that’s not that strange.
How can you possibly create a reverse-chronological or functional CV WITHOUT work experience?
Hell no! Forget traditional CV formats. They are not for graduates.
In fact, traditional CVs are not that effective anymore. You can thank the digital age for that.
You have to use an optimized CV format that focusses on your strengths.
The secret? It is actually not that different. Just the focus is!
How to start writing your graduate CV
So the reverse-chronological CV focusses on your MISSING work history.
The functional or skill-based CV highlights the combined skills of multiple jobs YOU DIDN’T HAVE.
We have to do it differently.
You will have to impress the recruiter on your ADDED VALUE to the company.
Most applicants write their CV on what THEY WANT instead of what THEY OFFER to the employer.
I have read so many CV summaries that state “I’m a hard-working graduate that is looking for a part-time job to help me with my studies financially.”.
You know what?
RECRUITERS DON’T CARE.
Look at it from their perspective. They have seen so many CVs in their lifetime. Recruiters are not emotionally attached to your CV.
They just want to hire the best candidate for the employer. That is their job.
And by the way, everyone is hard-working in their CV. But I’ll come to that.
The best student CV format
You need a CV that can show your suitability WITHOUT focussing on your work experience.
Not only that. You need a CV format that is OPTIMIZED for the current recruitment system. A CV that is optimized for the first impression.
Today, recruiters are being flooded with digital CVs.
On average, 100 candidates apply for every job opportunity…
That means 100 CV's, 100 COVER LETTERS and 100 EMAILS…
… for a SINGLE recruiter.
Your CV has to impress within 20 seconds or you are done.
I have developed a CV format that is OPTIMIZED for the first impression.
In this CV format, you can DESIGN the thoughts of the recruiter. You can literally CHOOSE what the recruiter will FOCUS on.
Not only that. I developed professional CV templates that include the format… COMPLETELY FREE. You’ll love it.
Now, don’t click the link immediately…
First you have to know HOW to use them effectively.
How the CV format works
To know WHY the format works, you have to know how recruiters look at your CV. You see… recruiters don’t READ your CV. They SCAN it.
First, he’s going to look at your name followed by the top half of the first page. Then, his attention moves to your education / work experience.
What organisations are there? What keywords are there?
Finally, the recruiter is going to look at the headers of your (optional) second page. Is there more work history? Hobbies? Volunteer work?
After that, he is going to make a decision. Do I want to read more or not?
If your CV is hard to read due to an unclear format or irrelevant information, the recruiter will move on to the next CV…
… while you got yourself a one-way ticket to the ‘no’ pile.
You have to survive this first phase purely based on the first impression.
That’s why you have to stand out.
That is where my free CV templates come in.
Do you notice the sidebar in the templates? That is not a coincidence.
It is a STRATEGIC ADVANTAGE.
My CV templates are OPTIMIZED for the first impression.
The sidebar will draw attention within the first critical seconds, setting the context of your CV at glance.
Highlight your GREATEST ADDED VALUE to the company in the sidebar, and you will be an interesting applicant immediately.
The rest of your CV is to back those expectations up.
“But I do not know what my greatest added value is”.
I’ll come to that. It might be your achievements, personality or, like in this example, your skills or competences:
How to use this student CV format.
In short, the ideal student CV/resume contains:
- Main body
- Strong summary + motivation (first 1/3 of the page)
- Work experience
- School projects that show your skills (optional) as an alternative or extension for work experience
- Picture (optional, except the US, UK and AUS)
- Personal interests
- Contact information
I’ll explain how to write each section within this article. But this will give you a quick overview of how your ideal CV format works.
The best way to start your CV? Write a powerful summary.
Write your CV summary cleverly and you can immediately make the recruiter curious about your personality and skills.
For a student, the CV summary is the ideal place to write your motivation.
Include why you specifically choose to apply for the company. Everyone wants to feel special. Use that psychology in your favour!
Moreover, while everyone writes their motivation in their Cover Letter, you will stand out by implementing your motivation in your CV.
How about reading first your motivation, after which your CV backs it up?
Step 2: Include a TARGETED education section.
After the CV summary, continue your CV with your targeted education.
That does NOT mean writing your education title & institution and be done with it (like everybody else).
No. Targeted education means highlighting relevant courses, PROVING that you possess the right knowledge.
Step 3: After your education, it is time for your work experience.
Do you think that you don’t have any? How about internships, roles within student organisations or student teaching experiences?
Still a no? Maybe you could highlight some (school) projects you did.
Choose projects that showcase relevant skills to the company. My free CV builder supports a projects element (just click on ‘New element’ ).
The sidebar plays an important role. It sets the focus on your CV. The main idea? Highlight your greatest added value to the company.
How do you want the recruiter to look at your CV?
Do you want to impress with your skills? Achievements? Personality?
For a student CV, I often recommend highlighting a skills section and your personal interests.
Why personal interests?
They are the ideal way of promoting yourself without sounding so.
How about GIVING EVIDENCE of being a team player by stating a team sport like football?
If you are going to apply in Europe (except the UK) or Asia; it is optional to include a profile picture.
Just… NEVER include your photo in the United States or Australia. It is not desired in these countries because of discrimination laws.
Finally, end the sidebar with your contact information.
Think about your Name, phone, professional email, social media (ONLY professional ones like Facebook/LinkedIn) and personal website/blog if relevant.
Professional CV Builder
Click here to choose your free CV template
Are you having a hard time writing your CV? Try my free online cv builder.
It will give your CV a professional look automatically so that you can focus on the content. The builder supports the CV format & the templates are flexible.
You’ll have a great-looking CV in no-time. Without any struggle :-)
Strong student summary
Let’s start with the most important aspect of your CV: the summary.
A strong summary is NOT about what you want. It is all about what you have to OFFER. The summary has to make the recruiter excited.
Your summary has to evoke the desire to read on. After this section, the recruiter must have no other choice than to think that you are a good fit.
So… why SHOULD the company hire you? In other words…
What is your added value?
Moreover, why DO YOU want to work for the particular company?
It is crucial to make the employer feel that he’s the chosen one!
ExamplePersonal ProfileI am a loyal, caring person that loves to make a difference in the lives of young children that are lagging behind by personalizing proven methods.
I am open-minded and supportive, driven by the fact that I want to give everyone an equal chance. In fact, this is the reason why I choose to study … and specialized in the courses X and Y to become equipped with all the required techniques.
I am passionate about working for company X because of the strong focus on young individuals, making a big difference in their lives.
Click here to learn WHY this summary works
This is one of the 3 different ways you can write your CV summary. It all depends on your strengths.
Do you want to impress with your skills, experience or personality? I have a complete article about cv summaries that will treat each option in full-detail.
Moreover, these 3 CV examples (free PDF download) highlights how to integrate them in your CV.
Feel free to copy the CV structures and implement them in your own CV.
I almost always recommend the personal-based CV summary or the skill-based CV summary to graduates.
Read ‘How to make hard achievement statements’ and ‘Write a powerful CV summary’ for more examples and advanced tips!
Make the Education section your massive advantage
This section is a MAJOR one as this is a HUGE opportunity to stand out!
Ask someone to write their education section and it would probably look something like this…
Recognize it? Well… this tells the recruiter NOTHING!
Especially if you are a recent graduate you can make your education your massive advantage by writing it TARGETED to the job!
The secret? Using the description cleverly.
Go through your whole list of courses and projects…
Ask yourself which items can PROOF your possession of important skills or the knowledge you need for the job.
The next thing to do? Make sure the recruiter knows!
If you are applying to a scientific mathematician position, how about:
Or if you’re applying for a medical research position:
Isn’t that far more powerful? Same study, totally different impact.
Every word on your CV has to earn its place. Every skill, course or hobby you write has to add proof of your suitability or reinforce your position.
Make sure every CV item has a purpose.
Some small education tips:
- Start the list with your advanced study first and work backwards towards high school.
- If you are applying in the United States; don’t state your high school if you have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- Only list your GPA if it is above 3.0 (with the exception of Germany where companies always expect your GPA on the list).
The educational section is discussed much more in-depth within the ‘How to put your education in a CV’ article.
Read it. This section alone may give you a major advantage over other candidates!
Learn how to write your CV for MAXIMUM IMPACT!
Your ‘Extensive’ Work Experience
Your work experience section is the heart of your CV. Wait… what? Don’t you have relevant work experience?
Don’t worry. The employer doesn’t expect it with starters.
Think about internships you did. Think about roles within your student association. Maybe teaching experiences or volunteer work?
Think about anything that can provide PROOF of your suitability.
Can you show the recruiter evidence that will prove, for example, your skills? Is there anything that highlights some kind of relevant experience?
It is okay to list some jobs that you weren’t paid for!
Did you do an internship? Include it! Just… don’t call it just ‘internship’ like most graduates (luckily for you).
Make it ‘Technology consultant intern’ or ‘Graphic design intern’. Don’t miss this opportunity to target your job title.
Use EXACT numbers and percentages whenever possible. This will make you more credible immediately.
The recruiter won’t remember the exact number, but he will remember that he liked the result and that you are PRECISE.
Oh, and make sure to use the same terminology as the employers’ job description wherever possible!
For the work experience description, think about all the projects, tasks, responsibilities and achievements you did.
Which job aspects can you use to your advantage?
What aspects SHOWS the recruiter that you are a great candidate?
Read my article on hard achievements to learn how to write it the most efficient and effective way.
The work description should look something like this: Hard achievement (sentence), matching aspect 1, matching aspect 2 and matching aspect 3.
For exampleIncreased online conversion with 25%, managed multiple project teams, was responsible for the email marketing and content strategy.
Read ‘write your work experience for maximum impact’ for more tips.
Highlight projects in your CV
Like work experience, showcasing your projects can convince the recruiter of your suitability.
Have you completed any (school) projects that are somewhat aligned with the job or demonstrates the required qualifications?
Have you fulfilled a project leader role that you can use to prove your leadership or social skills?
Try to write the description as precise possible, highlighting only the relevant aspect to the company.
Writing your CV around your KEY SKILLS can be a clever thing to do. Important with skills is knowing which SPECIFIC skills to highlight.
Go through the job application and decide which skills are most desired.
Highlight only the 4-5 key skills that really matter.
You don’t want to be perceived as a generalist. Employers hire to solve a SPECIFIC function with a SPECIFIC method. Be the SPECIFIC solution.
Listing 4 ‘required’ skills (80%) and 1 ‘own-but-relevant’ skill (20%) happens to be the ideal ratio of 'written to the job while staying realistic'.
Don’t just name the skills in a skill section. Highlight them everywhere in your CV while using the exact terminology of the company.
This will ensure that your CV will pass the applicant tracking software.
Read skills vs competences vs strengths for advanced tips.
Hobbies and personal interests
This is my favourite CV section… because NOBODY uses it effectively.
Your personal interest section is the BEST OPPORTUNITY to promote yourself WITHOUT sounding to do so.
It is the best self-promotion you can do without looking like it.
The #1 question of every employer is “Why should I hire you”…
And everyone answers with “I’m hard working, reliable and passionate”.
Yep, that’s not going to work…
How about SHOWING the recruiter that you’re disciplined by letting them know you’re for example training to run the marathon?
How about giving evidence of being a team player by stating a team sport like football?
Use your personal interest as an ingenious way to provide proof of those qualities and reinforce your skills.
Read ‘How to put your hobbies/personal interests in your CV’ and master your CV hobbies!
Oh, don't forget this 'minor' tip
No grammar mistakes!
Really, really, really. On every website concerning CV tips, you read: ‘make no grammar mistakes’.
And still, it happens…
Let someone proofread your CV!
And save it as Name-Lastname-CV.pdf
Which CV template should I use?
With my free CV builder, you don’t have to worry about your CV formatting. Just pick a design and you will have a great-looking CV in no-time.
The templates are optimized for the first impression. Combine them with the information from this article and you are easily 3 steps ahead of your fellow graduates.Free Online CV Builder
I AM SERIOUS.
Do you know how much money it will cost you if you end up with under-employed jobs?
Invest 1 hour of your time in a decent CV and you will thank me for it.
It is the biggest ROI you can have.