5 CV tips for graduates with no experience

Mar 1, 2020

Struggling to write a CV when you have no work experience? You’re not alone!

The job market can often feel like a battleground, especially when you don’t yet have work experience. After all, how are you supposed to write a CV when you don’t have anything to write about?

It’s important to keep in mind that the candidate with the most experience isn’t always the candidate the one who gets the job. Recruiters these days are looking for more than just experience.

Potential, passion for the sector and motivation to succeed are sure to spark graduate employer’s attention, so it’s important to use your CV to showcase both who you and why you are a great fit for their job.

With that said, here are 5 CV tips for graduates with no experience:

Base your CV on thorough research

You can’t write an effective CV without knowing what the employer is looking for — it’s impossible!

If you aren’t sure exactly what a prospective employer is looking for, then make sure to conduct as much research as possible before setting pen to paper. Re-read over the job description and make a note of what key skills, knowledge, qualifications and personal attributes your target employer is looking for. You could also take a look over the company’s website to get a feel for what they do and what their company culture is like.

Make the most of your transferable skills 

Once you have identified exactly what the employer is looking for in a candidate, you can then make sure the content of your CV matches up to the requirements. But what if you feel that you don’t actually have the skills the employer is looking for?

Well, the key thing to remember when writing your CV with little to no relevant work experience, is to recognise your transferable skills and highlight them on your CV.

Not all skills come from the work environment — experience can come from a whole host of other sources, such as your studies at university, volunteer work, supporting your local community, part-time jobs, side projects, hobbies and volunteering, as well as full-time jobs.

For example, if the employer is looking for someone with strong time management skills, you might discuss the part-time job you held up, despite being in your third year of University with numerous assignments and exams. Or perhaps the role you’re looking for requires strong written communication skills, and you’ve been writing a blog in your spare time — that’s a great portfolio!

You often have more skills and experience than you initially think.

Add impact with your education section 

It’s tempting to only list the qualifications you’ve gained with a title and grade achieved, but there’s an opportunity to add so much more value to your CV in this section.

For example, if you have completed a degree in Business and are applying for an entry-level finance role, you could mention your third-year business finance module, pinpointing the skills and knowledge you gained, and perhaps a stand out exam mark you achieved.

By doing this, you can better showcase how your degree has set you up as a great match for the specific graduate job you’re applying for.

Draw upon your hobbies and interests 

Hobbies and interests might seem irrelevant to your future career, but they’re actually a great way to showcase your potential and boost your graduate CV.

Firstly, extracurricular activities can be a great way of showing passion or interest in the sector you are applying to work in. For example, if you have written a blog or built a website in your spare time, your natural passion and motivation for the digital, marketing and media sectors will be clear.

Secondly, hobbies and interests are another valuable way to showcase your transferable skills. For example, if you are part of a sports team, it showcases the ability to work as part of a team, or even lead a team.

So, if you choose to include a hobbies and interests section on your CV, make sure to pinpoint the skills you’ve gained, along with any results or achievements you’ve gained whilst doing them.

personality and passion

Showcase personality and passion 

Graduate employers are looking for a good culture fit and someone who demonstrates an interest in the role, rather than someone who is just looking for any old job.

It can be hard to know how to stand out from the crowd, but remember that there is a whole lot more to you than dates on a piece of paper, so make sure you CV shows the employer that. Adding creative design to a CV or complementing an application with a video, online portfolio or LinkedIn profile is increasingly common and can help you to stick in employer’s minds. Remember that relevancy and professionalism are key, though; so whatever spin you add to your application, make sure it’s still spick and span.

If you’re applying for a more traditional or corporate role or sector and feel that a creative CV isn’t appropriate, use your cover letter to showcase your personality instead. Submitting a cover letter with your CV is a great way to showcase your personality and highlight the relevant skills you have that will help you succeed in the job. It’s also a great place to discuss why the particular role aligns with your interests, passions and long-term career goals.

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.

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