You’re ready to start a job search for the first time. That means you need to write your first resume. But you’re probably wondering: How do I write a great resume with no work experience?
A resume is a formal summary of your qualifications for a job, including your education, work experience, and skills. A quality resume is the key to getting your foot in the door. If the hiring manager likes your resume, they’ll invite you for an interview. And if the interview goes well, you’ll get the job and join the workforce.
But first: back to the resume. How do you list your work experience when you don’t have any? Will your lack of work experience disqualify you from the job? Plus, how do you even write a resume? Don’t worry—we’ll answer all your questions in this post!
How to Format a Resume with No Work Experience
There are two main types of resumes: chronological and functional. A chronological resume lists your work experience in reverse order, starting with the most recent. A functional resume highlights achievements and skills instead of experience.
A functional resume makes sense for an applicant with no prior experience. However, most hiring managers prefer chronological resumes. You might not have work experience, but what about volunteer work, internships, or extracurricular activities? You can list these experiences in chronological order instead.
Start by making a list of the experiences and activities you’re involved in, even if they don’t technically count as “work.” Do you have at least three? If you have at least three solid options, it’s best to create a chronological resume. If not, you can choose a functional resume.
Chronological Resume Format
Chronological resumes include the following:
Functional Resume Format
Functional resumes include:
- Professional Skills
As you can see, both types of resumes include basically the same information. The order is the main difference, putting more emphasis on work experience in the chronological resume and skills in the functional resume.
Not sure how to write a header? Wondering which “professional skills” you have with no work experience? Let’s go into more detail about each section.
The resume header includes your name and contact information. Start with your name and make the font slightly bigger than the rest of your resume.
Next, list your phone number and email address. Make sure you have a professional address for the resume preferably in a first name.last name format. If your current email address isn’t one you’d want a potential employer to see, create a new one specifically for your job search.
If you happen to have a LinkedIn portfolio, you can include the link in the header too. Some people also include their address. This is optional, but it shows the employer that you live locally.
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Next, write your objective or summary. This part is optional, but it’s a good idea to include it when you don’t have work experience. It gives you another opportunity to showcase what you do bring to the table. It also adds length to your resume, a plus because a lack of work experience can make your resume too short.
Typically, the resume summary is a 2-3 overview of your career that highlights your professional achievements and skills. Since this is your first resume, it makes more sense to write an objective.
The objective is also 2-3 sentences. It summarizes your “objective,” or goal, for writing the resume. You should state the title of the position you’re applying for and briefly mention your career goals or why you think this position is a good fit for you. You can also provide some information about relevant skills and (non-work) experience.
Resume Objective Examples
Here’s an example for a recent college graduate:
“Hard-working recent college graduate with a B.S. in Finance from the University of Florida seeking a full-time position as a financial analyst. Previous finance intern at Morgan Stanley and President of the Student Finance Group at the University of Florida. Looking to leverage my strong quantitative, problem-solving, and communication skills and advanced knowledge of market analytics to help your organization improve profitability.”
If you’re still in high school, you could write something like:
“Highly motivated high school student seeking an entry-level position in sales. Member of the Youth Entrepreneurs Club and current student body President with proven interpersonal and communication skills. Seeking to utilize these skills and grow my knowledge of the retail industry as a junior sales associate at your boutique.”
You can think of the objective as a topic sentence for your resume. It tells the hiring manager what they can expect from the rest of the document. It also introduces you and your interest in the position. Most hiring managers briefly scan resumes instead of reading them in-depth, so this is a great opportunity to provide a quick pitch with the most important information.
The order of the next three resume sections—Skills, Education, and Experience—varies according to the resume format you decide to use. We’ll start with your skills!
Professional Skills Section for a Functional Resume
In a functional resume, the Professional Skills (or Relevant Skills) section is longer than the Skills section of a chronological resume. You should include skills that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. For example, your basketball skills and sense of humor won’t help you for a role on a sales team. But teamwork and interpersonal skills could certainly come in handy!
Teamwork and interpersonal skills are known as “soft” skills. Soft skills are qualities or personality traits that can help you perform your job successfully. On the other hand, “hard” skills are specific, measurable abilities like mathematics, speaking a foreign language, or using a certain computer program. Include both hard and soft skills on your resume.
The format looks like this:
- Include 3-5 bullet statements listing accomplishments or experiences related to this skill.
- Be specific. If you’re discussing your computer skills, for example, mention specific tools or software you’ve used.
- When possible, give numbers or other metrics related to your skills.
- Repeat the same process for each skill on your resume.
- Try to include 4-6 skills total on your resume.
Skills Section for a Chronological Resume
On a chronological resume, the Skills section is simply a bulleted list of 5-10 relevant hard and soft skills. It doesn’t include a list of related achievements and experiences like the functional resumes.
It might look something like this:
- Written and verbal communication
- Microsoft Office
- Fluent in Spanish
- Work ethic
- Typing (85 words per minute)
The next section, Experience, is the one you may be dreading the most. But there’s no need to worry—you don’t have work experience, but there are plenty of other experiences you can include on a resume for your first job.
Experience to Include on a Resume for Your First Job
When you brainstorm experience for your first resume, consider:
- Volunteer work
- Extracurricular activities
- Major academic projects (e.g., capstone, thesis, research project)
- Creative endeavors (e.g., your own website, blog, online art business, etc.)
Include at least 3-5 items in your Experience section. As always, choose information that’s relevant to the position.
Experience Section for a Functional Resume
Functional resumes include an abbreviated version of the Experience section. It looks like this:
Title (e.g., Volunteer at Boys and Girls Club, President of Future Business Leaders of America, etc.)
Employer Name (if applicable)/Location/Start Year-End Year
If the experience was shorter than a year, list the month and year (e.g., October 2020-April 2021).
Experience Section for a Chronological Resume
On a chronological resume, you’ll go more in-depth about your experiences. The format is similar to the format of the “Professional Skills” section on a functional resume. It looks like this:
Boys and Girls Club
- Tutored young students in science, reading, and math.
- Mentored students and helped with skills like organization and time management.
- Assisted with planning and setting up activities.
- Collaborated with a team to improve services for students in areas like character building, financial responsibility, and college readiness.
As you can see, the bullet statement describes the activities you did during your volunteer, extracurricular, or other experience. You can also list related achievements or awards. Note that if the experience happened in the past, you should use the past tense. If it’s an ongoing experience, use the present tense.
Finally, we’ve arrived at the Education section of your resume. This section is the same whether you’re creating a chronological or functional resume. Typically, you would only list the name of the school, its location (optional), and the date you earned (or expect to earn) your diploma or degree. But since you don’t have work experience, you may want to include a bit more information in the Education section.
How to Include Education on a Resume with No Experience
In addition to the standard information for the Education section of a resume, you may also want to list:
- GPA (if higher than 3.5)
- Relevant coursework
- Relevant extracurricular participation
- Relevant honors and awards
Here’s what it should look like:
Baldwin High School Baldwin, GA
Graduation Date: June 2022
Relevant coursework: Introduction to Business, Public Speaking, Entrepreneurship, Computer Science
Awards and honors: 3rd Place, 2019 National Public Speaking Competition
Clubs: Speech/Debate Club, Future Business Leaders of America, Entrepreneurship Club
If you don’t have a high GPA or relevant information to include, stick to the standard format. Here’s an example:
Baldwin High School Baldwin, GA
High School Diploma, June 2022
If you’re a college graduate, the format is a bit different:
University of Florida
Bachelor of Science, Finance
Other Things to Consider When Writing Your First Resume
Now, you know what to include in your first resume and how to format it. Still, there are a few other tips to keep in mind for a stellar first resume:
- Choose an easily readable font, like Arial or Times New Roman. Keep the size to 11 or 12. If you have trouble fitting your resume on one page, a 10-point font is acceptable.
- Use consistent punctuation. For example, either use or don’t use periods at the end of bullet statements throughout the document.
- Don’t include irrelevant information, like a headshot (unless specifically requested), your birth date, or unrelated interests and activities.
- If your resume looks too short, add extra sections at the end such as Language and Certifications (if you have them).
- Keep your content clear and concise. Don’t use unnecessary words—remember, the hiring manager will likely scan the document.
- Proofread your resume very Ask a parent, teacher, or trusted friend to proofread it too. Mistakes look unprofessional, and the hiring manager may assume you’re careless or lack attention to detail. Plus, it can give the impression that you aren’t serious about the opportunity.
Finally, have confidence in yourself and your abilities. As you write your resume, don’t worry about your lack of work experience. Focus on the other experiences, knowledge, and skills that you do bring to the table. You want your confidence and qualifications to shine through. After all, if you don’t think you’re qualified for the job, why would the hiring manager think so?
Final Thoughts: How to Write a Resume with No Experience and Get the First Job
No work experience? No problem. Everyone has to start somewhere—even the world’s most powerful CEOs and business owners were once in your shoes. With a carefully crafted resume, you can earn your spot in the workforce, no job experience required!
First, decide whether you’ll write a chronological or functional resume. A functional resume highlights your relevant skills, while a chronological resume emphasizes your work experience. However, most hiring managers prefer chronological resumes. If you have enough strong volunteer, internship, and extracurricular experience to write about, it’s smart to go with a chronological resume. If not, a functional resume could be your best bet.
Then, include a header, objective, skills, experience, and education. Remember: Experience isn’t limited to just work. Think about everything you’ve learned and achieved through volunteering, extracurricular participation, and school or personal projects. Tailor your resume to the job by highlighting the skills and experience that will help most in this role.
Be confident, format the resume properly, and proofread thoroughly. By following these tips, you can demonstrate that even without work experience, you have the background and skills necessary to succeed.