How do you write a CV when you don’t have any work experience?
When you have no work experience, applying for a job can seem daunting. The first thing to remember is that you’re not the only one. Most school leavers and recent graduates have little or no practical work experience. Here are some useful tips and strategies for writing a CV (also called a resumé) to highlight your skills, strengths and qualifications for your first job.
How to Start – Name and Contact Details
Start by putting your name and contact details – phone number, email and residential address – at the top of the first page. For example:
Telephone: 0444 234 567 Email: email@example.com
2/23 Living Boulevarde, Sydney NSW 2000
Next, we suggest you summarise your key skills.
The Summary is a short paragraph – 3 or 4 sentences – which describes who you are and highlights your skills and qualifications. The purpose of the summary is to tell the employer what you can do for them.
So how do you know what skills to include? If you are applying to a job ad, look at the skills and qualifications they are looking for and include these in your summary. If you are making a general application, use our CareerHQ Careers Database to find the Key Skills and Interests section for the equivalent role, and use those in your Summary.
Here’s an example of what your Summary might look like if you were applying to be a Barista at your local cafe:
Recent HSC student with nationally recognised Barista and Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) qualifications. Strong time management skills, able to use initiative, and to work well under pressure. Passionate about customer service, with an outgoing personality.
Now detail your Skills.
You’ve told me that you can use your initiative, and have good time management skills.
But how can you demonstrate this if you have little work experience?
This is where you need to give some examples, under relevant headings, of how you can demonstrate these skills. If you have any volunteering or charity work experience, or have helped out at a club or society, or in a family business, you can use all of these to provide examples of skills you have developed.
This section might look something like:
Able to use initiative
As part of my Duke of Edinburgh award program, suggested, and obtained agreement from staff to develop a simple online booking form for activities in the community facility in which I was volunteering. This resulted in the booking system being easier to manage for staff, and clients not having to call or visit the centre to make bookings.
Time management skills
Coordinated multiple groups on school projects so that all activities for shared projects were delivered on time for final presentations.
Assisted in the family real estate business on Saturday mornings, coordinating all keys and access for all Saturday open inspections covered by four agency staff.
What other sections do I need?
You only need to include sections that are relevant.
If you do have some work experience, including work placements at school, include this information for each role:
- the company / organisation
- the dates you worked there
- your title
- your 2-3 main responsibilities
Outline any volunteer experience using the same format as for Work Experience.
Education / Qualifications / Courses
List here what education you have completed and any courses – for example, your Barista or RSA qualifications.
Show the name of the school or organisation you attended, the name of the qualification (eg. Higher School Certificate) and the date you passed or qualified. Include your marks if notable (eg. ATAR or Credit / Distinction).
Personal Interests & Achievements
This is an opportunity to show some of your personality.
Be prepared to list your interests (eg. drama, cycling, cooking, keeping up with current affairs), and list any achievements – these might include things like School Prefect, Cadet Corps member, community awards.
How long should my CV be?
If you don’t have much, or any, work experience, your CV should only be two to three pages long.
Two pages is ideal, but go up to three if you would otherwise be leaving out relevant information.
So now you’ve done the CV, don’t forget…
- Spell check your CV. Many employers will simply discard it straight away if it has spelling mistakes.
- Get someone else to read it. Parents or other people with some work experience might be able to suggest additions, other ways to demonstrate your skills, or better ways to express some of your points.
If you don’t have much practical work experience, the secret to writing an effective CV is to emphasise your skills in order to highlight your true potential as an employee.
Your first job may be the start of a brilliant career! Happy job hunting!