What to put on your job applications when you have no experience

Posted: 6th Oct

Looking for a job and you’ve got no previous experience?  It can be daunting to apply for jobs when you’re just starting out, but there are some things you can do to make the most of an employment-free resume when it comes time to apply for jobs.

Applying for jobs in writing usually requires two things: a cover letter and a resume. Here’s some tips for both that should increase your chances of landing that all-important interview.

 

COVER LETTER

Your cover letter (or letter of application) is not formally a part of your resume but it is vital to any job application – especially one where you have no work experience.

Your cover letter should be specific to each and every job you apply for. It is an opportunity to illustrate how your skills meet the employer’s requirements. To do this you should address the selection criteria for the position. Selection criteria are the things that the employer will judge your application against. It is their ‘shopping list’ and a well-written cover letter will tick off their criteria and show how you can get the job done.

While your cover letter should be specific to each job you apply for you don’t have to write it from scratch every time. You can have a base cover letter that you save as a fresh Word or Pages document and modify for the role – just make sure it is error-free and only includes information relevant to the job you’re applying for. Speaking of Pages, most businesses use PCs and Microsoft programs not Apple software, so if you’re a Pages user assume the employer won’t be able to open your letter and instead save it as a PDF file.

Your cover letter should list your relevant skills and any volunteer, part-time or other employment activities, or major school projects you’ve been involved with if it helps tell the employer why they need you for the job. The cover letter gives you the opportunity to sell yourself so don’t be shy, and don’t miss that chance.

In summary, your cover letter should be:

  • Relevant to the role
  • Written specifically for the job you’re applying for
  • Illustrate why your skills are a great match for the role
  • Sell yourself

 

RESUME

Your resume, or CV (curriculum vitae) is the record of your career. When you’re just starting out you’ll be missing one of the key points that make up a resume – previous employment experience. Never fear, there are ways to make up for that.

Start your resume by including your name, address, phone and email contact details. If your email address is a little too unprofessional – jump online and create a new one with a more ‘corporate’ feel to it. You can’t go wrong with a first name, last name, number combo @ hotmail or gmail, or even your school email address if you can still access it.

List your education. Detail your secondary schooling, any Certificate or Diploma courses undertaken or even being completed now, and the same goes for any university studies. If you have been on a number of academic projects, or been on the SRC or have other school-based achievements list these here. Nothing says works well in a team environment better than four years spent representing the school at soccer. And nothing says the potential for good retail, hospitality or customer service than experience in public speaking on the school’s debating team.

Next up, put together a section on your skills and abilities. What are you good at that could be relevant to employers? For example, you might have worked in a group to deliver a successful project. You could say: “I work well in a team environment, having worked with a group of six others to deliver Project X.” Head over to this page to see what sort of soft skills you can be listing on your resume – and ways to enhance or add these to your skillset to improve your chances in the job market.  This is also where you’d list skills using particular software, art practices and the like.

Finally, list your references. A referee is someone that an employer can contact to validate your claims and talk about you in a positive way. That might include teachers, project supervisors or similar if you have no work experience. Employers should ask your permission to contact your referees prior to contacting them but it doesn’t hurt to tell your referees you’ve applied for a role when you submit your application. And while some people suggest only nominating referees after you’ve had an interview having the names of three people who can back your claims on your application is a powerful statement.

In summary:

  • List your name and contact details on your resume
  • List your education, and any academic/volunteer projects you’ve worked on
  • List your skills: making sure to tease out any extra detail to help sell yourself and to help the employer ‘connect the dots’ and understand your value
  • List your work experience (if you have any)
  • List your referees

 

OTHER STUFF
Don’t get too fancy in terms of the fonts, formatting and layout of your application letter and resume. Even if you’re applying for a graphic design role keep your artistry in check. And remember, you may have to send the files as a PDF or upload your responses to an online form as part of the application process.

Don’t lie about your experience. If you’re applying for entry-level jobs few employers will expect you to have a resume full of jobs. Instead, use your cover letter to sell yourself as being the best candidate to match the skills your potential employer needs as set out in the role’s selection criteria. Use your resume to list your skills, and any volunteering, project or part-time roles you may have had.

Register and load your resume to the jobsforyouth.com.au Air CV portal to ensure you can apply rapidly to any jobs listed on the site.

Spell-check the documents. If you suck at spelling ask a friend or family member to give them a read for you.

Read the documents out loud. If you find yourself stumbling over sentences it might mean that there’s an issue with your sentence structure. Make sure that the application letter in particular is easily understood and read it with the assumption that the employer has no prior knowledge of you or your work. Does it still make sense?

Add depth to your resume. Consider volunteering on community projects, and/or put your hand up to get involved in school projects and other opportunities. This is a great way to contribute to your community while adding extra strength to your resume and making yourself more attractive to potential employers.

It can be hard to land your first job but if you build a relevant, honest and comprehensive resume that is focused on your skills, and your cover letter is written in a way that ‘sells’ you as someone to interview you’ll be well on your way to getting a job with no experience.