How to Write a Professional Resume with Little or No Work Experience

Resume writing can be a challenge for anyone, especially when you’re just out of school and have no professional experience to speak of. What do you do after writing down your graduation date and that burger-flipping job, and three-quarters of a blank page are still staring you in the face?

Here are five tips to make you and your resume look professional

1.  E-Mail Address as a Marketing Tool

Your e-mail address is often the first impression you create, and a profession-focused address acts as a headline that tells the recipient who is calling and what the communication is about. Dumb college-era e-mail addresses like: [email protected], and [email protected] can hurt your candidacy.

Create an address that speaks to your professional identity, for example: [email protected] If your first choices are taken, try adding relevant information like your town, zip code, or area code: [email protected]

2.  A Target Job Title Helps Visibility

Always use a target job title to improve your resume’s discoverability in databases and to help focus a reader’s attention. The target job title appears at the top of your resume, immediately after your contact information. It’s a headline for the whole document, and as you write the resume, it encourages you to focus on information relevant to that target job.

3.  Replace “Career Objective” with “Performance Summary”

Forget the traditional Career Objective statement – because no one really gives a hoot about what you want. You’re in the professional world now, where everything is always focused on satisfying the customer’s needs. Follow your target job title with a Performance Summary that addresses the skills you have to offer as they relate to the employer’s needs.

Market yourself as the emerging professional you are

If you have some relevant work experience, take the top requirements from the Job Posting, and write three to six lines that tailor your ability to execute the requirements cited in the Posting.

By addressing employers’ needs right up front, and using the words they use, you demonstrate your grasp of the job, and you’re using the keywords most likely to give your resume greater database visibility and immediate resonance when read by a recruiter.

If you don’t have relevant work experience, take the same top requirements for the job, and write three to six lines that speak of your desire for the opportunity to do this work, and how your education has prepared you to do it. Research conducted through your networks with professionals already doing this work will give you a thorough understanding of what the work involves, and this will come through in your Performance Summary.

Plus, when you use the keywords from target job descriptions, the search engine algorithms can’t tell whether you’ve done “X” or are just saying that you would like the opportunity to do “X”! As long as you use the keywords in this way you increase discoverability, and as an entry-level candidate, you demonstrate a rare understanding of what’s important that impresses the recruiter.

4.  Make the Best Use of Valuable Resume Real Estate

The algorithms of resume bank and social media site search engines invariably give higher ranking to the placement and frequency of use of the most important keywords. For example, words at the top of a document have more importance than words at the end of it, and careful keyword repetition also improves visibility.

A Professional Skills section following your Performance Summary helps you achieve this. A Professional Skills section positions the most critical information near the front of the document to help your resumes’ discoverability and make it readily accessible to the overworked and distracted recruiter. This concern for user-friendliness succinctly demonstrates your critical thinking and written communication skills, two greatly admired professional abilities.

As a recent graduate, you identify relevant professional skills you’ve developed in school and in part-time, volunteer, entrepreneurial, and community jobs. Always include computer skills, Internet communication tools, and the social media platforms you’re familiar with.

5.  Professional Experience & Keyword Density

Paid jobs, internships, and volunteer work can all qualify as relevant work experience for an entry-level professional and should always be treated as such, including company names and employment dates.

Wherever relevant, you should repeat keywords from your professional skills section, throughout the body of your resume within the context of each job in which you used them. The increased frequency improves discoverability, so long as the repetition isn’t overdone – a keyword or phrase should never exceed 4% of the word count. And additionally gives the recruiter context for where you developed these skills.

Writing your first resume without much work experience can be tough, but if you follow these five rules, that blank page will start to fill up, and you will position yourself not as a young whippersnapper but as an entry-level professional worthy of serious consideration. You can learn more about resume and job search strategy in the Knock ’em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for First-Time Job Seekers.

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Knock Em Dead

NY Times Bestselling Author at Knock Em Dead
With 17 books and two optical patents to his name and as someone who last danced with a professional ballet company at age 55, he is clearly one of those who has turned ADHD into a superpower. Martin is also a recovering alcoholic of some years standing, and exchanging one obsessive compulsion for another; he particularly enjoys collecting prohibition-era cocktail shakers.
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