Resume for First Job with No Work Experience

Friends standing with a space between due to social distancing

It is possible to write a strong resume and prove you are the best person for the job even without past work experience. I explain how here.

Before we start, let me reassure you that having no or limited work experience is not a problem.

No Work Experience Is Not A Problem

Firstly, the candidates you are competing with are also just starting out. They, too, will have very limited or no work experience.  Your goal is to set yourself apart from these candidates and not a veteran of the workforce.

Second, for the entry-level roles you are applying for, the hiring manager will not be seeking previous experience. Instead, they look for employability skills, personal qualities, and aptitude— all demonstratable without prior work experience.

For example, take a look at the McDonalds crew member criteria below:

Source: McDonald’s

Or this ad from Gumtree for an Apprentice Locksmith. This ad also doesn’t list any essential work experience or prior technical knowledge.

Cotton On addresses the issue directly in their job application tips:

Source: Cotton On

Prove Your Employability Without Past Work Experience

Now that we have established that no past work experience isn’t a problem.  Let’s move on to how you prove your employability skills without work experience.

The top employability skills you need to demonstrate are; communication, teamwork, problem-solving, initiative, planning & organising, self-management and learning aptitude.

Without past work experience, you need to provide other evidence to prove these skills. Here is how:

Provide examples of your success using your employability skills in other areas of life

While it is not essential to hold work experience to demonstrate your employability, it will be easier the more ‘other experience’ you have. For example, extracurricular activities, student placements, hobbies, sports, arts, music, volunteer roles, academic studies, and short courses.

Don’t be deterred if you don’t have a lot of ‘other experience’. However, keep this in mind as you prepare to enter the workforce and look for opportunities to widen your experience and employability skill set.

Providing other evidence doesn’t mean simply including a heading Extracurricular Activities and listing.  It would help if you gave examples of how you demonstrated your employability skills—drawing from your ‘other experience’ to write achievement stories.

Example Achievement Stories

Here are some examples:

Coached under 14’s cricket team to win six games for the season; previously team had not won a game. Motivated group to do their best and creating team unity.

Awarded B+ for final science assessment; set goal to increase the previous result of C. Asked teacher for feedback to improve. Put in additional time each week to review class content.

Achievement Story Prompts

Here are some ideas for your own:

  • When have you experienced a team situation when one member was not pulling their weight? How did you handle the situation? What was the outcome?
  • Have you ever done any public speaking at school?  What topic did you present, and what was your result?
  • When have you motivated a team to overcome an obstacle and achieve a team goal?
  • Have you ever taken the initiative to learn a new skill? How did you apply it?
  • When have you ever experienced difficulty learning a new skill? What strategies did you apply to overcome?
  • Have you written any stand-out school assignments or reports?
  • Is there a time you ever identified a minor problem and fixed it before it became a significant problem?

Related: Skills for Your First Resume


If you don’t have previous work experience, another tool to prove you have the required skills is to use testimonials. Having a third party verify your employability skills will add substantial credibility.

You can request a reference letter or testimonial from a key figure that can endorse your employability skills. Perhaps a teacher, sports coach, music teacher, mentor or student placement supervisor.

Alternatively, you could use any relevant school report comments. For example, “John puts obvious effort into his work as he completes assignments with quality in mind. He is self-motivated and works carefully and conscientiously.”

Add your testimonials (or selected excerpts) into your resume’s testimonial section. Retain original copies to provide at the interview if required.

Include other verifiable evidence of your skills

Consider the other ways your performance is measured or reported.  What other verifiable proof do you have of your skills?  Test results, school awards, community awards, school reports, newspaper articles, aptitude tests.

If you’re light on evidence, you could obtain an independent test of your aptitude or critical employability skills and report the results in your resume. See SkillsRoad or SquarePeg.

Lastly, you also have another option – ditch the resume altogether!

Option B: Don’t Use A Resume

The traditional resume is not always the best marketing tool, especially when you have little or no experience. And so, thankfully, a resume is not the only way to get an interview.  

The McDonalds Crew member position above doesn’t require a resume to apply. Instead, you are required to complete an online application form and an aptitude test.  Look for similar online applications.

Think creatively about the best way to promote yourself. Perhaps you could approach businesses directly and ask for time to pitch yourself.  Alternatively, you could promote yourself with a compelling email or a persuasive introduction letter. 

Another option is to create a portfolio of work, either online or samples you can submit directly to potential employers.  This is a good strategy if you seek employment in a creative field where examples of your work will hold more weight than words in a resume.

Even if you do require a resume, don’t constrain yourself to a standard resume format for your first job. You are tech-savvy and motivated – apply some creativity and self-assurance!

Ultimately you are selling your willingness to apply yourself wholeheartedly to get a start. Show this and set yourself apart.

Example Resume (With no Experience)

sume With No Experience

ABC High SChool Year 12 2020 

Captained under 14’s football team to win seven games for season; previously team had not won a game. Motivated group to do their best. Created team unity. 
Joined local Code Club; pursued interested in coding and expanded skills. Completed Scratch Module 3.  
Developed Year 12 study timetable and improved results; implemented a timetable for the second half of the year. Set realistic plan and committed to it

Example Resume (No Experience) Text Version

Abby Bradford


ABC High School Year 12 | 2020

Demonstrated Skills

Captained under 14’s football team to win seven games for season; previously team had not won a game. Motivated group to do their best. Created team unity

Joined local Code Club; pursued interest in coding and expanded skills. Completed Scratch Module 3

Developed Year 12 study timetable and improved results; implemented a timetable for the second half of the year. Set realistic plan and committed to it


Work Experience Placement

Completed one week of work experience as part of Year 10 Work Experience Program. Performed general administrative duties. Shadowed Junior Accountant.

Additional Resources

For an additional example resume, see Skills for Your First Resume

How to Write a Retail Assistant Resume

How To Describe Computer Skills on Resume

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