When it comes down to it, the resume is your greatest marketing tool—it highlights your skills and expertise and shows potential employers why you’re the best fit for their organization. So, needless to say, writing the perfect resume can be a challenge.
But, what if you’re just starting out and have very little experience under your belt? Or, what if you’re making a career transition and think you don’t have relevant job experience to share? This makes crafting the perfect resume that much more challenging (as if it needed to be any harder).
But there’s no need to panic. Here are five tips to write a powerful resume—how to highlight your best attributes and clinch that prized interview even if you have very little or completely irrelevant job experience.
1. Analyze the Job Description
This is a must when you’re applying for any job, but it’s particularly essential when you need to appropriately tailor or expand on your professional history in order to present yourself as qualified.
Before even opening up a blank document and putting your name at the top, take the time to go through the job description with a fine-tooth comb. Are there key words like leadership, communication, or organization that keep popping up? Do they list Photoshop expertise as a desired skill? Is there a certain line of the description that makes you think, “Hey, that’s totally me!”
Getting a solid handle on the specific qualifications they’re searching for is incredibly important for helping you appropriately tweak and target your resume. Once you’re armed with the details of what they consider a perfect candidate, injecting some of that information into your own document (while still being honest, of course!) will be much easier.
2. Play Up Your Skills
Whether you have little to no job experience or experience that doesn’t directly correlate to the job you’re applying for, this tactic will be beneficial. When drafting a resume, make the effort to place the majority of your emphasis on your skills and knowledge, rather than past experience.
What exactly does this mean? Well, it all starts at the top of your resume where the key skills section should appear. This portion is typically a bulleted piece that highlights your strongest expertise—such as public speaking, database management, or search engine optimization. This is the perfect place to insert any skills they listed in the job description that you possess. Think of it as your chance to demonstrate your quality and relevancy.
When emphasizing skills, it’s also important to broaden your view a bit—especially if you have very little professional work experience. Did you have a college internship that refined your project management skills? Have you become a master at creating graphics for your personal blog? Did you volunteer for a community project that made you a great team leader?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the skills you list on your resume need to be the direct result of a previous professional position. As long as you can successfully demonstrate those abilities, go ahead and list them—it really doesn’t matter where you learned them.
3. Write an Impactful Summary
If you’re anything like me, the “About” page on websites and blogs is one of your favorites. It’s great to learn a little bit more about a particular person in their own words. Think of the summary at the top of your resume in the same way: It’s your opportunity to step away from short, bulleted fragments and share a little bit about yourself.
Some resume writers disagree, but the standard objective statement is a thing of the past. Instead, begin your resume with a powerful professional summary. This short paragraph introduces you as a candidate and expands on your resume’s details in order to show why you’re a perfect fit for the open position.
It goes without saying that you should use this section as your opportunity to shine. Instead of simply rewording and reiterating everything already listed on your resume, use this space to expand on all of those skills that make you a fit for the position. The summary is one of the first things a hiring manager will read, so make sure it’s top-notch and targeted! Injecting a little personality never hurts.
4. Polish Your Positions
Yes, you want to showcase your skills. But that doesn’t mean you can ditch the standard descriptions of your positions completely. While you could utilize a functional format resume, which is categorized based on area of expertise rather than previous jobs, most recruiters agree that those are significantly more difficult to read. Instead, tailor the descriptions of your previous positions to make them as powerful as possible.
Need an example? Let’s say you’ve worked part-time at a customer call center through college and now are looking to transition to your first professional job in marketing. Instead of listing one of your duties as something basic like, “Answered customer calls” try “Fostered continuous brand loyalty by providing high quality customer service over the phone.” It’s the same duty, but the second one sounds better and mentioning brand loyalty demonstrates relevancy in the marketing field.
You always want to be honest and avoid filling your resume up with large, complex phrases that don’t add any actual value. But, finding common threads between your past positions and the one you’re applying for will help put your resume on the top of the pile.
5. Play with Structure
For the most part, resumes are pretty cut and dried—there are certain things you need to have. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any room for flexibility.
If you’re someone that has a relatively extensive history with a variety of different positions, there’s no rule stating that you need to have a detailed description of all of them. Instead, provide more detail on the ones that are at least somewhat relevant and then add an “Additional Experience” section. Under that header, you can list positions that aren’t as closely related and only include essential information like company, job title, and dates of employment.
Not only does this downplay any unrelated experience in your history a bit, but it also helps free up valuable resume real estate for you to emphasize the things that actually do matter!
There’s no doubt about it, crafting an effective resume is no easy feat. And having very little or completely irrelevant job experience can definitely add fuel to that fire. But, it doesn’t mean you need to throw your hands up and resign yourself to an eternity of constantly working the same job. Put these tactics to work to help you craft a resume that presents you as an accomplished and qualified candidate and get ready for that interview call.