How to Write a Resume With Little or Irrelevant Experience

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, pulling together the perfect document 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? Well, 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 yet! 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 (in my opinion!). 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.

So 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! Tip: 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!

  • Megan

    Cool, crisp autumn all the way! I loved back-to-school time as a kid and it just holds such warm memories of flannel and fleece, after school sports, etc, for me!

  • well now that you posted the chic boots in the leaves, i say autumn for sure. I’m ready, bring it on.

  • ‘Becca’lise Deveaux

    FALL, hands down. I love crisp weather and coats and ginger cookies and pumpkin pancakes and spice cake and Halloween and absolutely everything fall related!

  • I’m going to join in and agree – Fall! There is something great about every season change, but especially with fall. I feel energized and excited. The cooler temperatures bring a sense of focus for me as I head into the last few months of the year and wanting to make the most of it. Plus, pumpkin spice lattes, boots, and football certainly help!

  • Fall!!! It’s my favorite season plus there’s something about being able to put on layers that gets to me.

  • jcbelle

    I love Summer! Fall is way to short here in the DC area! You blink and then it’s winter already!

  • Jess

    Definitely fall! The warm fires, cosy blankets, watching the rain and of course the pumpkin pies 🙂

  • I am definitely a summer and sun type of person!

  • I prefer autumn. Summer is too warm for me.

  • Emily

    My pinterest board for Autumn has 30 more pins than any of my other boards. Fall all the way.

  • Jennifer Eaton

    If I didn’t live in Texas (where you can’t enjoy outdoors in the summer because you will melt) I’d prefer summer. But I love Fall clothes, boots, comfy sweaters & scarves…love them all. Love exercising outside too & it’s better in the cool days 🙂

  • first week of summer, certain period 🙂

  • lessthanperfectmama

    Please don’t make me choose! Ok, ok… I do love that wonderful smell in the air of the leaves changing. It’s pretty amazing. The crunching sound, too.

  • Fall hands down. I love summer but everything about fall makes me smile the clothes, the air, the leaves, the holidays

  • Fall, all the way! Crisp leaves (and their smell!), pumpkin EVERYTHING, boots, flannel, scarves, sleeping with the windows open, the start of hockey season, bonfires, Halloween, warm comfort foods…<3

  • Leanne LeBlanc

    1000000% Fall. Definitely my favorite season – the cool crisp breeze, layers, hot drinks, changing leaves (absolutely gorgeous here in the northeast), anticipation of the holiday season, my birthday, the return of college football….I really could go on and on!!

  • mka0411

    Fall! Especially in New England, it is sooo beautiful with the leaves changing. Some of my favorite things include fall fashion (september issues), caramel apples, pumpkin everything, apple cider donuts!

  • Jami

    Fall!! It even has the lovely name autumn. Summer is my least favorite season *gasp*! I love jeans, boots, scarves and cooler weather. I love the colors changing and college football and it means my favorite holidays are just around the corner. This everygirl is counting down the days until fall!

  • Carrie Waller

    Autumn, all the way… =)

  • Fall is my absolute favorite…

  • devo13

    Enjoying these last days of summer but fall is definitely my favorite season. Sweaters, boots and the changing leaves, plus pumpkin everything – yes!

  • ebru

    cool and crisp autumn but mostly the spring is my favorit 🙂

  • I think i like autumn the best. Summer’s nice and relaxing but I feel more comfortable in cooler weather rather than sweltering heat!


  • G

    i cant choose! Living in maine we wait sooo long for summer, and its SOOO short! The second summer hits I find myself wanting to quit my job, hit the beach, make friends with cute boys with boats, and planning bbq dinner parties. There is NO place like Maine in the summer. The city fills with live music, streets shut down for festivals, shops open their doors and people start dancing in the streets, and friends go in search for the patio with the best live music.
    But then theres early fall… apple picking, pumpkin picking, hay rides, fall wardrobe and it makes me want to roll around like a happy cat. Its hard to choose, by the end of summer I’m ready for fall but it means summer is that much further away. Maybe I feel that with out the dramatic change in season, no one of us would appreciate each as much as we do, but to conclude I’m fun in the sun summer girl…theres just nothing like the feeling like the sun warming your entire body.

  • Madeline Whitney

    I love fall… the leaves changing, comfy warm clothes/layers, pumpkin spiced anything, and football!

    I also LOVE those boots in that picture. Where are they from??

  • Jessica Haile

    I like the fall wardrobe, but as a teacher, I definitely prefer the summer! 😉

  • Ashley

    It’s weird, I used to love summer but then I graduated and moved down south and now I CANT WAIT FOR FALL! Cooler weather and I don’t have to go back to school, must have something to do with it.

  • Guest

    I love the fall! The crisp, cool air and need to wear sweaters and scarves. Pumpkin lattes and candles – it may all sound a bit cliche, but I just love this season!

  • Jasmine Brink-Li

    I’m a lover of summer! I love the heat and the ability to bare a little tanned skin. Although Fall does appeal to me because I like hot drinks and curling up under blankets!

  • Jaclyn

    I love everything about Fall. I just wish it was here longer. We tend to get a really short Fall with only a couple of weeks where you can get away with wearing a light jacket or a sweater before you have to break out more of the winter gear.

  • Alyssa

    I’m all about Fall. I do like summer, but I get sick of the heat after awhile. Fall has all of my favorite things, football, sweaters, apples and boots!

  • Kara Buescher

    Great tips!

  • Ivy

    I like point 2 in particular, because there’s a tendency to wait until you get to the main body of your resume before you include your skills. A skills section at the top of the resume would be very eye-catching to a recruiter.

  • Amanda Merriman

    Very good ideas. I try to hit all of these when I am writing my resume and cover letter. Thanks!

  • Kat, great tips! I think it’s also tempting to limit your resume to the formal jobs that we’ve held. Often are much more qualified than we lead on to be. So pulling out accomplishments from experiences, whether paid or not, to show prospective employers that you have the strengths or skills necessary to do this job even if you haven’t held a similar position before!

  • How many pages can a resume be before it’s too long? My university always tried to hammer in the point that a resume should only be one page, but that seems far too limiting….

    On The Cusp |

  • Professional resume and cover letter are very important to get best job.Thank you for sharing this great article which is very helpful.