Best Actor Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne confessed on Conan that he lied on his resume, claiming he was a skilled equestrian when auditioning for Elizabeth I. This backfired during filming, when he found himself clinging for dear life to the back of an enormous stallion, flanked by 40 stuntmen.
“[The director] Tom Hooper comes from behind Helen Mirren with a huge loud speaker and goes, ‘You’re a f—ing liar, Redmayne,'” he said.
For people with resumes showing no work experience in their desired fields: Do not follow in the hoof-trodden footsteps of Eddie Redmayne. There are safer ways.
Instead, as a beginning job seeker, the best way to showcase your potential is to focus on quality over quantity. Learn more from these four points:
1. No experience resume format
A functional resume format is a top format for resumes with no work experience. This format highlights skills above all else. Your skills, no matter where you’ve gained or used them (school, volunteering, or elsewhere), take the top billing.
You can also play up your education and even include relevant coursework—but be selective. Your resume isn’t a transcript.
The functional resume format leaves employment at the bottom. Instead of detailed listings for each role, include just the company name, dates, and titles. (Some employers are wary of any formats aside from the strictly traditional on the assumption that only people trying to hide things about their work histories choose alternative resume formats.) You aren’t limited to paid, professional roles.
On average, hiring managers spend only six seconds looking at an individual resume. By putting what you wish to call attention to at the top, you increase your odds that it’s what hiring managers will notice and remember about you.
2. You can use a career profile without experience
This may sound counterintuitive for people just starting out in their careers. The fact is, a traditional resume objective tells employers all about what you want from them. Career profiles—also known as career or resume summaries—highlight your standout skills, and how you can use them to a company’s benefit.
Remember: A company that’s hiring is a company that has a problem. Maybe someone left, maybe they have more orders than they can handle, maybe they’re expanding to a new market. The point is, applying for a job is your chance to show a company how you can solve whatever problem they’re facing.
An effective career profile lets you do this right off the bat. Some tips:
- It should be no longer than two sentences
- Be direct and specific (don’t use the same buzzwords everyone else uses. What sets you apart?)
- Keep it focused outward—not on your wants as a job seeker, but on their needs as a company
Even better, career profiles are perfect opportunities to add in resume keywords. These are the skills and qualifications in your resume that match the skills and qualifications in the job posting. Think QuickBooks, project management, and database maintenance—or even horseback riding.
3. Resume keywords in place of experience
Resume keywords are important because they are what most applicant tracking systems (ATS) use to filter, file, and rate resumes. An ATS is a type of software used for recruiting purposes by up to 90 percent of employers today. The more resume keywords you have in your resume that match the job posting, the more qualified the ATS will deem your resume. (Up to a point—many ATS also penalize job seekers who appear to be keyword stuffing. And remember, any human who reads your resume has to be impressed, too. A spammy-sounding resume won’t get you far.)
Unfortunately, many job seekers—especially first-time job seekers—are unaware of ATS.
Resume keywords must be written so the ATS can recognize them. Jobscan, a resume optimization tool, is designed to help you match up your keywords—and more:
- It rates your resume’s compatibility to the desired job
- It helps you identify which resume keywords you should prioritize
- It tells you how to format resume keywords (for example, “MSW” vs. “Master of Social Work”)
4. Use active voice
Passive voice: Was given the opportunity to exercise research and communication skills by publishing work in a quarterly journal.
Active voice: Sharpened research and communication skills by publishing original work in a quarterly journal.
This might seem like a small detail, but it makes a huge difference. Forgoing the passive voice, and concentrating on resume action words, can take your resume to the next level.
It not only allows you to appear more confident, it also cuts out unnecessary filler words (“e.g.,” “was,” “the”). Remember, hiring managers will not waste time sifting through wordy sentences.
Hiring managers understand that everyone is at some point a first-time job seeker. And by following these steps, you can have a strong resume—even if you don’t have years of experience.