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Andrew Arkley|November 20, 2017

How to Write a Good CV When You Lack Relevant Experience

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Seen your dream job advertised but don’t have any relevant experience? Fear not - we’ve put together a guide to show you how to write a good CV highlighting the skills and qualities you do have.

Identify relevant strengths

There are lots of things besides paid work experience that can qualify you for a role. Work placements, volunteering, community projects, academic projects and extracurricular activities are all valuable ways to gain both transferable and specific skills. 

Read the job description carefully to see what skills and qualities the employer is looking for, and identify the parts of your experience that match them best. Give these prominence on your CV.

For example, you might emphasise a project you undertook in a previous job that involved relevant skills, or if you’re a new graduate, you could highlight a particular piece of coursework. For each project, include your target, what you did to achieve it and the result.

Highlight your best qualities

It’s easy enough to say you’re a hard worker or a good team player - but this won’t mean much if you don’t include supporting details to back up your claims. Instead, demonstrate desirable personality traits with examples. 

Perhaps you’ve organised a community project or event. This could be a good way to illustrate that you’re resourceful, well-organised or good at working with other people. If you’ve done any volunteering, you could use it as a way to demonstrate your passion for a particular sector or subject.

If you’re a graduate but have had part time jobs to help fund your education, you might mention these to show determination and a strong work ethic. Any extra-curricular activities, training or courses you’ve taken or projects you’ve started from scratch could demonstrate enthusiasm and drive.

These examples could fit into the skills, training or education section of your CV. If you think any of them are particularly relevant to the role you’re applying for, make sure to give them prominence. Wherever possible, use numbers to demonstrate your achievements - for example, the amount of time saved, or percentage increase in sales. 

Use layout to your advantage

When it comes to laying out your CV, don’t feel you have to stick to the traditional chronological employment history format. As we said before, you should give most prominence to the most relevant, important information - so this might mean changing things up a bit. 

If you have relevant voluntary or project work, you can put it before less relevant paid work. If your education or training has more relevance to the role you’re applying for, put that first. Remember, you want to draw the hiring manager’s attention to the things that make you right for the job - and that means putting them right in the line of fire. 

Be clear and concise

You might be tempted to compensate for scant experience by bulking out your CV with irrelevant detail and long paragraphs. But our advice is - don’t! Hiring managers will see right through this and are likely to be turned off by large chunks of text.

Instead, keep things as concise as possible. Highlight important details with short, snappy bullet points - the aim is to make key information as easy to find as possible. Use keywords throughout your CV, when describing your work experience, skills and qualifications. Refer to the job description to see what keywords the employer is looking for.

Include a strong cover letter

A great CV works best when coupled with a solid cover letter. Your cover letter will be particularly important if you don’t have relevant experience. 

Use your cover letter to link the experience you have with the requirements of the role. Point out your most relevant skills and attributes and explain how they’ll translate into success in the role. Be specific and include concrete examples and details - really spell out what makes you right for the job. 

How to write a good CV when you lack relevant experience

Breaking into a new field can be difficult, but if you know how to write a good CV you’ll be much more likely to get an interview. 

Even better, why not take the hassle out of it and let us write one for you? Our bespoke, professionally-written CVs show you at your very best - find out more here.

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