Starting from scratch: strategies for securing a job with no experience | Welcome to the Jungle (2023)

It can take three to six months to land your first job as a graduate, according to the University of Washington. High-paying jobs with no experience aren’t easy to land, and while you might have graduated summa cum laude, in today’s market that simply isn’t enough. When you apply for a job, you’re going to be asked about your previous experience. But how can you land a job if you have none? Career Goals Guru and Coach with over 20 years of experience, Deborah Brown-Volkman, shares her tips for job hunters. What can you include on your resume? How do you write a cover letter with no real substance to put in it? What examples can you share in an interview? Benefit from Brown-Volkman’s life’s work and showcase your skills to land the job you want without any prior experience.

You have more experience than you think

You may think you have no experience because you have no formal work experience in the kind of setting you’re applying for. Brown-Volkman suggests you look at it another way. “It’s not just working for a company that gives you experience, everything in your life gives you experience.”It’s not a case of how to get a job with no work experience, it’s more about knowing how to showcase the experience you do have. Brown-Volkman recommends taking your degree as a starting point. What kind of experience has that given you? What sort of projects have you worked on? What coursework did you do? Was there any teamwork involved? What role did you play in that team? “Education counts as experience,” she insists. “There are a ton of different classes involved in your course and each of those involves different skills relevant to different jobs.”

Next, take a look at your hobbies: if you were the quarterback, you’ve got some leadership experience, and you’re also a team player. If you were in scouts or girls scouts, you’ve surely learned a thing or two. What other extra-curricular activities did you do and what did they teach you? Have you volunteered anywhere? Did you have a part-time job? If you’ve worked in retail you have customer service experience. Leverage the events of your life and use those experiences in your job application.

Write your resume for the advertised position

In Brown-Volkman’s words, “A resume makes a case for a position. The computer or person receiving it compares it to the job description, so you want to make a case for it.” So what can you put in your resume to match the position on offer? Go through everything you’ve done up to this point in time and then use it to make a case for the job. If you’ve been through everything and you can’t make a case then this is not your job, or at least not now.” If that job is your dream then you can always take steps to get to it, such as upskilling or reskilling.

Your resume should start with a professional summary that introduces who you are and what you bring to the table both personally and professionally. You can then highlight your soft skills, matching them to the job description—things like, “time management, excellent communication skills, team player, presentation skills, and leadership skills.” Alternatively, you can list these under core competencies. Be sure to add in keywords as many recruitment platforms rely on AI to make the first cut—in this case if you haven’t got an ATS-friendly resume you won’t get a look in. Highlight the classes you took as part of your degree that are relevant to the job. If you’re going for tech jobs with no experience, be sure to highlight your technical skills too.

Use a cover letter to tell your story

Not every application needs a cover letter, as Brown-Volkman explains: “These days a lot of the first stage is done online. If you’re uploading your resume to be sorted by a computer, then a cover letter is pointless as it won’t be read. But if you’re writing to a person—sending an email—then there’s a place for a cover letter.”Your cover letter allows you to tell a story. Brown-Volkman suggests something like sharing a project you worked on as part of your coursework, weaving it into a story, and talking about some of the things you learned from it. Used properly, a well-crafted cover letter can help you get a job with no experience.

Apply for the right jobs

When it comes to getting a job with no experience, start with your degree or what you studied in school. When you’re looking for an entry-level role, your education counts as experience. It makes sense to apply for jobs that match the type of experiences you’ve had during your degree. If you’re not finding matches then you’re probably looking at the wrong roles, or you need to add another string to your bow before you apply for these roles. For entry-level roles you aren’t expected to have years of work experience; they’re looking for a mindset, soft skills, and someone who will fit into their company and culture.

No degree? No problem!

While the majority of advice we’ve shared thus far assumes that the job hunter has attended some form of formal education, that doesn’t mean there are no options if this isn’t the case for you. There are plenty of jobs that don’t require a college degree, and plenty of alternative learning models out there for you to prepare yourself for a new role.

If you consistently get the same feedback that a certain thing is missing from your skillset, find out how to add it. Brown-Volkman recommends LinkedIn Learning for business courses or sites like Udemy or Coursera. These short courses will help you enhance your skills. You could also try volunteering, though she says it’s best to get this under your belt while you’re still a student.

Prepare for the interview

Brown-Volkman describes preparing for an interview as the spoken version of a resume, making a case for the job. “How you prepare is you go through the job description and what they’re looking for, and you come up with stories and examples to match it.” This will help you build your confidence too.

Making a list of your strengths and weaknesses and looking at typical interview questions online can also help you get a job with no experience, but your top goal is to translate the job description and tell the interviewer you can fit into it. Dress professionally, speak professionally, show up on time, and talk about the things you’re good at. Remember, if you’re called to interview then they feel like you can do the job. An interview is about whether you fit with the team, and from your perspective, whether the company and role are a good fit for you. Brown-Volkman says, “You want to show them you can be trusted and relied upon to get the job done—that’s what will get you the job.”

Plan while you’re still a student

Think about how to get a job with no experience while you’re still a student. It can help you focus on your goals and get the real-life experience you need to add that extra dimension to your application. Decide where your career is heading and seek out volunteering opportunities or short-term online learning courses to get the skills employers are looking for. If you have a specific job in mind, get the skills you need under your belt before you get to the job hunt. Reach out to people working at companies you want to target and ask them to share information with you in the form of an informational interview.

In Brown-Volkman’s opinion, people like talking to students and passing on their knowledge. It makes them feel good about themselves. When you’re a student you’re only asking for information and advice, you aren’t looking for a job so people are usually happy to share.

Fake it til you make it … kind of

According to Brown-Volkman, “Fake it ‘til you make it is confidence, and nobody can tell if you’re faking it or not.”Walk into your interview, networking conversation, or career fair with your head held high and go for it. You can always analyze what you did afterward and figure out what worked or didn’t.

Be warned though, this isn’t about faking skills you don’t have or bragging about non-existent experience. You should always be authentic and honest and never exaggerate to the point where you’re blatantly lying—you will be found out sooner or later! Simply talk about all the great things you did and school and what you learned, your projects, hobbies, and part-time jobs, and tell them why you think you’re the perfect person for the job.

If you’re stuck, get help from a coach

If you’ve looked through all your life experience and can’t come up with the goods, then reach out to a coach for help. Brown-Volkman says, “Career coaching is for when you’re stuck and you can’t get unstuck by yourself.”It’s not reserved for high-level roles, it’s there to help you with whatever stage you need, whether that’s practicing interviewing or introducing yourself at a networking event, teasing out your experience to write a great resume or cover letter, or getting clarity on the career path you want to follow.

Don’t get in your own way

To get a job with no experience, Brown-Volkman believes we have to get out of our own way, “Everybody has something that they feel is not good enough,” she says. If you’re walking into your job search with the mindset that you don’t have enough experience, you need to go back to the first tip in this list. Work out what experience you do have, follow the process of making a case for the job, both on paper and in person, believe in yourself, and go for it!

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What are some good ways to get a job when having no experience? ›

How to get a job without experience: tips and examples
  • Aim for entry-level positions. ...
  • Tailor your resume. ...
  • Highlight your transferable skills. ...
  • Emphasize your education and extracurriculars. ...
  • Build experience by interning, volunteering, or doing it yourself. ...
  • Build a network. ...
  • Take courses to build in-demand skills.
Feb 21, 2023

How do you say you have no experience but willing to learn? ›

Discuss your qualifications

As you have no direct experience, you can discuss your academic qualifications and extracurricular activities. Ensure you're specific about the details you provide and highlight how your limited qualifications can still benefit the employer.

How to write a cover letter for job application with no experience? ›

How to write a cover letter with no experience
  1. Carefully review the job posting and research the company's website. ...
  2. List your contact information at the top of the document. ...
  3. Greet the reader and introduce yourself. ...
  4. Explain your skills and achievements relevant to the position. ...
  5. Remind them why you're best for the position.
Dec 12, 2022

What is the first step in a job hunt? ›

1. Prep Your Resume. Your resume is the staple of your job hunt. If it's been ages since you've even looked at your resume, the first step of your job search should be a thorough resume update.

What should I answer if I have no experience? ›

If you're asked a question about prior experience regarding something you've never done, the best way to answer isn't to say, “No, I've never done that.” Or, “No, I don't have experience in that area.” The best way to handle the question is to say something along these lines: While I have not had any direct experience ...

How do you answer work experience without experience? ›

If you have no industry experience, you can answer this question by briefly describing other jobs you've had up to that point. If there are transferable skills between previous jobs and the position you're applying for, you can structure your question around these similarities.

How do you professionally say I am willing to learn? ›

How to demonstrate your willingness to learn and grow
  1. Provide examples of how you are self-teaching. ...
  2. Highlight your dedication to growth. ...
  3. Embrace emerging technology. ...
  4. Explain how your ideas have helped the bottom line. ...
  5. Ask questions in the interview. ...
  6. In the job interview, show rather than tell.
Feb 28, 2023

How do I sell myself in an interview with no experience? ›

How to Sell Yourself in an Interview
  1. Find Out Who You'll Be Talking To. ...
  2. Ask Good Questions. ...
  3. Practice Talking About Yourself. ...
  4. Study the Main Points You Want to Mention. ...
  5. Show Them That You're Excited About the Position. ...
  6. Give Examples of What You've Achieved. ...
  7. Keep the Needs of the Company in Mind.
Oct 10, 2022

How do you introduce yourself in an interview with no experience? ›

To answer "Tell me about yourself" with no experience, you can follow these steps to highlight your background and achievements instead:
  1. Talk about who you are. Before answering this question, it's essential to figure out where to begin your response. ...
  2. Highlight your previous accomplishments. ...
  3. Explain your current situation.
Dec 7, 2022

What makes a great cover letter? ›

Highlight your qualifications and emphasize your strengths which are most relevant to the industry, organization, and position. Be specific. Use 2-3 examples of your work or academic experience to communicate your motivation and how your skills and experience prepared you for the job.

How do you say you are willing to learn in a cover letter? ›

Avoid qualifiers that might imply hesitation or lack of confidence. For example: Before: I may not have all the experience you would prefer, but I believe that my enthusiasm and willingness to learn make me a strong candidate. Better: I believe that my enthusiasm and willingness to learn make me a strong candidate.

What are the 5 P's of job hunting? ›

Marketing has what's known as the 5 Ps—product, price, promotion, place, and people—that serve as a strategy. Job hunting is similar to a marketing project, only this time the P words are positioning, process, and persistence, followed closely by presentation and personality.

What is an example sentence for job hunt? ›

Meaning of job hunt in English

to try to find a job: She spent a year job-hunting before being hired by a local legal firm.

What is one word for job hunting? ›

Recruitment. The act or process of recruiting, of hiring someone new for a job.

What is the best answer for Tell me about yourself? ›

Your answer to the "tell me about yourself" question should describe your current situation, your past job experience, the reason you're a good fit for the role, and how you align with the company values. Tell the interviewer about your current position and a recent big accomplishment or positive feedback you received.

Why I should hire you? ›

“I should be hired for this role because of my relevant skills, experience, and passion for the industry. I've researched the company and can add value to its growth. My positive attitude, work ethics, and long-term goals align with the job requirements, making me a committed and valuable asset to the company.”

Why should we hire you for no experience? ›

How to answer “why should we hire you?” when you have no experience? Focus on your strengths and transferable skills. Discuss how your education, eagerness to learn, adaptability, and enthusiasm make you a valuable asset.

What makes you a good fit for this job? ›

Your skills and qualifications. If you can prove that you've got all the skills that the company is looking for in a candidate, you'll have effectively answered the question. Your passion and motivation. You can highlight how good of a company fit you'd be and how much you love working in your field or industry.

How do you show interviewer you are willing to learn? ›

How to demonstrate your willingness to learn in an interview
  1. Ask plenty of questions. ...
  2. Demonstrate your passion for gaining new skills. ...
  3. Earn certifications and take additional courses. ...
  4. Request information about training and growth opportunities. ...
  5. Pitch new ideas based on your research.
Feb 27, 2023

What is an example of a quick learner strength? ›

Here is a sample answer: "My biggest strength is my passion for learning new things. As a quick learner, I enjoy learning new skills and applying them to my work. To give an example, when I had to manage paid ads for a client in my previous job, I completed an online ads certification to equip myself for the role."

How do you say I am always eager to learn and improve? ›

I seek out new knowledge and actively develop new skills
  1. I am always looking out for and learning new and better approaches and technologies that help me do a better job.
  2. Learning is fundamental to my job.
  3. I use pull requests as a way to learn better habits and techniques.

How do you sell yourself in 25 words or less with no experience? ›

  1. Professionals suggest 'selling yourself' in 25 words or less in emails or resumes.
  2. Highlight your standout features and make sure everything is spelt correctly.
  3. Keep points relevant to the job you're going for, don't include all experience.
  4. Once you find your unique selling point you will stand out from the crowd.
May 6, 2020

What to say in an interview when asked why should I hire you with no experience? ›

“Honestly, I possess all the skills and experience that you're looking for. I'm pretty confident that I am the best candidate for this job role. It's not just my background in the past projects, but also my people skills, which will be applicable in this position.

How do I sell myself professionally? ›

Here are some skills to learn when selling yourself.
  1. Be confident. Let's just call it what it is. ...
  2. Be persistent. We're not done with the clichés. ...
  3. Don't be boring. ...
  4. Offer a solution. ...
  5. Stop with the resume speak. ...
  6. Work on your non-verbal communication. ...
  7. Be positive.
Sep 30, 2022

What are 3 keys to a successful cover letter? ›

Planning and Tone
  • Tailor each cover letter to one specific position.
  • Use industry jargon specific to your career field.
  • Identify the employer's key words and use them.
  • Make all statements positive. ...
  • Show originality but not cuteness.
  • Use action verbs and phrases.
  • Sound determined and confident not desperate.

What are the top three things that should be in an impressive cover letter? ›

Beyond that, Siegel boils down the most important things to include in a cover letter to three points. “Show enthusiasm, show you've done research, and show you want to come in there and make a contribution,” he says.

What are the 3 main things needed in a cover letter? ›

A cover letter should be 3 paragraphs – Introduction, Sales Pitch and Conclusion.

How do you say please consider me for future opportunities? ›

I would like to reiterate my strong interest in working for Most Desirable Organization. Please keep me in mind if another position becomes available in the near future. Again, many thanks for the opportunity to interview, and best wishes to you and your staff.

How do you say I am interested in this position in a cover letter? ›

I am drawn to the position because it combines my passion for [RELEVANT PASSION] with my education and [INDUSTRY] knowledge. I am motivated by the opportunity to assist [COMPANY] in [RELEVANT RESPONSIBILITY].

How do you show strong motivation in a cover letter? ›

How to show your motivation in the Cover Letter?
  1. Show your integrity & think big. Integrity is one of the most respected and admired qualities of people. ...
  2. Show that you care – do not talk to a wall. “Your cover letter should be personal, you can not just copy-paste and resend it from one employer/university to another”.
Feb 27, 2016

What are the 10 traits employers seek? ›

You can consider highlighting these skills in your resume and interviews:
  • Ambition. Ambition is a key trait that employers look for because of what it communicates about the worker. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Confidence. ...
  • Critical thinking. ...
  • Dependability. ...
  • Determination. ...
  • Eagerness to learn. ...
  • Flexibility.
Feb 2, 2023

What are the 5 steps to success in a job search? ›

5-Step Strategy for Job Search Success
  • Start with self-analysis. Our top job search tip? ...
  • Prepare and organize. Now put your project management and multitasking skills to work. ...
  • Search in the right places. Don't confine your job search to a (emphasis on "a") job board. ...
  • Dust off those interview skills. ...
  • Stay positive.

What is a good sentence for work? ›

[M] [T] I'll have to work overtime every day next week. [M] [T] I have a lot of work to clear up by the weekend. [M] [T] Let's wrap up this work now and go out drinking. [M] [T] She asked him to stay, but he had to go to work.

What is a simple sentence for hire? ›

Verb She had very little office experience, so the company wouldn't hire her. We hired someone to clean the office once a week. The company isn't hiring right now.

What is a short sentence for job? ›

Noun (1) He took a job as a waiter. She has a high-paying job on Wall Street. She's trying to get a job in New York.

What is a fancy word for jobs? ›

Some common synonyms of job are assignment, chore, duty, stint, and task.

Why is job hunting so hard? ›

It can be so hard to find a job for job seekers because employers want candidates with prior work experience, having a lack of a professional network, and being over or underqualified. Employers are looking for candidates that have people skills and candidates that have signs of responsibility such as leadership roles.

How do you describe job hunting? ›

Job hunting, job seeking, or job searching is the process of looking for employment, whether it's because of unemployment, dissatisfaction with the current role, or any other reason. The job hunt process usually looks something like this: Define your career goals. What kind of role are you looking for?

How do I get a job if I haven't worked in years? ›

How to reenter the workforce after a long absence
  1. Start your job search with a focus. ...
  2. Refresh your resume. ...
  3. Build your professional network. ...
  4. Inform your network. ...
  5. Consider part-time or contract work. ...
  6. Develop your elevator pitch. ...
  7. Get help from a career coach. ...
  8. Prepare for your interview.
Mar 10, 2023

Is it OK to have no job experience? ›

If you don't have enough years of experience, experts say it's your skills and ability to perform the job tasks that will help you land the position. “You have to look at what the employer is trying to achieve,” says Goodman. “Ask yourself if you can you deliver what the employer is looking for.

How to get a job at 30 with no experience? ›

Job hunting tips if you're 30 with no career
  1. Figure out what you're passionate about. ...
  2. Make note of your transferable skills. ...
  3. Go back to school. ...
  4. Don't go back to school. ...
  5. Sign up with a mentor. ...
  6. Volunteer. ...
  7. Connect with your network. ...
  8. Be willing to take on an entry-level position.
Mar 10, 2023

How do you answer what do you do when unemployed? ›

How to Answer “What Do You Do?” When You're Unemployed
  1. Give a professional bio. ...
  2. Put yourself in charge. ...
  3. Answer with what you're actually doing right now. ...
  4. Deflect the question.
Jun 25, 2015

What do you say when you haven't worked in years? ›

Keep your statement short and simple – e.g., "I left my previous position to raise a family," "My position at my previous employer was eliminated in layoffs, after which I concentrated on volunteer opportunities" – but don't be surprised if an interviewer asks you to elaborate.

How long unemployed is too long? ›

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines long-term unemployment as a period of more than 27 weeks (or about 6 months). Half a year without a job is enough to give anyone cause for concern.

What do you call a person with no job experience? ›

fledgling. adjective. without much experience of a job or situation because you are new to it.

How do I land my first job? ›

The following steps outline the best way of obtaining your first job:
  1. Set your expectations.
  2. Network with peers.
  3. Consider a job for the experience.
  4. Write a resume.
  5. Search for a job.
  6. Prepare for the interview.
  7. Dress appropriately.
  8. Follow up after the interview.
Mar 10, 2023

What is a job called with no experience? ›

An entry-level job is typically one you can perform without any prior education or experience because you will likely receive some amount of on-the-job training in order to be successful. Entry-level jobs can be either part-time or full-time. For some people, this may be their first job.

Why is it so hard to get a job? ›

It can be so hard to find a job for job seekers because employers want candidates with prior work experience, having a lack of a professional network, and being over or underqualified. Employers are looking for candidates that have people skills and candidates that have signs of responsibility such as leadership roles.

Why should we hire you? ›

“I should be hired for this role because of my relevant skills, experience, and passion for the industry. I've researched the company and can add value to its growth. My positive attitude, work ethics, and long-term goals align with the job requirements, making me a committed and valuable asset to the company.”

What to do when no career interests you? ›

15 tips for when you're not interested in any job
  1. Identify your strengths. ...
  2. Consider your hobbies. ...
  3. Take a career quiz. ...
  4. Look for a role model. ...
  5. Try something completely new. ...
  6. Research potential salaries. ...
  7. Talk to a friend. ...
  8. Find an internship or apprenticeship.
Jun 24, 2022


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