How to write a graduate CV when you have no work experience

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If you’re a recent graduate or a student fast approaching the end of your degree, you may be getting a little flustered about your journey into the world of work.

This is even more likely if you have no, or very little, professional work experience.

But there is a way to make yourself an attractive hire, and gain that all-important graduate salary, without any work experience under your belt. It’s just a case of highlighting the impressive skills in your repertoire by tailoring and structuring your CV appropriately.

To help you out, here’s exactly how to write your graduate CV when you have no work experience.

Name and contact details

Your name must sit proudly at the top of your CV as the title to this document. Therefore, under no circumstances should you write “curriculum vitae”.

Next to your name you might also like to write the title of your degree to signal your speciality. For example, “Marketing and communications graduate”.

Underneath your name, list your email address and phone number. You could also include your location in the form of “Town, County” and a link to your LinkedIn profile if you have one.

Personal profile

The next section of your CV is your personal profile – otherwise known as a personal statement, professional profile or career objective. Your profile acts as a short introduction to you, detailing your current graduate status, the top abilities in your skillset that you can offer the employer and your career ambitions.

It’s important to showcase your most impressive achievements that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Since you’re a graduate, it’s likely to be your degree, your transferable skills and any industry-specific abilities you have picked up during studying.

Don’t feel pressured to detail your long-term career ambitions either – it’s likely you’re not sure what they are yet anyway. Simply wrap up your personal profile by explaining the role or industry you’re currently pursuing.

Education

As you have no experience, your next section will be “Education” as it’s more relevant, and as a result, stronger.

Start with your degree, listing your university name and the dates you attended on one line, your degree subject and the classification on the next, followed by some bullet points on modules and specialisms.

After that, list the rest of your educational history in a similar way, in reverse chronological order. If you’re running out of room, you don’t need to list every single one of your qualifications. Instead, summarise in a line like so: “X GCSEs grades X-X”.

Make sure you keep an eye out for required qualifications listed in the job spec though. Many employers require a certain GCSE grade in Maths or English. Therefore, if it’s required, mention it or you might miss out on the chance for an interview.

Placements and projects

An employment history section is an essential component of a CV. However, since you have no work experience, tweak the heading to read “Placements and projects”.

In this section, detail any work or voluntary placements and projects you have completed in or outside of university. This is to show off all of your skills that are relevant to the workplace.

Layout your placements and projects in a similar way to any position of employment, detailing the dates, title of the project or placement, a one-line summary of the task or position and any key responsibilities and achievements.

Aim to showcase as much of your knowledge as possible that’s relevant to the role you’re applying for. Just take a look at the requirements listed in the job description to ensure you’re identifying the correct skills.

Additional sections

There are a range of additional sections you can add to your CV to make yourself a desirable hire – and they all depend on your experience and the role you’re applying for.

A common addition is a “hobbies and interests section” where you should list interests that make you particularly unique or interesting. While not always possible, try to keep them relevant to your application and avoid including your interests entirely if they’re run-of-the-mill, like reading, socialising or going to the gym.

Other sections you might like to add include: languages, awards and achievements, publications, IT skills and accreditations. It’s simply a case of choosing what is relevant to the job, the sector or the company to show why you’re a great fit.

Laura Slingo is Digital Copywriter for the UK’s leading independent job board, CV-Library. For more expert advice on job searches, careers and the workplace, visit their Career Advice pages.

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