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Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

How to write a CV with no experience

28 min read
How to write a CV with no experience
Artwork by:Lizabeth Zaft
Feeling stuck because you have no work experience? You’re not alone! Many Kiwis find themselves in this position, especially if they’re fresh out of school or uni.

Don’t let a blank work history hold you back. You can still create a compelling CV that showcases your potential and helps land you an interview. Think like the employer: what are they looking for? What skills and qualities are valued in their industry or workplace? How can you prove you're the right fit, even without traditional work experience?

In this guide, we’ll explore how to highlight your skills, showcase your achievements in other areas of your life, and help you create a CV that stands out from the crowd. With our online CV builder, user-friendly tools and customisable CV templates, we’ll also walk you through how to craft a CV that highlights your skills, achievements, and enthusiasm for the role, even if your work history is a blank canvas.

How to structure a CV with no experience

Before we get started, let's take a quick look at the New Zealand job market. Employers in Aotearoa typically value a well-structured, concise, and results-oriented CV. They're looking for candidates who can articulate their skills and clearly demonstrate their potential to contribute to the company.

Ultimately, employers want to quickly understand your most relevant skills and experiences, so avoid lengthy paragraphs and unnecessary details. Instead, use clear headings, bullet points and data, such as numbers, percentages and statistics, to help showcase your abilities and achievements.

Additionally, potential employers also value interpersonal skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. Don't hesitate to showcase these alongside your technical skills. It’s important to remember that New Zealand CVs typically differ from CVs used in other countries. For example, if you’re crafting a CV for European employers, it’s important to review how CVs in Europe are generally structured. 

While CVs in New Zealand generally emphasise transferable skills and personal attributes, CVs in other countries, often called resumes, may focus more heavily on a chronological work history. It’s always important to do your research to ensure your CV is tailored to the specific country and industry you are applying to.

Professional tip

Remember, your CV isn't a one-size-fits-all document. Every time you apply for a job, take the time to read the job description and tailor your CV carefully. Highlight skills and experiences that are most relevant to the role, using keywords and phrases from the job description where possible. Tailoring your CV shows employers you've done your research and possess the qualities they're looking for in a candidate.

Essential sections of a CV

To begin, a well-crafted CV should typically include the following sections:

  1. Contact Details: Name, contact information, and, optionally, a link to your LinkedIn profile or online portfolio. This information is usually in the header of your CV. Ensure the information provided is up-to-date, accurate and professional.
  2. Personal statement: Include a brief summary highlighting your career goals, key skills, and enthusiasm in 2-4 sentences. It’s your chance to make a strong first impression and capture the reader’s attention.
  3. Education: List your qualifications, including the institution, location, and dates attended (e.g., Bachelor of Science in Marketing, University of Auckland). You can also list academic achievements such as scholarships, awards, or outstanding grades if relevant.
  4. Skills: Showcase the skills that are most relevant to the role you’re applying for.  Back these up with examples from your studies, volunteer work, or personal experiences, and try to include a mix of both technical skills (e.g., programming languages, data analysis) and interpersonal skills (e.g., negotiation, communication and conflict resolution skills).
  5. Achievements and awards: This section is your opportunity to spotlight your accomplishments. Include any awards, scholarships, prizes, or extracurricular achievements demonstrating your abilities, commitment, and initiative. Quantify your achievements whenever possible (e.g., "Increased sales by 15% in six months" or "Led a team of 10 volunteers to organise a successful charity event").
  6. Volunteer work: Even unpaid experiences can be valuable assets to your CV! Detail any volunteer roles, community involvement, or personal projects that showcase your skills, initiative, and commitment to making a difference. Be sure to highlight the skills you developed and the impact you made in these roles.
  7. Interests and hobbies: While optional, this section can provide employers with a glimpse into your personality and passions outside of work. Consider including hobbies or interests that align with the company culture or demonstrate desirable qualities like teamwork, creativity, or perseverance. For more professional occupations, including doctors or lawyers, it’s generally best to omit this section.
  8. References: List two or three references who can vouch for your character and abilities. It’s important to note that many employers will ask for this later in the employment process, so this section is also optional.
Do

Choose a professional design layout appropriate to the industry and job role you’re applying for. Ensure it is well-organised, easy to read, and visually appealing.

Don't

Include irrelevant or outdated information. Your CV should focus on experiences and skills relevant to the job you're applying for.

How to craft a CV for a first job

Writing a CV or cover letter for your first job can feel challenging, but it's a crucial step towards launching your career. Remember, even without extensive professional experience, you possess valuable skills and qualities that employers are looking for. Your first CV is an opportunity to showcase your potential and make a lasting impression.

You can start by highlighting your education and listing your academic qualifications, including relevant coursework, projects, or academic achievements. Emphasise any skills or knowledge gained through your studies that align with the specific job requirements. 

Next, showcase any transferable skills acquired through volunteer work, extracurricular activities, or hobbies. Did you manage a school club, organise a community event, or tutor a fellow student? These experiences demonstrate valuable skills that are highly sought-after by employers like leadership, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. 

If you’ve completed any internships, be sure to highlight them, focusing on the responsibilities you held and the skills you developed. Even brief professional experiences can demonstrate your work ethic and willingness to learn. 

Finally, use your personal statement to briefly introduce yourself and articulate your career aspirations. Keep it concise and focused, highlighting your most relevant skills and experiences.

Professional tip

Be bold and ask for help!

Seek feedback from teachers, career advisors, or family and friends with experience in your desired field. They can offer valuable insights and suggestions for improving your CV.

Showcase your potential

Your CV is your chance to stand out to employers, so use it to tell your unique story and demonstrate your potential to contribute to the company. Think of it as your blank canvas, where you can vividly outline your unique journey, showcasing your diverse experiences, skills, and untapped potential.

Each element of your CV—from your academic achievements to your extracurricular activities and personal projects—contributes to a mosaic that reflects your character and capabilities. It’s also important to emphasise your eagerness to contribute your unique perspective and fresh ideas to the company's goals. 

By crafting a thoughtful and engaging CV that captures your potential, you'll capture employers' attention and convince them that you're a valuable asset ready to make a meaningful impact.

Here are our top tips to help you stand out from the crowd:

  1. Quantify your achievements: Numbers speak volumes! Whenever possible, transform generic statements into impactful metrics. Instead of simply stating, "volunteered at a local kōhanga reo," go a step further and quantify your impact: "Volunteered at a local shelter, providing direct support to over 50 children and assisting in fundraising efforts that raised $2,000 for essential resources." By quantifying your achievements, you provide concrete evidence of your capabilities and the value you can bring to a company or organisation.
  2. Choose an appropriate design layout: A professionally formatted CV is like a well-designed storefront—it draws people in and makes them want to learn more. Don't be afraid to get creative with different fonts, colours, and layouts to create a CV that reflects your personality and professionalism. Consider using a simple or modern template with subtle visual elements to highlight key sections and make your information easy to digest. Remember, a visually engaging CV can leave a lasting impression on potential employers.
  3. Proofread carefully: A typo or grammatical error can undermine your credibility and professionalism, and have your CV sent straight to the rejection pile. Treat your CV like a prized possession and proofread it multiple times. Look for inconsistencies, awkward phrasing, and errors that might have slipped through the cracks. Remember, don’t hesitate to ask a trusted friend, family member, or career advisor to review your CV. Their fresh perspective can catch errors you might have overlooked.
  4. Tailor your cover letter to the role: Your cover letter is your chance to forge a connection with potential employers. Don't just reiterate the information on your CV; use your cover letter to elaborate on your skills, experiences, and passion for the role. Explain why you're the ideal candidate, highlighting specific examples of how your qualifications align with the job requirements. Address the company directly, demonstrating your research and understanding of their values and goals. A well-tailored cover letter can be the key to unlocking the door to your dream job.
Statistical insight

According to the 2023 Madison Recruitment Employment Market Report, job boards were the most popular channel for attracting candidates in New Zealand. This demonstrates the significant role online platforms play in connecting employers and potential employees!

Highlight transferable skills

Crafting a successful CV is essential for landing a job; and it doesn't have to be intimidating. Even without extensive work experience, you likely possess valuable transferable skills gained from various other areas of your life. 

These can include:

  • Communication skills: Have you given presentations in school, led a group project, or written for the student newspaper?
  • Leadership skills: Have you been a team captain, student council leader, or organised events?
  • Problem-solving skills: Have you tackled challenges in your studies, volunteer work, or personal life?
  • Teamwork skills: Have you collaborated on group projects, played team sports, or participated in community activities?
  • Language skills: Are you fluent in multiple languages, or have you studied a foreign language in school?

The critical thing to remember is that the skills you include should be tailored to the job role you’re applying for. Remember to research the company and the specific position to identify the most relevant skills and keywords to incorporate into your CV. 

Highlight any specific achievements or experiences that demonstrate your proficiency in these areas. This will help your CV stand out to potential employers and increase your chances of landing an interview. 

Do

Use action verbs to describe your skills and accomplishments. For example, instead of saying “responsible for,” say “managed” or “led.”

Don't

Simply list your skills. Provide specific examples of how you’ve demonstrated these skills in different situations with data and metrics when possible. 

Build a convincing personal statement

A well-crafted personal statement can be a game-changer, setting you apart from the competition and leaving a lasting impression on potential employers. It's your chance to go beyond the bullet points of your CV and showcase your unique personality, drive, and suitability for the role. 

In a few concise yet impactful sentences, highlight your career aspirations, outlining the key skills and experiences that make you an ideal candidate. Begin by expressing your enthusiasm for the position and company, demonstrating your genuine interest and excitement for the role.

Conclude your personal statement by reiterating your excitement for the opportunity and expressing your confidence in your ability to contribute meaningfully to the company's success. By crafting a compelling personal statement, you can transform your application from a mere document into a captivating introduction to your professional story, leaving a lasting impression on potential employers and opening doors to exciting career opportunities.

Here's an example of a great personal statement from our Internship CV Writing Guide:

Copyable example

“Enthusiastic and efficient student studying towards a Bachelor of Communication at The University of Auckland. Passionate about creating strong customer relationships, effective communication and serving the community. Hard-working and skilled at social media management and engagement.”

Copied!

Highlight your educational expertise

For graduates fresh out of uni or students still hitting the books, your educational experience is your golden ticket to getting noticed by employers. It's not just about listing your qualifications; it's about showcasing your academic achievements and how they translate to real-world skills relevant to the job position. 

Kick things off with your most recent qualifications, mentioning the institution, degree, and any impressive grades or awards you received. Then, dive deeper into relevant coursework, projects, or research demonstrating your expertise and passion for your field or industry. 

Remember, even for applicants without extensive on-the-job experience, your education can be a powerful indicator of your potential to learn, grow, and add value to the workplace.

Check out this example of a great education section from our Student CV Example Guide:

Copyable education section

Bachelor of Arts, University of Waikato, Hamilton 
February 2013 - June 2017

Copied!

Outline your volunteering experience:

In New Zealand, lending a hand is practically a national pastime. Kiwis love a good volunteer ready to muck in, and employers are no exception. Even if your volunteer experience isn't directly related to your dream job, it speaks volumes about your character and work ethic. 

It can also testify to your character, passion, and willingness to learn. Volunteering experience shows employers that you're not just about clocking in and out; you're invested in making a difference in the community.

Whether you've dedicated countless hours to coaching a local netball team, organised a community event that brought people together, or spent your weekends sorting donations at a charity shop, these experiences reveal a side of you that goes beyond the qualifications listed on your CV.

Don’t underestimate the power of volunteering – it's not just about helping others; it's about unlocking your own potential and showcasing your true worth to future employers.

Professional tip

Keywords are key! 

Tailor your CV to each job application by incorporating relevant keywords from the job description. This will help your CV get noticed by both hiring managers and applicant tracking systems (ATS). Do your research and sprinkle those keywords throughout your CV. When in doubt, copy the job description into a word cloud generator, like wordclouds.com, to visually identify the most frequently used terms.

Choose the right CV format 

For those with limited work experience, choosing the right CV format is essential. Instead of focusing on the traditional reverse-chronological format, which prioritises work history, consider alternative formats that highlight your skills and potential.

One great option is the functional or skills-based CV format. This format focuses on your transferable skills, such as communication, leadership, problem-solving, or technical skills. You can list your skills at the top of your CV, followed by relevant experiences that demonstrate those skills, such as volunteer work, academic projects, or extracurricular activities. This format lets you showcase your strengths and potential contributions, even without a long history of work experiences.

Another option is the hybrid or combination CV format, which combines elements of both chronological and functional formats. You can start by listing your most relevant skills, followed by a brief chronological work history section. 

A combination CV format allows you to showcase your skills while still providing some context for your professional experiences. Since you’re trying to write a CV with no work experience, a functional or skills-based CV is usually the best option for candidates in your position. 

Ultimately, the best CV format for you will depend on your specific situation and the job you're applying for. Consider your strengths and weaknesses, the requirements of the job, and the overall impression you want to make on employers. 

Feel free to experiment with different CV formats and see what works best for you. With a well-crafted CV, you can showcase your potential and land the job you’ve set your sights on. 

Get a second opinion

Your CV is a work in progress, not a one-and-done deal. Once you've poured your heart and soul into crafting it, don't hesitate to share it with trusted friends, family members, or even your former lecturers. 

A fresh pair of eyes can work wonders, catching those pesky typos or grammatical errors that might have slipped through the cracks. They can also offer valuable feedback on the overall flow, structure, and clarity of your CV, ensuring it's easy to read and understand.

But don't stop there! Take advantage of the resources available to students and job seekers. Your university or polytechnic likely has a career services department with knowledgeable advisors eager to help you succeed. 

These professionals can offer expert feedback, tailored advice, and even mock interviews to prepare you for the job hunt. They can help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement, ensuring your CV shines brightly in the competitive job market. 

Remember, constructive criticism is your friend, not your foe. Embrace feedback as a valuable tool for growth and refinement, and watch your CV transform into a powerful document that opens doors to exciting opportunities.

Key Takeaways 

  1. Think like an employer: Understand the skills and qualities valued in your industry and tailor your CV accordingly. Research companies and job roles thoroughly to identify the specific qualifications they’re after.
  2. Highlight transferable skills: Showcase skills gained from various experiences, such as communication, leadership, and problem-solving. Demonstrate how these skills can be applied to the workplace, providing specific examples whenever possible.
  3. Craft a compelling personal statement: Capture your enthusiasm and potential in a concise and impactful summary. Highlight your career goals, key skills, and passion for the industry to leave a lasting impression.
  4. Quantify your achievements: Use numbers and metrics to demonstrate your impact in various activities. Discuss measurable results to demonstrate your contributions.
  5. Showcase your potential: Highlight educational achievements, volunteer work, and personal projects to demonstrate your capabilities. Include details such as awards, certifications, or specific accomplishments that reflect your initiative and drive.
  6. Get creative: Use visually appealing formatting, but prioritise clarity and readability. Incorporate design elements strategically to enhance your CV's visual appeal while maintaining a professional tone.
  7. Proofread your CV: Ensure your CV is error-free and seek feedback from trusted sources. Ask friends, family, or career advisors to review your CV for grammar, spelling, and overall effectiveness.
  8. Tailor your CV to the job role: Connect your skills and experiences to the specific job requirements and showcase your enthusiasm for the role. Research the company and personalise your cover letter to demonstrate your interest.
  9. Reach out to professionals: Seek guidance from advisors and online resources for expert advice and support. Take advantage of workshops, career fairs, and online tools to enhance your job search strategies.

Remember, your CV is constantly evolving as you gain new experiences and skills. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different CV formats and seek feedback to ensure your CV effectively showcases your unique strengths and potential.

Are you eager to kickstart your career but feeling held back by a lack of work experience? Don't let that blank page intimidate you! Our online CV builder, you can craft a powerful CV that showcases your unique skills and potential. You don't have to do it alone. CVapp.nz is here to revolutionise your job search and take your CV to the next level.

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