When you leave college or university, you will be keen to kick-start your career. However, landing an entry-level job when you have no previous work experience can be tricky.
The same goes for those who are looking to make a career change after a few years of working in one business sector and wanting to switch to a completely different one.
Whether you are taking your first steps on your career path or looking to change direction, there are certain tips and methods to use to help you get started by landing an entry-level job.
Why do entry-level jobs require experience?
When you start to check out entry-level job adverts, you will wonder why so many of them are asking for candidates with sometimes up to two years of work experience.
This makes no sense in the real world because how are you supposed to have a decent amount of work experience under your belt if you are fresh out of college or you have spent the last decade working full time in a completely different business sector?
How frustrating is it to find a perfect job advert from a company that you long to work for, features all the responsibilities that you are happy to take on, yet the company is looking for candidates with at least one to two years of experience in this field.
Is it worth applying for an entry-level job that requires experience?
Reading the job description and seeing that the company are asking for candidates with experience to fill an entry-level position is enough to put most people off applying.
The whole idea of entry-level jobs is to give people with no prior work experience the knowledge they need in order to advance in their chosen career sector.
Even though the job looks like a perfect fit for you – other than the requirement for experience – it is still worth applying for. Don’t worry! It won’t be a futile effort on your part.
With the following tips, you will be able to reframe the request for work experience into something more positive from your point of view.
Interpret the job description differently
Instead of taking the job description at face value, think of it as a wish-list being put forward by the company HR department.
In most cases, what you see written here are the desired skills the employer wants from the person in that position.
Whether or not you possess them when you join their team or you go on to develop them over time while working in the role, the end result is the same.
A lot of the skills being asked for could be personality traits such as being capable of working independently or taking proactive action. You will have developed these skills anyway during your educational training.
Reframe most of what you read in the job description concerning previous experience along the lines of the employer saying ‘it would be nice for you to have these skills’ rather than ‘you must have these skills’.
If you meet most of the job requirements – apply anyway!
You have nothing to lose by applying for the job if you meet with nearly all of the requirements. Try not to overthink your decision. Just apply anyway!
Stack the deck in your favor by being positive in your approach and your application. Never apologize for the skills you lack that the company is asking for.
As already mentioned above, you need to believe that the employer has a ‘wish-list’ in place for their candidates, but not necessarily a ‘have-to-have’ list.
After all, you are applying for an entry-level job where most candidates will not have 2 years of work experience in the field. Anyone with this level of experience most certainly will be looking to climb the career ladder – not stay exactly where they are or take a step backward.
Start off with a strong entry-level resume
No matter what entry-level job you want to apply for, it all starts with your resume. To get your resume into the ‘read again’ pile, you need to know how to structure your resume to make it easy to read and apply the correct layout that promotes your strengths.
There is no big secret around why some entry-level resumes are more effective than others – in most cases, the job candidate simply picked the right resume format.
Why does my resume format matter?
If you were to pick a resume format that a more seasoned and experienced worker would use, you may end up burying your best qualities and transferable skills.
In most cases a more traditional resume layout will use a chronological layout to show an employer your years of work experience and impressive achievements, positions held and list the companies you worked for.
However, as a recent college leaver without any notable work experience, you will need to structure your resume differently.
An ideal layout would be to use a reverse-chronological structure. This will ensure that your resume will show your best achievements first.
Your prospective employer will be interviewing for an entry-level job so will not be expecting a busy resume packed full of history.
However, you still need to make sure you deliver the information they are looking for in a candidate as quickly and as easily as possible.
Here are some entry-level resume tips:
- Use large headings to separate your resume sections
- Use simple fonts – don’t try to impress the employer with fancy fonts that make your information hard to read or gives the employer eye-strain
- Make good use of white space to give your reader a chance to rest their eyes
- Keep your resume to one single page
Try to remember that an entry-level resume is more of an introductory piece rather than a potted history of your career so far.
One very important tip that should never be overlooked is to spell check, read again, spell check again.
Spelling mistakes in your resume won’t create a good first impression and will leave the employer thinking that your work will be sloppy and unchecked.
Entry-level resume templates
Another tricky task for recent graduates or those changing career after many years is that of creating a suitable resume.
Many job seekers that have never been employed before may never have had to create a resume. Someone looking to changing careers after many years in a job will be out of practice. The best place to start is by using a well-structured resume template.
Freesumes has a beautiful range of well-designed basic resume templates that are perfect for you to use when applying for an entry-level position.
Don’t go out of your way to create a fancy looking resume to impress your prospective new employer. If you try too hard to cover up your lack of work experience with a fancy resume, the employer will see right through you.
‘Keep it simple’ is the message here!
Saving and amending your resume template
Be prepared to edit and revise your resume template often.
A lot of job seekers make the mistake of preparing just one single generic resume and using this to send out to all employers for every job they apply for. Big mistake!
Keep your resume in Word format so that you can return to it over again to tailor it to fit each new job you apply for.
You can also add new skills learned, qualifications achieved or training courses attended as you complete them. This means that you will not have to start over again from scratch each time you want to add to your resume.
You can save a version of your resume in PDF format to send to employers that ask for this format, but make sure to check the job application carefully before sending a PDF version of your resume.
Want to try out other resume formats?
We offer a stylish range of different resume templates – both free and premium.
Recent grad? Have a look at our signature template The New Candidate. Ideal for an entry-level job application for a recent college leaver!
Need help with creating your first cover letter to go with your resume? You will find lots of useful posts offering cover letter tips on the Freesumes blog.