How to Get Hired if You Don’t Have Experience


A reader writes….   In my search for a job, I’ve found that most employers want some sort of work reference or are interested in hearing about my “experience” on the job.  How do you get your foot in the door with a company if you don’t have experience?

Dear “Inexperienced,”

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could be like “Samantha” from the classic TV show Bewitched and simply wriggle your nose and “POOF” all of your problems could be solved?  Unfortunately, in the real world, challenges don’t get resolved like in a 30-minute sitcom. In reality, companies want to see references from past employers, and resumes need to be packed with skills and/or related EXPERIENCE.  Sigh.

For those of you fresh out of college or in the midst of a career change, this becomes an issue.  But fear not my inexperienced friends… there ARE ways to get around this!

1.  What can you do for them.  When composing a cover letter,  writing a resume, or even answering interview questions, it’s important that you highlight your strengths, but rather than emphasizing, “I can do this,” or “I am good at that…” focus on the job itself and how you’re a good match for the COMPANY’S needs.  Remember, as much as we’d like to think businesses “care” about us….  What they really want to know is what you can do for them.  Specifically, if you say something like, “I want to learn” (seems pretty innocent, right?), businesses may shy away from you because they’d rather consider someone who will roll up their sleeves and actively contribute to their goals.  Now, that’s not to say you can’t share that you’re a “fast learner” – just be ready to offer concrete examples.

2. Do your homework. Maybe you haven’t worked in a particular industry (or anywhere for that matter), but you have a solid interest in a certain business niche.  Using today’s social media outlets, there are ample opportunities to get involved with industry experts online.  For example, you’ll find various discussion boards on sites like LinkedIn where you can post comments or articles on a subject.  Contributing constructive content on certain subjects – then sharing that information with a potential employer – shows your passion and interest in what they do. You’re clearly demonstrating that you’ve researched their business (or industry), are well versed on key topics, and can offer input or even solutions… even though you haven’t officially started working in the field yet.  This would be impressive to me if I were doing the hiring!

 3.  Internships. Though sometimes not glamorous and often unpaid… internships or volunteer work in a related field are a great way to build up your resume.  When I was in college, I knew that my minimum wage job at a local restaurant wasn’t going to land me a career right after graduation.  I needed to sign up for as many internships as possible – some even gave me college credit.  From volunteering my time in fast-paced government offices to dreading the long (boring) hours at a small non-profit organization…  I did it and it paid off.  Suddenly, my friends who chose to party every chance they had wished they had something to include in their so-called “resume.” I at least had 3 or 4 “experiences” with references that I could include.

4.  Consider trying out some temp jobs.  More than ever, companies are turning to temporary staffing firms to help them fill their open positions.  In many cases, jobs that start off as “temporary” evolve into full-time permanent placements – what a great way to get your foot in the door at a specific company or in a specific industry! Be warned (but not discouraged) that most temporary staffing agencies ALSO require at least two employment references.  This is where internships, food service jobs, or anything retail plays a key role.  While these positions may or may not be relevant to your ultimate career choice… they are essential indicators of your work ethic and performance on the job.  If you haven’t already,  apply online at Select Staffing – it’s FREE and could be your ticket to employment!

5.  Don’t get caught up in the detail.  Just because a job posting may include a huge laundry list of requirements or desired qulifications, it doesn’t mean the employer expects to find someone who resembles each and every point.  More often than not, a job posting is simply outlining what’s considered to be the “dream candidate” for the position.   Now, if it specifically says, “Must have ‘x’ number of years working in a specific trade or industry,” then the job may not be a good fit for you at this time.  Remember, if you’re starting “fresh” in a new industry or field… you need to be ready to accept an entry-level position.  On the other hand, it’s true that certain “requirements” or skills can be taught – but finding the right personality or behavioral traits is sometimes more important.  People want to work with others they can get along with.

My concluding thoughts:  be honest, stay positive, be resourceful, and DON’T give up!

If anyone has additional comments or suggestions, please post them here.  We’d LOVE to hear from you!

-Anita

59 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Raphael
    May 25, 2013 @ 01:44:25

    Thanks for any aid, man.

    Like

    Reply

  2. Pam
    May 06, 2013 @ 15:10:03

    I am a hospice volunteer. Is it a good idea to put this on my resume?

    Like

    Reply

  3. Laura Eliud Perez
    Apr 10, 2013 @ 13:43:38

    Hi I am looking for employment and I like your tips.

    Like

    Reply

  4. Be
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 06:01:13

    Anita Penny…..

    I’m broke.

    Lol

    Like

    Reply

  5. Be
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 20:24:32

    I am so hurt be my old boss, I am afraid to get another

    Like

    Reply

  6. boudreaux4jc/Richard Rhyne
    Feb 13, 2013 @ 15:45:28

    I haven’t worked in four years and I have SSDI income. I am looking for a part time job and having a hard time getting any feed back from employers or I haven’t worked since 2010. What should I do to get their attention to get at least an interview?

    Like

    Reply

  7. Buford
    Feb 09, 2013 @ 15:48:08

    You have made some decent points there. I looked on the web for additional information about the issue and
    found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.

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  8. home equity loans calculator
    Jan 10, 2013 @ 16:53:18

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  9. Sharon Houston
    Dec 05, 2012 @ 20:19:46

    I am glad to know I’m not the only one that has not done everything and needs experience in another field which I have been having a lot of difficult in finding a job in this field that is a independent claims adjuster I just got my license in november 2012 and do not have any experience in this field I have plenty of customer service experience however no adjuster’s experience. Do anyone no of independent claims adjuster jobs that does not require experience for new independent claims adjusters

    Like

    Reply

  10. jlb
    Jul 19, 2012 @ 11:09:55

    I agree that due to not having experience should not be a recipe for discouragement. We all at one time had no experience however there was the desire to get into the job market. Volunteering is quite important. Not only do you develop experience but, also establish references. I’d also ask the volunteer coordinator or supervisor for a letter of reference. (Typed and on the organization letterhead). The letter will serve to reflect your dependability and duties. It may not outline your duties which can be placed on your resume. It can speak of your character and reliability. The letter is to be kept for the duration of your life. At some point, should you decide to change jobs. You will always have your letter of reference. Also if a customer write a complimentary letter without being asked to do so. That will speak volumes. Let the interviewer know that you have documents that you would like to share which you are proud of. If the interview will like, they can only make copies and return the originals to you prior to your leaving the interview. Or you can take copies wih you. Present the copies only if they express an interest in making copies. Also, organize your documents in a binder. Resume, copy of your diploma(s),certification(s), letter of reference(s), most recent on top. Interviewers will be impressed by the organization of documents. Present the binder as if they are going to open it and began reading.

    Like

    Reply

    • Y-Nette
      Aug 14, 2013 @ 11:20:23

      I can’t articulate just how much your comment here helps me in my current situation. You provided some great, concrete examples on what I can do in lieu of academic or job references and it’s really encouraging. You started me thinking about additional options for references that I never thought to consider before. Thank you so, so much. I’ll get to work on that binder right away! :)

      Like

      Reply

  11. ameliarojas
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 10:58:07

    All of your suggestions are awesome! I would like to add that a good place to start in this scare job market is to begin by “Tutoring” There are many reputable companies that have job openings for tutors in all subjects..This gives the graduate the opportunity to add experience to their resume as well…just a thought.

    Like

    Reply

  12. HELIODORO ESTRADA
    Jun 22, 2012 @ 19:44:32

    Estoy buscando trabajo porfabor estoy desesperado tengo familia k nesecitan de mi eh trabajado en ensambles,bodegas,se manejar motacargas me considero buen trabajador porfabor contactanme(626)391-5566

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  13. crystal sanchez
    May 07, 2012 @ 23:14:56

    i would like to work by building up my job expierace i wouid love it to be hire as a sigle mom its hard for most days.i have my resumate i would gladly fax it as soon as posible.

    Like

    Reply

  14. Lysandra
    Apr 15, 2012 @ 08:34:40

    I am 20 yrs old an I never worked in my life I need help

    Like

    Reply

    • ameliarojas
      Jun 28, 2012 @ 11:02:09

      Sometimes “no experience” is what employers want and like simply because you don’t come with “bad habits” in a sense, so no experience is not a bad thing at all..It’s like having no credit versus bad credit. Believe in your self and during the interview process let them know that you are a quick learner and would love the opportunity to work for them…:) No experience is not bad at all, don’t give up :)

      Like

      Reply

  15. Sara
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 23:22:04

    Thanks for posting this article and for giving me some hope. I graduated in June 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in History. I’ve since had two jobs and the second one, as a restaurant management trainee, isn’t working for me either. I let it slip that I was thinking of going to grad school to my General Manager and ever since then, I’ve been lied to and treated like dirt by her and my area supervisor because they said I have no loyalty to the company. They do not invest in my training anymore and in fact have threatened to fire me twice.

    I am currently looking for a new job. However, I do not have much experience in the “Monday through Friday 8-5″ kind of job market that I want to get into. I have about 7 years customer service experience, one year sales experience, and I was an intern at a museum for one summer and currently volunteer there.

    I have no idea what kinds of jobs I could be qualified for. I’m afraid people won’t hire me because they’re all stuck on the idea that I’m just waiting for some teaching job. (I’ve been asked this at every job interview….) However, most people don’t know that you can’t be a teacher unless you’ve actually gone to school for teaching and the teaching field is very hard to get into even WITH the proper education.

    So, with all of that said, do you have any advice for me?

    Thanks!

    Like

    Reply

    • anitaclew
      Apr 05, 2012 @ 12:13:12

      Good Morning,

      I think going to graduate school is a fantastic idea. I would expect to hear that your supervisor and manager would be impressed by the thoughts of expanding your education and developing your skills. For all they know, you could be getting a master’s in management or hospitality, which could benefit their establishment in the future.

      But back to your question, from the sound of things, it looks like you have a solid work history to get yourself noticed. The combination of customer service, sales, and restaurant management training that you have received allows you to cover a wide range of positions. Volunteer opportunities also look GREAT to potential employers.

      If teaching is what you really want to do, I suggest that you look into getting a position as a substitute teacher. Most schools require that you possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, which you already have! This will give you experience in the classroom, help you build a strong reputation as a great employee, and open many doors leading towards a professional career. You will also be able to interact with other teachers and find the best way to get your teaching credentials. Also, some graduate programs for education allow you to teach part-time and go to school part-time!

      I hope this helps!
      -Anita

      Like

      Reply

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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