Finding a job when you have no experience can be a challenging mission, to say the least.
After all, how are you supposed to compete with people who have been working in the industry for years?
But the truth is, experience is only one aspect of what employers are looking for in a recruit, and often it’s not even the most important one. You can teach skills and give experience, but you can’t influence someone’s character or personality.
Whether you’re trying to change careers or land your first job, you can convince someone to give a newbie a chance. But you’ll need to take a different approach to get the hirer’s attention.
What you lack in experience, you will need to make up for with transferrable skills, desirable character traits, and the ability to stand out.
Here are some strategies to try that can help you find a job even with a lack of industry skills or experience.
1. Get Sleuthing
Before you make a play for the job, you need to do your research. This is one way to replace your lack of experience with demonstrative enthusiasm.
Learn everything you can about the company and the role for which you’re applying. You need to know what year the brand was founded, who started it, who’s running it now, and what their mission statement is.
Check out their social media accounts and get an idea of the company’s style and vibe. Write down specific words that stand out to you as being relevant to the brand. You will use this information for your tailor-made pitch or application.
Then get into the details of the role itself, paying special attention to any soft skills or characteristics they’re seeking. You will be playing these up in your application.
2. Use an Eye-Catching Subject Line
Some job descriptions ask you to use a specific subject line for applications, and if that is the case, then you should skip this step. Otherwise, avoid generic subject lines like “job application” or “resume.”
Use this valuable piece of inbox real estate to entice the click!
For example, if you’re applying to a customer service role, you could try “Your next superstar CSR” or “I’m the CSR you’re looking for. Here’s why.”
3. Focus on What You Bring to the Table
There’s no need to dwell on the fact that you have no experience. In fact, don’t bring it up at all. Focus instead on your skills and characteristics.
Top personality traits that businesses look for include multitaskers, strategizers, decision-makers, team players, and critical thinkers. Determine what your best attributes are and make them front and center of your application.
Your skills are another area that employers will be interested in hearing about. That includes soft skills, like organization and time management.
But don’t just put your skills in a list. Demonstrate how you’ve used them in the real world and match that skill to benefits for the employer.
For example: “I am a master of organization from assisting XYZ Charity with their annual food drive for the past three years. I take the same, methodical approach to managing your projects so that each task is carried out accurately and on time.”
4. Record an Introductory Video
With this strategy, your video becomes the cover letter. Start your email with one or two sentences explaining the role you’re applying, what the video is, and then let your video do the rest of the talking!
It’s an especially great tactic for remote positions (where employers won’t get to meet you in person and want to see you’re human), but it could work for in-person jobs too. Not only that, it’s a surefire way to stand out from the crowd as few applicants will be bothered to do a video unless it’s explicitly requested in the job listing. And making that extra effort is your way to demonstrate that you really want the job.
To pull it off, keep the video short (1-3 minutes, tops!) and talk about who you are and what you can do for the business.
Recording a video sounds intimidating, but it’s actually really easy. You can use a free program like Loom to record right from your computer. You can do a takes until you have one you’re happy with, and then use the program’s free snipping tool to clean it up.
5. Consider Using a Little Humor
Yes, using humor is a risk. But during the research phase, you should have been able to glean how casual or corporate the company is.
If it’s more casual, it’s worth a try. If you strike the right chord, it can make you more likable, which gives you an advantage over your competition.
Still, use it sparingly and keep it clean. A one-liner near the start of your cover letter (or in your subject line) will set the tone and prime the hirer to finish reading.
But before you hit send, let a few of your friends or family members take a read through and monitor their reactions. A chuckle means you’re on the right track, while a raised eyebrow indicates you need to work on your material. (Or skip it altogether!)
6. Go a Step Further
If there’s an opportunity, go the extra mile to further show them how much you want the job. A good way to do this is to provide a sample of what you can bring to the table.
For example, if you’re applying to a graphic design role, prepare a specially made graphic that they could use for their business tomorrow.
It’s an extra effort that usually impresses, and if it’s good, it will give them all the more reason not to care about your lack of experience.
7. Display Confidence
Your goal is to convince the hirer that you have what it takes to do the job well. Even if you don’t yet have all the requisite skills, you need to demonstrate that you are confident in your ability to learn them.
An excellent way to convey your confidence is to use “power verbs” when describing your transferrable skills and characteristics. For example:
You can find more great words to use throughout your cover letter, video, or resume here.
If you go the video route, you’ll need to portray confidence physically as well. Be sure to sit up straight, smile, and look at the camera often to create the illusion of “eye contact.”
8. Follow Up
Just because you don’t get a response right away doesn’t mean you’re out of the running. It’s possible that they missed your email, are away on vacation, or just got side-tracked by all of the other things on their plate.
If you haven’t heard back after a week or so, follow up with another email. Even a short follow-up will suffice. For example:
“I hope this email finds you well. I submitted my application a few days ago, and I would like to reiterate my interest in the role as well as double-check that you have received my application.
I look forward to hearing from you!”
If another week passes without a response, you can follow up once more. If you still don’t hear back, then it’s likely time to move on.
Email Templates to Get You Started
Here are a couple of email samples you can swipe and craft into your own job-landing cover letter. These templates highlight your skills and enthusiasm without getting into your experience (or lack thereof).
Email Cover Letter Sample
Subject Line: The rockstar [Job Title] you’re looking for!
Hi [Hirer’s Name],
My name is [your name], an aspiring [job title] from [town/city/country]. I came across your job opening on [job posting website], and I knew I had to apply right away. I’m a critical-thinking, multi-tasking wizard who loves [industry/job function].
[Company mission] is something that resonates with my own values, and I am eager for the chance to be a part of that!
I also think I’m the perfect match for this role because:
- [Relevant Talent/skill/characteristic 1]: [1-2 sentence explanation of your skill and how you will use it to do the job]
- [Relevant Talent/skill/characteristic 2]: [1-2 sentence explanation of your skill and how you will use it to do the job]
- [Relevant Talent/skill/characteristic 3]: [1-2 sentence explanation of your skill and how you will use it to do the job]
I also love to learn new things and have a knack for picking up new processes and systems quickly.
Attached, you’ll find my resume that further explores all the qualities that make me a great fit for the job. And for bonus points, I have included a [work sample] to show you that I am a self-starter.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
[Your phone number]
Video Application Template
Hi [Hirer’s name]!
My name is [name], an aspiring [job title] from [town/city/country]. I came across your job opening on [job posting website], and I knew I had to reach out right away! Below you’ll find a short video I made to introduce myself and talk a little about how I can benefit your business.
[Link to introductory video]
Attached, you’ll find a resume detailing all the qualities that make me a great fit for this role.
I’m so excited about this opportunity to work for [company name], and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
[Your phone number]
Although it can be challenging to find a job with a lack of skills and experience, these tactics can help you stand out from the crowd and showcase your best professional traits.
Does that mean that everyone you reach out to appreciate a unique approach? No.
But when you’re competing with people who are more qualified than you (at least on paper), you’re still better off getting the hirer’s attention than getting lost in a sea of applicants.
And once you have your foot in the door, you can knock their socks off with your winning personality and enthusiasm to prove yourself.
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Corrie Alexander is a content creator and logistics nerd from Toronto, Ontario. Her climb up the corporate ladder cultivated her interest in the topic of career development, a passion rivaled only by her love of exercise and strong coffee. As an alumna of both Horkey Handbook's Freelance Writing and Virtual Assistant courses, Corrie loves helping other bloggers and small business owners grow! Visit her website, thefitcareerist.com.