Dear Gabi

Dear Gabi,

How do I convince a recruiter that despite having “no experience” I can still do the job and am a worthy candidate? I’m applying for an entry level job after graduating university but my resume is looking bleak.

— Scott R.


Dear Scott,

First off, there’s no such thing as ‘no experience’ — give yourself some credit! While the conventional resume articulates our traditional work experience there is still value placed on untraditional experience. Let me explain…

When HR and managers are hiring they’re looking for the knowledge and skills required to do the job which is based on a combination of work and educational experiences. But they’re also looking for other attributes. Other attributes could be personal characteristics, interpersonal skills, relationship skills, etc. This is your untraditional experience – and it could be a gold mine.

Your untraditional experience is life experience that has given you knowledge, skills, abilities, and attributes that can’t be taught in school. Since this experience is individual to you it’s also your competitive edge.

The untraditional experience to emphasize could be anything such as team sports, world travel, martial arts, etc. For instance, if you’re applying for a sales job then competitive sports is an excellent untraditional experience to emphasize. Competitive athletes commonly possess fierce drive, tenacity, and a high ability to read interpersonal situations.

Here’s the catch: listing your hobbies and extracurricular experiences is not enough. The art is in how you present it. I call this the ‘so, what?’ factor. Imagine that each recruiter or hiring manager will say ‘so what?’ to you listing your life experience as an attribute. Be prepared to explain why your untraditional experience matters. Be prepared to sell it. You will need to identify what attributes you possess and what their value to the job is.

When you have less different experience than the other job applicants you need to work extra hard to show your value. The better you know your individual strengths, your competitive edge, and essentially what sets you apart from the pack the better you can showcase it.

While some jobs and employers may not have the learning systems in place to hire the unconventional candidate, there will be a company that’s looking for exactly you.  Hone in on all the things that make you “you” and everything will fall into place.

— Gabi


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