No Experience, No Problem: Applying with No Relevant Experience

Dana Guterman
Updated: July 24, 2020

There it is: your dream job. It’s everything you’ve been looking for … except for the fact that you have approximately zero of the “preferred experience” qualifications listed in the job description.

Take a deep breath. We’ve heard it all before: “I can’t get a job without experience, but I can’t get experience without a job.”

Yes, you can. In this guide, we’ll show you how to apply to a job for which you have relevant experience, from crafting your resume to writing your cover letter.

Getting started

Before we launch into the application process, you need to ask yourself one question: Can you actually do this awesome job? Be honest with yourself. Often, you can refine or even learn skills on the job, or you can apply seemingly disparate skills to the task at hand. Other times, you can’t. If a job calls for “Advanced knowledge of C++, JavaScript, and Ruby,” and you don’t even know HTML, do yourself a favor and walk away. On the other hand, many jobs rely on transferable skills. And in those cases, you should give it a go.

What’s a transferable skill?

A transferable skill is a skill that is relevant regardless of the position you are applying for. You take these skills from job to job and experience to experience. Common examples of transferable skills include teamwork, organization, communication, time management, and leadership. If a job lists “Ability to stay organized and meet multiple deadlines under pressure,” you can totally highlight your experience as a student with a dual major or how you balance your extracurriculars with your coursework. You don’t need formal or traditional experience to know what you’re doing.

What’s really required?

Let’s look at an example. Say you want to apply for a marketing internship. Below are the requirements of the internship as outlined by the job description:


  • Sophomore or junior standing, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business, communications, advertising, or a related field
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office Suite
  • Team player and self-starter, with excellent critical-thinking, organization, and communication skills
  • Knowledge of driving engagement through social media content

Preferred Qualifications

  • Familiarity with Adobe Creative Suite
  • Experience with SPSS

This internship description is clear about what’s required and what’s preferred, cutting down on the guesswork. Here’s the thing: you don’t need to sweat those “preferred,” “desired,” or “bonus” qualifications. Sure, a dream candidate might have them, but most companies don’t find their dream candidate … they find a qualified, hard-working professional who can do the job well. They find someone like you.

If a job or internship description doesn’t distinguish between “required” and “desired,” it’s up to you to do a little guesswork. Look for key themes and repeated areas of expertise, keeping in mind that descriptions typically list the most important qualifications first. If you’re missing a few nice-to-have skills, that’s okay; just ensure that you’re not missing the essential ones.

Now, let’s do a bit of role playing. Say you’re currently a sophomore at a large, public university. Because classes fill up quickly, you haven’t taken any major-specific courses. This year, you completed Business 101 and Management 105, but you have zero marketing training in the traditional sense. Beyond classes, you’re an active member of an on-campus organization called Students in Business, but in terms of work experience, you only have a part-time job hosting at a restaurant on the weekends.

Guess what? You’re qualified for this internship. It’s time to put those transferable skills to work.

Writing your cover letter

As a restaurant host, you collaborate with other staff members and communicate effectively to ensure customers are seated in a timely manner that makes everyone happy. As a member of Students in Business, you organize events and advertise them on social media.

The internship above requires strong teamwork, organizational, and communication skills—and, it turns out, you have those in spades. Technically, you’re getting your degree in a “related field”—you just don’t know which field yet! And you have basic knowledge of social media best practices from your extracurricular activities. Here’s an example of what you could write as part of your cover letter:

As a member of Students in Business, a 60-person student-run organization, I bring exciting leadership events and speakers to campus. Planning each event requires excellent organizational and communication skills, as I juggle schedules and ensure each event runs smoothly. I post about all upcoming events on the group’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, building anticipation and encouraging attendance. Event turnout has increased by 11 percent in the past 18 months.

In addition, as a host at Good Food Restaurant, I work with a 12-person team to ensure high-quality service, satisfied guests, and composed staff. In both these roles, I collaborate with colleagues and use effective communication to ensure optimal results. I’d appreciate the opportunity to bring these skills to work alongside your team of experienced marketing professionals.

You have the skills. You just have to prove it. If your application can confidently speak to the majority of the required skills, and show how you used those skills to make an impact, you’re a strong candidate.

Building your resume

Now, let’s take a look at building a resume with no experience. Again, you’ll want to focus on transferable skills. Volunteer and extracurricular experience is especially useful here, as is relevant coursework from school. If you need to fill space, consider a job objective—just make it enthusiastic and focused on how you can add value for the company, not just how they can provide a job for you.

Adding a summary of qualifications section at the beginning of your resume is a great way to kick things off. Highlight your pertinent hard and soft skills immediately, so that the hiring manager wants to keep reading. You can also use this space to share any personal expertise that relates to the job. For example, if it’s running fundraising for an animal shelter and you’re a life-time member of the Humane Society, mention it.

JANE SMITH                         

100 Home Street | Somewhere, NY 00000

555.555.5555 |

Dynamic and reliable college student seeks to put strong communication skills, social media experience, and organizational expertise to use as marketing intern.


Bellwood College | West Seneca, NY | May 2020 (Anticipated)                  

Bachelor of Science


  • Aptitude for developing and implementing social media marketing campaigns that drive visibility and increase event turnout.
  • 3+ years of hands-on organizational experience through event planning, honing diplomatic communication skills on a large team.
  • Proficiency in evaluating and addressing customer needs efficiently and cheerfully.
  • Training and supplemental coursework completed in business and management.


Students in Business
Member | West Seneca, NY (Jan 2018–Present)

  • Partner with fellow students to bring exciting leadership events and speakers to campus, juggling schedules and ensuring each event runs smoothly.
  • Drive event turnout and visibility through posting about all upcoming events on the group’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.
  • Event turnout has increased by 11 percent in the past 18 months.

Good Food Restaurant
Host | West Seneca, NY (May 2019–Present)

  • Collaborate with 12-person team to ensure high-quality service, satisfied guests, and composed staff.
  • Efficiently and warmly greet and seat 50+ guests each night.
  • Use communication and interpersonal skills to evaluate and defuse challenging situations.


MS Excel, PowerPoint, and Word

There you have it: a start-to-finish guide for to land the job of your dreams, even if you don’t check every box on paper. You’ve worked hard to get here, and you have more transferable skills than you realize, so give yourself some credit.