Top tips to resolve that proverbial Catch 22

Catch 22
Catch 22 - experience

Catch 22. A circular problem. To get the job you want, you need to demonstrate some experience. But to show experience, you need to have had a job.

Searching for work can be stressful at the best of times, but how on earth are you meant to create a great CV when you feel you have nothing to write about?

The good news is that although you might not have specific employment experience, you do have life experience. And using this, you can create an eye-catching CV that gives you the leg up onto your career ladder that you need to get started.

So here are our best tips for creating your first CV:

Create a strong summary statement

Spend a disproportionate amount of time on this paragraph. It should only be a few lines, but it needs to grab the attention of the recruiter. You are aiming for a snapshot of what makes you a great choice for the job. Focus on personal strengths and any relevant skills that you may have picked up through casual work or via your education or hobbies. 

Take stock of what you can offer

List everything you can think of that might be useful – and then pick out the key elements to add to your CV. Worked in a pub at uni? Great, you will have developed customer service and problem-solving skills. Captained the hockey firsts? Talk about your collaboration ability and love of working in a team. Head boy? You’re a born leader, and no doubt learned to hone your decision-making prowess.

Make it ATS friendly

Many recruiters, particularly in large organisations, use Applicant Tracking Systems to sort through the initial batch of CVs. This can mean your beautifully crafted document gets rejected by a bot before a human gets anywhere near it. But there are ways to ensure your CV is ATS friendly: Always submit in Word, and align text to the left. Use clear job titles for any work you have done, i.e. ‘shop assistant’ rather than ‘customer choice enabler’. Importantly, include keywords. Read the job advertisement, and if you have it, the job description carefully, and ensure you reflect back in your CV the things that it asks for. So if the advert specifies a ‘team player’, make sure that phrase appears in the document you submit.

Tailor your CV to the job

You may well be applying for several jobs, but take the time to tailor your CV to each. Different jobs will demand different keywords. The elements of the role will vary too. You need to appear directly to the person recruiting for each individual job, and ensure that your document comes across as being personal. The key thing is to demonstrate that you can offer what is being asked for in that particular role.  

Check for accuracy and brevity

When editing your CV, double and triple check that there are no punctuation, grammatical, spelling, or other errors. It can happen to the best of us, but it looks sloppy and suggests you don’t pay attention to detail. If it’s not your strength, get friends or family to check it for you. And get to the point. Recruiters don’t have time to read six sides of A4 so keep it relevant and concise. 

Do a social media audit and check your email address

Before you apply for your first job, clean up your social media. Things you posted when you were 13, or ill-advised tweets from a drunken night out at uni may no longer reflect how you are as a young adult. And ensure you have a business sounding email address – consign ‘’ to the bin and replace with something more appropriate.

Finally, if you can offer no commercial experience at all, what you can offer is enthusiasm. Let your personality shine through and show that you really want the job on offer.

Most recruiters look for more than just experience. So use your CV to demonstrate who you are and why you are a great fit. We all have to start somewhere so good luck on your search!

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