This sly resume trick will land you an interview — even if you’ve never had a "real" job


You've heard the advice before: Writing a great resume is the key to landing a job interview. This advice is all well and good, but what if the only job you ever had was a crappy internship?

Or worse: What if you've never held a professional position at all? 

Your resume could end up looking like this:

The "chronological" resume

Womp womp. Amazingly enough, that is probably not going to get you on the shortlist of top candidates.

So, what do you do? 

Ditch the basic resume.

If you don't have a lot of relevant job experience, a standard reverse-chronological resume listing your work experience from most to least recent doesn't do you any favors.

Kittisak Jirasittichai/

People use chronological resumes to show a steady history of employment and career development. If you've got neither, you need a different approach.

Create a skills-based resume instead.

Many young people without a lot of job experience are better off with a skills-based resume that highlights all they can do. The skills-based resume isn't just a list of jobs; it's a demonstration of your talents. 

The biggest advantage of a skills-based resume is that you can include skills you gained outside the traditional workforce, from extracurricular activities at school to volunteer work. When you add all that up, your otherwise skimpy resume gets some meat on its bones.

Also called a functional resume, a skills-based resume can work well for people who have stayed in the same position for a long period of time — or anyone who has been out of the workforce for a while. 

"Switching to a skills-based resume from a traditional resume format can help job seekers better highlight experiences and de-emphasize job gaps," Maryanne Perrin, co-founder of Balancing Professionals, told the Wall Street Journal.

Here's a sample skills-based resume.

To create a skills-based resume, organize your experience around different types of skills, such as project management, customer service or leadership. Make each skill a heading and include a few examples for each, even if they came from the same position. 

"Pick three to four broad skill sets that specifically relate to the job description, and that you can back up with specific accomplishments or experiences," the Muse recommended. 

Here's a sample:

A sample "skills-based" resume

How to get started on one of your own.

Making your own skills-based resume is simple. If you're applying for a particular job, start by listing the skills the job ad lists; those are your skills categories. Next, think about past experience that demonstrates proficiency with each skill, and include those examples under the appropriate heading.

For example, if you're applying for a job, and the posting lists experience training others as a desired qualification, make that a category. Then give examples, like perhaps how you served as a tutor for 4 years. 

If you're not tailoring your resume to a particular position, think instead about what most employers are looking for in your field so you can create your different skill categories to focus on. Here's a template to get you started:

Here is one pro-tip for a winning resume.

Always be as specific as possible.

Include details under each "skill" category showing how your past work experience, academic experience and professional experience have allowed you to develop each in-demand skill: Don't just say you "worked" — use active terms like "led," "analyzed," and "presented" and then give even more detail.

By taking this approach, your resume can look really impressive, even if you've got no "real" professional experience at all.

For more smart tips, check out Mic's guide to rock star resumes.

Sign up for The Payoff — your weekly crash course on how to live your best financial life. Additionally, for all your burning money questions, check out Mic’s credit, savings, career, investing and health care hubs for more information — that pays off.