Applying for part-time jobs

If you’re applying for a part-time job we have lots of tips and advice for you. This post from our student intern, Stephanie Gray, focuses on a question we’re often asked – how can you make a strong application for a job when you don’t have any work experience?  

Building experience when you don’t know where to start

A lot of job descriptions will ask for ‘relevant experience’ or for experience in specific skills. Most employers recruiting for part-time staff value both paid and voluntary work experience on CVs, so volunteering can be a good option to build experience to help you get a paid job. You can find more information on volunteering options through our website: 

Build experience: volunteer

There are also some recruitment agencies and temp organisations which focus on giving students temporary work they can do without having previous experience. Some agencies and temp staffing organisations are more likely than others to recruit students without previous experience for temporary jobs. The “gig economy” is a term used to describe these jobs, and you may want to investigate opportunities in this area as a way to build up experience to equip you for subsequent applications. As with all job hunting, it’s important tthink carefully about the terms of employment and whether this type of work is right for you. Read more about this here: 

The gig economy – what does it mean for you?

While work experience is a great way to develop your skills, it is not the only sort of experience which counts! Employers are looking for people who have a breadth of interests and skills. Activities outside your degree will all contribute to building your skills, broadening your outlook, and increasing your self-awareness. Get some ideas here: 

 Build experience

Speculative Applications 

If you have already tried applying through job sites it’s worth considering applying speculatively or informally. Many organisations who recruit part-time staff say they do so informally. A speculative application means making an unprompted application or expressing informal interest in an employer by giving them a CV or cover letter. For part-time work, this could be done in person in response to an advert you see in a shop window or by emailing a local business that you’re interested in working for. 

You should be aware that you may never receive responses to some speculative applications. If you are applying speculatively it’s important to spread your net as widely as possible and make lots of enquiries – you’d have to be very lucky to get the first job you apply for!  

Find out more about this approach here: 

Create your own opportunity: speculative applications

Employers will be impressed if you have knowledge about their organisation or industry, so it’s always good to research the employer or the industry before interview if you don’t already have background knowledge. For part-time jobs this could be as simple as learning what the different types of coffee are to work in a café or having an idea of the brands or items that a shop stocks. Even if what you learn doesn’t end up coming up at interview, feeling prepared will boost your confidence. 

Although not every part-time job available for a student will be related to your subject of study, if you think you can tie in something you’ve learnt at university to the skills you’ll need for a job you can – and should – highlight this as a strength on your CV and at interview. We encourage you to think about the transferable skills you may have picked up during your degree. For example, communication and teamwork are skills which are applicable to most jobs and which you will develop naturally in your studies. 

If you are interested in thinking about your skills development but are unsure of the terminology to use to describe it, take a look at the University’s graduate attribute framework which will help you to identify the skills you are developing during your time at university:

University of Edinburgh: Graduate attributes

And finally, don’t forget the advice on our website to guide you through looking for part-time jobs, and writing your CV and covering letter:

Where to look for part-time and vacation jobs 

How to write CVs and applications


( Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels )

( Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels )


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