You’re about to complete your high school or college coursework, and you’re headed at top speed toward a significant life milestone: your first professional job. Previously, you may have held an internship, done some babysitting, or worked at your family’s ice cream stand during your summer vacations, but now you’re reaching for the next rung on the employment ladder, and it’s going to require a resume.
You may not know exactly what lies ahead, but you understand that your target employers will need to see a formal resume. Their job post makes this clear. You won’t be able to enter the selection process without one, even if you have an “in” or you know the hiring manager personally. Most serious companies (large, mid-sized, even tiny start-ups) strive to create a fair and formal hiring process paved with clear documentation, so if they ask for a resume, a resume is what you’ll need to give them.
Second, during the first round of the selection process, your resume will need to speak for you. At this stage, your smile and handshake won’t help you. And no matter how much you know or what you can do, your unique skills and credentials will have no impact unless they show up in your profile.
To make it into the interview chair, you’ll need a resume that’s comprehensive, beautifully formatted, and aligned with the needs of the open position.
Don’t miss a beat. Follow these pro tips, and you’ll get the attention you need to land you an interview.
7 Tips for Writing Your First Resume
1. Choose the right resume format
The format you choose for your first resume will depend on several factors, including whether you have any past work or work-like experience (think internships) or if this is indeed your first foray into the workplace.
Many jobseekers who are new to the job search choose a functional or hybrid resume format, both of which put more emphasis on hard and soft skills while putting less weight on past work experience. Take a look at the chart below to see which resume format will work best for you:
2. Break down your document into distinct sections
Under the contact information at the top of the page, you’ll need clear subheadings for your “summary,” “education,” “relevant work history” and “special skills.” You can mix these up a little bit (some formatting styles call for “relevant competencies” instead of skills) but don’t veer too far from the conventional path. Why not just do your own thing? Because employers need resumes that allow easy comparison between one candidate and the next. Also, some application tracking systems (ATS) use software to sort resumes, file them in a database, and identify strong matches. If your headings don’t make sense to the system’s scanners, you’ll slip through the cracks.
3. Write a STRONG professional summary
Your summary will contain the first few lines (and sometimes the only lines) that your employers will read. So your summary needs to include the most valuable information about you and your candidacy. How can you sum up your life in three lines of text? You can’t, but you can get pretty close by stating precisely what you’d like to do, why you’re great at it, and what you have to offer. Tighten your summary until it shines. No amount of time and careful attention spent on this section will be too much.
4. Tread carefully with your “education” section
In this part of your resume, less is more. There’s no need to ramble on about your coursework, describe your grades in detail, or give your readers more than they need. Simply list your degrees/diplomas/licenses with the most recent first. List your area of study (plus minors if you have them), your institution, and relevant honors. You can also list your graduation dates if you choose. Your GPA should only appear on your resume if it’s notable and if you graduated within the last three years.
Many jobseekers who are new to the job search choose a functional or hybrid resume format, both of which put more emphasis on hard and soft skills while putting less weight on past work experience.
5. Keep your work history relevant
Maybe you’re looking for a marketing job, but your previous roles have all been service jobs in restaurants. No worries! Your employers have seen this before. But instead of listing duties like “carrying food to tables,” focus on how you managed multiple tasks at the same time. You kept a cool head under pressure. You learned to upsell the specials. These are the tasks that matter most to employers in the marketing fields. Share the accomplishments and responsibilities that best align with the job you’re seeking. Let the others go.
6. Keep your skills aligned with the job post
Of course, your target employers probably want someone who can read, write, type, do basic arithmetic, and interact well with others. These are all valuable skills. But these skills don’t necessarily need to take up space on your resume. Instead, use that space to list skills that your employers have specifically asked for in their job post. If they need XTML proficiency and you have it, this is the place to say so. If they need salesmanship, Spanish fluency, the ability to stand up for eight hours at a time, or conflict resolution skills, list them here. Read the post carefully before you complete this section.
Break your resume document into sections, and as you fill in each section, keep your text as short, clear, relevant and memorable as possible. Think first! Then start writing. If you need help, our experts are just a click away.
7. Need more help? Use a professional resume builder
Still not sure how to write your first resume? LiveCareer’s Resume Builder can help. Just choose a design resume from our library, write the text of your resume with our industry-specific bullet points, then download and apply! You’ll have a professional resume completed in just minutes!