Writing an effective resume for that first job means taking your accomplishments and using them to sell yourself as the ideal candidate. You know you're the perfect person for the job — now you need to convince the hiring manager.
Your resume's Work Experience section can help you land that first job, particularly with limited work experience to fall back on. To make it effective and engaging, you'll need to include relevant points that prove you're the person hiring managers should consider first.
To illustrate how to write a resume for the first time, we'll review a real advertisement for an entry-level candidate. Then we'll see how an imaginary candidate might write their Work Experience section. Here's how to translate your limited work experience ― including internships and coursework ― to your resume.
Evaluating a real job posting
The following is a real job posting for an entry-level Operations Analyst at Sovos, a company that specializes in tax compliance and regulatory reporting software.
Our Operations Analyst will serve as the go-to client resource for our Compliance Services clients. This includes identifying, prioritizing, and resolving client issues as well as coordinating the appropriate internal departments to provide timely responses and solutions to clients.
The successful candidate will be self-motivated with strong client service and organization skills as well as a high level of accuracy. This candidate will also possess strong communication skills (written, oral, and presentation) due to the level of contact with various internal and external resources. Tax reporting experience is not necessary but is always a plus.
Here are a few valuable keywords we pulled from this ad:
- Client service
- Organization skills
- Communication skills
- Go-to resource
Our hypothetical candidate, Jordan, wants to apply for this position. She doesn't have any tax background, so she can't sell herself that way. Her only real experience is her first job, a part-time fast-food position during high school. However, Jordan served as an intern at a digital marketing agency and assisted her professor on a research project during her senior year. Over summer break, she volunteered as a reading tutor with kids.
To market herself as a valuable candidate and write an effective resume for the first time, Jordan needs to comb through each experience and demonstrate these relevant skills.
Building a sample work experience section
Here's how Jordan structured her resume's Work Experience section for this position. As a reminder, you should tailor your resume to suit each role and organization. A first-time job seeker’s resume should ensure this section aligns with the skills and requirements from the job posting.
Fast-food restaurant — Customer Service Associate
- Excelled at providing customer service with a smile
- Earned employee of the month status three times
Digital marketing agency ― Marketing Intern
- Contributed to multiple content marketing projects
- Researched SEO terms
- Compiled reports and recommendations for SEO
- Tracked SEO recommendations to ensure accuracy and effectiveness
University ― Research Assistant for professor
- Assisted professor with research project examining the effectiveness of digital marketing in the challenging age
- Identified potential interview subjects and managed appointment scheduling
- Interviewed subjects using a structured questionnaire to collect primary data
- Presented accurate data from interview as a written report
- Received an A for independent study research work
Nonprofit ― Reading Volunteer
- Tutored students with reading
- Helped two children advance to the next grade level in reading over summer
By using her work, internship and volunteer experiences to write descriptions that speak directly to the ad, Jordan can position herself as a highly desirable candidate. Her work experience reveals that she possesses specific desirable employee attributes and skills:
- Communicate easily in various forms: interviewing, writing
- Conduct research accurately: self-motivated
- Demonstrate computer proficiency: SEO, digital marketing
- Show eagerness and self-motivation: customer service with a smile
- Take on projects: research
- Overcome challenges: reading tutor
Like Jordan, you don't need a long work history to convince the hiring manager you're the right person for the job. Once you've written the perfect resume for that first job, move on to creating a cover letter that expands on your work experience and drills down into your qualifications and eagerness for the job. Check out our tips on how to write a cover letter to help you land that first job.
Highlighting relevant skills
If you have other skills you learned through your life experiences or your years as a student, list those in the Skills section of the resume.
Our candidate Jordan might include the following bullet points:
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft Word
- Google Docs
- Data research and analytics
- Written and verbal presentation
- Spanish language
Now that you know how to make a resume for your first job opportunity, you can get started. Keep in mind that many employers now use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to review resumes. These systems automatically scan resumes to find relevant keywords that match up to their job description. When updating your cover letter and resume for the first time, incorporate these trigger words when you can.
There's a lot to get right — and a lot that goes wrong — when putting together a resume (especially when you're a newbie). Use our Resume Builder and get step-by-step guidance with creating a professionally formatted resume. With a designer-approved layout and your valuable experience, you'll be well on your way to that first full-time position.