If you're ready to apply for your first job, step one is creating a resume. However, writing a resume with no job experience can seem a little overwhelming. Whether you're a recent college graduate, a young person dipping your toes into the job market for the first time, or even a high schooler building a resume for college applications, don't despair. Every seasoned professional had a first job, and plenty of companies offer entry-level positions. Follow these tips to write a resume that will be sure to stand out—even if you've never had a job.
Choose your resume format
The first step to creating a resume is to identify which information to include and how to organize it. For first-time job seekers with no job history, a functional resume is your best option. A functional resume format, unlike a more traditional chronological resume, highlights your skills, life experience, and education as they relate to a specific industry or career path. If you have no work experience, this resume format is perfect for describing why you're the best candidate for the job while backing up your words with proof of your unique skill set.
Build a summary statement
Begin your resume with a summary statement that discusses your career goals and personal strengths. If you only had 30 seconds in an elevator to explain why you deserve an interview, what would you say? Write down your answer to that question in the summary section.
If a hiring manager were to read your summary statement and nothing else on your resume, they should know exactly what you've done leading up to this point and what you want to do moving forward. Do your best to relate your experience (even if it's unpaid or school-related) to the job you're applying for.
Lead with your education, briefly
Generally, resumes from students and recent grads highlight their education. List colleges that you've attended or your highest level of education, along with your graduation or expected graduation date and type of degree. Most career experts agree that you should leave off your GPA unless it's particularly impressive (3.5 or higher, unless your course of study was notoriously challenging). Some industries care about grades, but many don't.
In this section, keep it simple. Unless you completed a focused area of study in a specialization that directly pertains to the position you're applying for, stick to listing the basics:
- Degree or diploma type earned
- City and state in which you completed the program
Show your skills
Start by making a list of all the skills you possess—and be sure to pay special attention to your technology experience. In today's tech-driven world, many students gain exposure to advanced software programs without ever receiving formal training. From AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS to Photoshop and InDesign, today's college and even high school graduates possess many of the software skills that employers are looking for. Don't forget to list your experience with basic programs like the Microsoft Office suite (especially Excel).
Be sure to include your "soft skills" as well. A soft skill can be anything from attention to detail, time management, or leadership strengths. You've spent countless hours developing these skills, and many employers consider them more important than hard skills. As a first-time job seeker, your soft skills may make you appear trainable and versatile, which could separate you from other entry-level job seekers.
To ensure that your resume stands out, carefully study the skills the employer outlines in the job listing. If you possess any of the skills they mention, list them prominently at the top of your skills section.
Don't forget about listing odd jobs you performed. Depending on the position you're applying for, these paid (or unpaid) gigs may help employers see you have skills that would transfer well. Here are a couple of examples.
Babysitting. Caring for babies and kids is a huge responsibility, and a consistent babysitter demonstrates dependability and care. Be sure to include your babysitting background, especially if you're applying for jobs in childcare, education, or even retail environments.
Yardwork. Whether you ran your own lawn maintenance business or you reliably mowed a few neighbors' yards every summer, include your experience in your resume. A background in working outside shows you're not afraid to work hard or get dirty, and that you're a self-starter. Your practical knowledge will be particularly helpful if you apply to work in manual fields like landscaping or gardening, construction, or even mechanical fields.
Include internships on your resume
Even if you only made lunch and coffee runs during your time as an intern, your internship experience can still be valuable. First, your selection to a prestigious or competitive internship can signal to a potential employer that you're a valuable candidate. Internship experience can be proof of soft skills, such as time management, collaboration, and organization. Wherever possible, quantify your experience and include any accomplishments and contributions you made during your internship.
Note volunteer experience
Volunteer work, while unpaid, can still demonstrate skills and experience that make you stand out among other entry-level job applicants. Demonstrate the valuable skills and strong character you developed through experiences such as:
- Serving at a soup kitchen
- Organizing a blood drive
- Building homes through Habitat for Humanity
- Walking dogs at a local shelter
If you have an extensive volunteer history, consider putting it directly below your summary and skills.
Highlight your achievements
This section gives you a place to list any honors or awards you've received, as well as any academic accomplishments you've made. Include academic awards, prestigious scholarships, and other academic honors. If you're a recent college graduate applying for your first professional opportunity, then you'll likely be among a pool of other recent graduates. If you were a top performer, go ahead and list your GPA, class standing, and any honors you graduated with.
When possible, provide context to highlight the strength of your accomplishment. Instead of simply listing the name of the scholarship you earned, include some information about the award, especially if you beat out over 200 other applicants to get it.
Edit your resume ruthlessly
As you build your resume, remember that it will most likely be the hiring manager's first impression of you. With or without job experience, you can use your skills and background to stand out from other applicants. Just make sure you're standing out for the right reasons.
Your first job can have a huge impact on your career. Before you submit your resume, proofread, proofread, and then proofread again! You certainly won't look conscientious or detail-oriented if your resume is littered with errors. Don't rely on your word processing program to catch errors—print out your resume and proofread it. If your college has a career center, stop by for extra help (nearly 40 percent of students never do). Then find a friend and ask them to proofread it. Better yet, use an online resume check that will scan your resume for any and all mistakes.