How to Write a Killer First Resume

Posted by Janna Hagan on

When you are just starting out in the workforce, writing your first job resume can be daunting. Many young people don't know what to include on their resume because they often don't have much professional experience. While it really depends on what content you have to work with, creating a compelling first resume is all about appealing to your target audience (your possible employer). 

Since young job seekers do not have years of experience when applying, it is really important to demonstrate your potential. Paying attention to details by doing the little things exceptionally well (like spelling and grammar) will help you stand out immediately.  

Everyone else is in the same boat when they are just starting out, so don't sweat it.

Have a very specific career objective

Even if you aren't sure where you want to ultimately end up, career-wise, always have some sort of game plan  or fake it till you make it. Let's compare the follow two examples of an objective for a first resume:

Example 1:

"I am interested in a waitressing position. I am available for shifts on the weekend, Monday and Wednesday evenings."

Example 2: 

"Highly motivated, punctual and personable student looking for opportunities at your restaurant. Interested in a waitressing position that will allow me to contribute positively to your restaurants goals, while gaining valuable industry experience."  

Although the two career objectives are essentially saying the same thing, one looks a lot more professional and put-together than the other. Your objective is a chance for your personality to shine through. Especially for waitressing jobs, like in the example above, restaurant managers would want to know how you like to deal with other people  Are you outgoing? Good at negotiating? Able to work well with co-workers? Keep it short, 2 or 3 sentences max and use your cover letter to expand on other skills you've touched on. 

What to include on your first job resume

  • Work history
  • Volunteer experience
  • Extracurricular activities (sports teams, clubs or organizations)
  • Awards, certifications or recognition
  • Educational accomplishments 
  • Relevant coursework 
  • Positive personality traits
  • Technical skills (computer skills, bilingual)

Work experience related to the job you are applying for is ideal, but if you do not have any, try to be creative with jobs you've previous held. Many young people have starter jobs as grocery baggers, babysitters or lifeguards. This can be a great way to get your foot in the door. Tailor the skills you learned at these jobs to the one you are applying for with your first job resume. This can be a good way to beef up a college resume, too.

An important aspect of having a great first resume when you have no work experience is to showcase your strengths at the top of your resume. If you feel your work experience isn't strong, shift components around to replace it. 

Remember that experience isn't everything

If you are applying for internships or job placements, it's important to remember that experience isn't everything for your first job resume. However, demonstrating that you are a person who could potentially be passionate about the position and learn-on-the-job are two things that will get you very far. 

If you are not confident in your experience, focus your resume on your technical skills and leadership activities instead. Tailoring your resume to the job you want will be more crucial in your first couple years in the workforce than later on in your career. 

Do the little things really well

Having a creative, well-formatted, error-free resume is sometimes so obvious to job seekers, that they brush over it without much thought. You need to nail the little details. Instead of having one person look over your resume, give it to multiple people to look over for suggestions and spelling mistakes. Include all the basics such as your name, education, contact information and cover letter. Sometimes this information seems so obvious that it tends to not get much attention, but make it a priority to do the little things perfectly. 


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