How to Write a Resume for Your First Job
Everyone who wants to write a great resume first must:
- ensure their contact information is easy to find
- use a professional email address
- double-check their spelling and grammar
- make sure they’re using the correct tense
- avoid first-person pronouns (I, me, my)
But when you’re writing your first resume, you’ll have to do more than that to land the job.
1. Choose a Functional Format
Although a chronological resume is the most common resume type, consider using the functional resume format when writing your first resume. Whereas chronological resumes focus on your work experience, functional resumes highlight your core resume skills:
Specifically, the skills section of a functional resume replaces the work history section of a chronological resume. To fill this section pick at least three skills relevant to the position, and then add two or three bullet points that showcase those skills in action:
- Edited average of 47 newspaper articles a day as chief copy editor of The Brown Daily Herald
- Reduced incidence of typos in The Brown Daily Herald by 17% compared with previous year
2. Start with a Resume Objective
A good resume objective first tells the hiring manager what your career goals are, and why you’re passionate about the position.
In three or four sentences, your resume objective should:
- state your skills
- highlight your relevant experience
- detail your education or training
The relevant experience can be something you accomplished at school or elsewhere in your life, as long as it relates in some way to the job.
When writing the objective for your first job resume, consider the company’s needs. Don’t just write about what you want from working there. Instead, show the hiring manager how your goals align with theirs. For example:
High school honors student with two years of volunteer experience. Aiming to use acquired interpersonal and problem-solving abilities to effectively fill your retail position. A quick learner looking to fulfill the company mission and grow in the role as fast as possible.
If you can quantify several of your core skills, a different type of introduction might benefit your overall application. It’s important to learn how to start a resume in the way that best plays to your strengths.
3. List Your Key Skills
When writing a resume for your first job, think about the transferable skills you picked up from classes, projects, clubs, and sports you participated in.
For example, you might have picked up soft skills like critical thinking and public speaking just by participating in school. Soft skills are attractive to employers, and apply to jobs in most industries.
However, make sure to include hard skills and on your first resume if you can. Hard skills include specific knowledge and abilities you’ve developed from experience or training, and are often necessary to do the work a company expects of you. Computer skills like using Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Excel are useful hard skills you may already have even without formal work experience.
4. Showcase your Education Background
When writing a resume for your first job, don’t neglect your resume education section. There are three major things you can highlight from school in a first job resume:
- academic accomplishments
- additional projects
Any class that gives you relevant knowledge will catch the hiring manager’s attention and can be listed as an accomplishment on your resume. For example, you should mention a computer science course if you’re applying for a job in IT.
Add any awards and honors you have to show you’re ambitious, active, and a quick learner.
You can also consider whether to list your GPA on your resume. A strong GPA (3.5 or higher) is noteworthy. And if an employer asks for it, then follow their directions.
If your grades aren’t great, then leave your GPA off.
5. Add Relevant Non-Work Experience
Internships, volunteer work, extracurricular activities, and coursework can all fit in your first resume. However, what you choose to emphasize depends on which of those past experiences are relevant to the job.
Internships are great to list on your first-job resume because they:
- prove you can work in a professional environment
- represent practical experience in your chosen career
- allow you to take responsibility for major projects
They also help you fill up your work experience section with information valuable to employers, which is hard to do with little (or no) relevant experience.
You can also add volunteer work to your resume. Volunteering rounds out the picture of who you are and can give you extra talking points during an interview.
Additionally, consider improving your resume with extracurricular activities, like sports or clubs. Extracurricular activities round out your experience, show who you are as a person, and indicate what your interests are.
Highlighting extracurriculars is especially valuable if you’re writing a teen resume, as it’s likely to be some of the only experience you have.
And if you held a leadership position, like captaining your college lacrosse team, you can add leadership skills to your skills section.
Finally, by putting relevant coursework on your resume, you can prove you have educational experience in the field you want to join. It’s possible you even picked up hard skills from this classroom experience that can be applied to your first job.
6. Pair Your First Job Resume with a Complementary Cover Letter
If you’re writing a resume for your first job, you’re likely writing a cover letter for your first job too. Knowing how to write a cover letter is even more important for you than experienced job seekers, because it gives you a chance to really pitch your application on grounds other than work experience.
To complement your first-job resume, use your cover letter to showcase your passion for the position. Explain how your skills, certifications, and relevant life experiences make you the perfect fit for the role.
Ideally, your cover letter will present you as a hardworking, loyal, and personable employee, justifying the investment the company made in hiring you.
Creating a good cover letter is straightforward:
- pick a professional cover letter template
- address the hiring manager by name
- explain why you’re passionate about the role
- include at least two body paragraphs that show how your experience makes you the right person for the job
- conclude by repeating your contact information and requesting an interview
Sample Resume for First Job
Your first job is often the hardest to land. Now you know how to make a resume for your first role, make sure your application stands out, and land a job quickly.