Tips for Writing Your First Resume

Young Woman Writing by Computer in Apartment
Cavan Images / Getty Images

If you are worried about writing your first resume, or struggling with the task, you're not alone! However, it does not have to be intimidating.

Many students and recent graduates worry that they don’t have enough experience to create a compelling resume. However, don’t worry. There are many ways to emphasize your skills and experiences even if this is your first job.

Read below for advice on how to write a strong first resume that will generate interest and interviews.

What To Do Before Writing Your Resume

Before you even start to write your resume, there are a few steps you can take. Keep in mind that the goal of your resume is to show the employer that you are a strong candidate for the job, and that you will add value to the company.

To do this successfully, you need to know what potential employers are looking for. Start by researching job postings that interest you. Make a list of keywords you find in the job listings, such as frequently mentioned requirements or skills. You will want to focus on these in your resume to impress the employer.

Ask experienced professionals what they consider important when they make hiring decisions. Consider holding some informational interviews with people in your field to get a sense of what is most important for the kinds of jobs you’re looking at.

You can also read professional publications and websites related to your target industry.

Immerse yourself in your chosen field and learn as much as you can. Once you know what is important to employers, you can target your resume to address those issues.

Tips for Writing Your First Resume

Highlight education. If you are a student or recent student, your education is one of your greatest assets.

Put the “Education” section of your resume towards the top of the page. Include not only the school you went to and the degree you received, but any other achievements. Perhaps you had a high GPA, or made the Dean’s List. If you studied abroad, you might include this as well. Employers are impressed by recent graduates’ academic achievements, so highlight these.

Emphasize all related experience. You might have limited work experience, but you have plenty of other experiences you can draw on. Think about clubs you have participated in, internships you have held, and volunteer positions you have worked. All of these can be listed under “Related Experience” or a similar category.

Leave out what is not relevant. The key is to emphasize those things that demonstrate your value to the company, and to leave out those things that don’t. For example, if you are looking to work in Information Systems, your programming internship will be important, but the fact that you have won awards for water skiing won't! Don't include hobbies or experiences unless they relate to the job.

Mention achievements. Beneath each experience, you can list some of the responsibilities you held in that job or position.

However, go beyond simply saying what you did. List any achievements that prove you can add value to an organization. For example, perhaps you won “Employee of the Month” at work. Or maybe you created a new filing system that increased efficiency at an office. Include any examples of times you added value to a company or achieved something.

Use keywords. Look back at the list of keywords you generated of common skills and requirements for the jobs you are applying for. Try to use some of these keywords throughout your resume. This will show the hiring manager, at a glance, that you are a good fit for the job.

Look at examples. Especially when writing your first resume, it’s a good idea to look at resume examples. They can help you decide how to format your resume, and what kind of information to include.

Make sure to change any sample resume to include information that is specific to you, and to the job you are applying for. Check out these student resume examples, and these other resume examples.

Keep it short. Especially if this is your first resume, you might not have a lot of information to include. Your resume should not be longer than one page. Aim to fill the whole page, while still having a good amount of white space in the margins.

Edit, edit, edit. Because employers get so many job applications, something small like a typo could cost you a job. Be sure to thoroughly proofread your resume before sending it to an employer. Read it for any spelling and grammar errors, as well as any inconsistencies in format (such as using different styles of bullet points). Ask a friend or family member, or a career services counselor, to also look at it for you.

Resume Design Tips

Many people are surprised to learn that resume design is just as important as content, but it’s absolutely true. Research suggests that your resume has less than 20 seconds to make the right impression, so it must be eye-catching and easy to read.

There are many different ways to design and format your resume. Check out these resume templates to help you format your own resume. Using a template will make it easier to create your resume. Not only will it save you time, but it can also reduce formatting errors. You can look at these other resume templates available through Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

Read More: Resume Tips for High School Students | Resume Examples for Teens | Skills to Include on High School Resumes