Writing a resume can be stressful in the current job market because it’s competitive after the pandemic.
Getting your first job is a big step, so how can you get started on the right foot and get a leg up on the competition?
What if you don’t have any relevant experience but know what it takes to do the job?
Believe it or not, it’s possible to write an amazing resume that will increase your chances of landing the job you want and put you on a career path by gaining the skills you need to be successful in your chosen industry long term.
Let’s discuss how to write your first resume!
Sections to Include In Your First Resume
Regardless of what resume format you decide to use, the sections you include should remain the same. These sections include:
- Current contact information. Industry leaders recommend having at least two ways that a hiring manager or job recruiter can reach you that you check frequently. Contact information includes:
- Full name (not nicknames)
- Professional email address. We recommend using your name or adding some numbers at the end of your name if your name is already in use.
- Phone number. Make sure your voicemail message is professional and set up correctly. Delete old messages to ensure you have room for new ones and don’t miss important phone calls. Plan to respond promptly to phone calls, so check your voicemail often.
- Location. What town do you live in? Big businesses with multiple locations will want to know where you live to find the best location to ask you to work, which suits both parties. For privacy reasons, you don’t have to include your full street address; the city and state are perfectly fine.
- LinkedIn profile. Make sure this is updated and professional. It must match your current resume to avoid appearing misleading or sloppy.
- Website or portfolio. If you are applying for jobs in online services such as blogging or graphic design, having an online portfolio that potential employers can browse through will help showcase your talent.
- Resume objective. This is the first impression a hiring manager will have of you, so take your time to craft a thoughtful response. On average, a hiring manager will scan your resume for about 7 seconds before deciding whether or not to keep reading.
- Your objective should be 2-3 short sentences that showcase your skills, career goals, and achievements. Show the employer why you want to work for their company and what you bring to the table.
- Take the time to tailor each objective to the job you’re applying for rather than using a blanket objective statement to apply for every job you’re interested in. Use numbers in your response to keep a reader interested and highlight your achievements.
- Highlight educational achievements. Use a format that is easily recognized by hiring managers and recruiters:
- Program Name: MBA in Finance
- University Name: College of William and Mary
- Years Attended: 07/2013-05/2015
- GPA (this is only worth including if it’s a notable achievement)
- Honors: Summa Cum Laude (only if this applies to you)
- Exchange Program (if applicable)
If you have never had a job or haven’t worked in this field, this is where you will shine on your resume, so don’t downplay your achievements here! This is where you brag about your hard work! Highlighting a high GPA shows that you are willing to work hard to achieve your goals. Adding specific classes that you aced that are relevant to the job you’re applying for will show that you took the initiative and have experience.
4. Add your experiences. If you just graduated or don’t have experience, highlight what else you’ve done. Include internships, volunteer experience, clubs, leadership roles, projects, community involvement, or projects you’ve contributed to. List these on your resume in reverse chronological order just as you want work experience using the same format. Highlight your contributions to the projects rather than a bulleted list of the responsibilities of the role.
If you have started a side project for yourself, like a small business or non-profit, add it to your resume! And include any deliverables in your online portfolio.
5. Showcase your skills. Well-rounded employees can show that they possess both soft and hard job skills, which is what hiring managers are looking for.
Soft skills are people skills that allow an employee to adapt to various work environments. Examples include social skills, teamwork, positive attitude, and healthy communication.
Hard skills are job-related skills and technical knowledge. Examples include project management certifications, lean six sigma, IT certifications, language assessments, and sales certifications.
How to Write Your Resume With No Experience
When you first write a resume, it’s easy to use a standard resume to apply for as many jobs as you feel you’re qualified for, but this is a huge mistake! Take the time to tailor each resume to the job you’re applying for.
Read the job posting to determine what skills the company is looking for. If the job posting isn’t very descriptive, find other jobs with the same title in the same industry and pull skills from those job descriptions to add to your tailored resume. If the company has posted similar jobs in the past, check those job postings to look for better descriptions that include their desired employee skill sets.
The most common resume formats are:
- Reverse-Chronological. This is the most popular and widely recognized by hiring managers. List your work experience and formal education in reverse-chronological order, with the most recent at the top of the page.
- Functional. This format strictly focuses on skills and achievements rather than experience.
- Hybrid. This format focuses fairly equally on skills and experience.
When listing your skills on your first ever resume, it’s advised by industry leaders to stick to your hard skills, like certifications, because these are easy to verify and test potential employees on.
First-time job seekers often add soft skills like critical thinking or being a team player to check a box or sound good, and recruiters can identify if you don’t possess those skills yet.
Writing a great objective statement means using as much detail as possible in a concise statement. A great example would be:
- Creative and detail-oriented recent graduate of the College of William and Mary seeking full-time, permanent employment in marketing after successfully completing three internships at media marketing companies. Focused on using market analysis skills to contribute to innovative marketing strategies at X Company.
To write your educational experience:
- MBA in Finance (Summa Cum Laude)
College of William and Mary
- GPA: 3.95
- Courses: Entrepreneurial Finance, Evaluation of Commercial Real Estate for Investment
- Clubs: Young Entrepreneurs of America
- Exchange Program: London, UK
Unless you have 10+ years of experience in the same industry, it’s recommended to stick to a one-page resume and save discussing any particulars about your experience for the face-to-face interview. Use your resume to get your foot in the door, and then let your personality shine in the interview.
Here is a template to get you started.
We also compiled more inspiration that you can view in our complete guide on resume templates for teens.
Situations That Require a Cover Letter
As a recent graduate or a job seeker with little experience, a well-written cover letter is key to getting your foot in the door! A cover letter is the first impression an employer will have of you and gives you an opportunity to explain why you want to work for the company and why you’d be the perfect candidate.
A cover letter should include your contact information, full name, and a greeting for the hiring manager directly (if you can find their name on LinkedIn, the company website, or the job posting).
Your introduction paragraph should be attention-grabbing and encourage the reader to keep reading! Speak about the position you’re applying for, where you found the position, why you would be a great fit, and a personal accomplishment related to the job. The second and third paragraphs of your cover letter should identify the company’s needs, plug in your relevant experience, give examples of your experience, and showcase how you’ve been successful in the past.
Close the cover letter by finishing with a short, concise closing highlighting your excitement about the position, your availability to start, and thank the hiring manager for their time.
Cover letters should be no more than 200-350 words, and you should allow your personality to show in the cover letter!
A well-written resume and cover letter will help you stand out in a competitive job market by showing hiring managers and job recruiters that you are a professional willing to work to be a remarkable employee. If you don’t have a lot of work experience yet, including extracurriculars, a high GPA, soft skills, and a winning attitude should help you get a face-to-face interview where you can really let your personality win over the hiring manager. Setting yourself up for success now and gaining valuable experience will help you land promotions and the ability to move into your chosen career path!