Tips for Writing Your First Resume

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If you are worried about writing your first resume or are 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.

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

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

What to Include in a Resume

Highlight Education

If you are a student or a 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 also any other achievements.

When to Include Your GPA

Perhaps you had a high GPA or made the dean’s list. If you studied abroad, you might include that as well. Employers are impressed by recent graduates’ academic achievements, so highlight these.

Emphasize 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.

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.

Showcase Your Skills

Mention the skills you have that are most closely related to those listed in the job description. You can feature your relevant skills in a resume skills section and include them in the descriptions of your experience.

Use Keywords

Look back at the list of keywords you generated while researching 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.

What Not to Include in a Resume

Leave Out What's Not Relevant

The key is to emphasize the things that demonstrate your value to the company and leave out those 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.

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.

Make Sure Your Resume is Perfect

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 the job you are applying for. Check out these student resume examples and these other resume examples.

Proofread and Edit

Because employers get so many job applications, something small, such as 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 for any inconsistencies in format (such as using different styles of bullet points). Ask a friend or family member or a guidance or career services counselor to look at it for you as well.

Tips for Designing Your Resume

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 only 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.

Resume Sample & Template

This is an example of a resume. Download the resume template (compatible with Google Docs and Word Online) or see below for more examples.

First Resume Sample (Text Version)

Sam Student
123 Main Street
Pleasantville, New York 10001
(123) 456-7890
sam.student@email.com

QUALIFICATIONS SUMMARY

Self-motivated and highly reliable university student positioned to contribute strongly to customer service operations demanding tact, enthusiasm, and an exemplary work ethic.

  • Customer Service: Able to utilize strong math skills, team orientation, and interpersonal strengths to ensure provision of high-quality customer service within fast-paced retail environments.
  • Communication & Presentation: Charismatic communicator in speech and in writing. Build lasting relationships with both peers and customers.
  • Organization / Computer Skills: Outstanding time-management and organizational abilities. Technical proficiencies include Microsoft Office Suite and social media.
  • Key Strengths: Intelligent and loyal team member, readily listening to others, acknowledging peer accomplishment, and contributing to positive and productive work environments and team morale.

EDUCATION

B.A., Business Administration (Anticipated June 2021); 3.87 GPA
New York University, New York, NY
Dean’s List; Rush Chairman, Alpha Beta Kappa; Phi Eta Sigma Honors Society.

EXPERIENCE HIGHLIGHTS

NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, New York, NY
Student, Business Administration (2018-Present) Currently pursuing comprehensive four-year course of study in business administration, laying solid groundwork for eventual career in technology sales. Completed coursework includes negotiation, statistics, and principles of management. Enthusiastically lead group projects and mentor peers in subjects including writing and mathematics. 

  • Earned Dean’s List recognition for every term of attendance.
  • Volunteered as guide to high school students participating in college orientation sessions.
  • Selected as dormitory RA tasked with ensuring the welfare of 50 student residents.

THE GAP, New York, NY
Sales Assistant (Summers 2018 and 2019)
Demonstrated engaging customer service skills and a solid work ethic as Sales Assistant for busy retail store. Greeted customers and helped in product selection, check-out, and merchandising.

  • Willingly stepped up to work overtime to ensure adequate staffing during sales events.
  • Earned ‘Employee of the Month’ awards during both summers of position tenure.

Article Sources

  1. Indeed. "How Many Pages Should a Resume Be?" Accessed March 23, 2020.

  2. The Ladders. "2018 Eye-Tracking Study." Accessed March 23, 2020.