Writing your resume can be a daunting task at any stage in your career. It makes you evaluate yourself, and that can be a jarring experience. Veteran workers struggle to condense their resume, because if it’s too long, nobody will read it to the end, no matter what’s in it.
But after all those years of work and school, it’s hard to know what to leave out. Less experienced workers have the opposite problem – they’ve never had a job, so they have nothing to write or type! Luckily, we can help. Here are our top tips on resume writing.
How to Make a Resume for First Job
Tip 1: Get your Email Right
Some of us get our first jobs in our teens or tweens. Others get into the workforce after their kids are grown and gone. Or maybe after a prolonged academic career. If you’re young, your email address is probably something silly, playful, or irreverent. It may even be offensive.
Most likely, it’s something you selected as you were still refining your identity and trying to impress your peers. So it could be your nickname, or a descriptive inside joke, or some gibberish combination of numbers and symbols. These are unlikely to be taken seriously.
Open a new email address using your first name and last name, with a dot or dash between. If your name combination is taken, you could use your middle name, or add one of your initials. For example, SixFootFive@Yahoo.com won’t score as well as Susan.Henry@Gmail.com.
Job-seekers aged millennial or younger may disagree. Many of you don’t have email addresses, preferring to communicate through text, voice notes, and messaging apps. But remember, your employers are likely to be from prior generations, so indulge them and set up that email. After all, some websites that ask you to apply via contact forms. But even forms ask for your email.
Tip 2: Clean up your Socials
One of the first things any employer will do is Google you. So once you have a reasonable email address, look through all your social media accounts. Lock them if you need to, and take out any iffy information. For example, there’s nothing wrong with having fun and hanging out.
But unless you’re interviewing to be a party host(ess), your boss doesn’t want to see you kegging. Especially if you’re underage. Similarly, if you’re applying for a conservative position like banking or clerking, those spandex clothes and neon hair might work against you.
Yes, you have every right to express yourself and wear what you want, but if it could cost you a job, you may want to show some discretion. Some job seekers prefer to completely purge their accounts. But having zero social media looks equally suspicious. So don’t delete everything.
And while it’s never a good idea to lie, it’s smart to curate your content. True, many employers will do a background check, so even those ‘hidden posts’ will surface eventually. But you don’t want your potential boss opening your accounts and immediately spotting drunken skimpiness. If it’s something your mum shouldn’t see, then your potential employer shouldn’t see it either.
Tip 3: Start with Current Contact Details
When we read an article or watch a clip, we often remember the first and last things we saw. Phone numbers are like this too. So when you’re wondering how to write a resume for your first job, pay special attention to the beginning and ending. Put your contact details at the top. Space them well. This helps interviewers review your contacts at a glance. You should include:
- Full names as they appear on your government documents.
- Physical address or P. O. Box, depending on where you receive your mail.
- Phone number – preferably a mobile one.
- Email address or preferred mode of contact.
- References … but only if they’re specifically requested.
You may want to use a nickname, but there’s an identity risk in that. You don’t want your paycheck, insurance, or medical claims being compromised because the bank doesn’t recognize you. So if you have a nickname everyone uses, you can include it in parentheses.
For your address, you want something permanent. So if you live in a college dorm, Airbnb, or other short-term rentals, use the home address of your parents or older siblings. Choose a relative who regularly checks their mail. Otherwise, your job offer may rot in their mailbox.
Tip 4: Avoid Unnecessary Details
Modern resumes sometimes include a photo. That’s not necessary unless the job specifically requires it. Yes, physical appearance can give you an edge, especially if you have ‘pretty privilege’. But unless you’re applying for a modeling job or a front-office position, photos aren’t necessary. Also, you don’t need your age, gender, pronouns, or sexuality unless they’re asked for.
Some studies show your resume is less likely to be accepted if your name is distinctively gendered or cultured, so some job seekers try to hide it. In truth, if an employer weeds out your resume based on these factors, you’re likely to face the same sort of discrimination during the interview. And even if they hire you, you’ll soon get frustrated and quit. They’ll see to it.
If you’re not sure what to put in and what to leave out, put yourself in the employer’s shoes. Your resume describes you, but it’s not really about you. It’s about your future boss. What do they want to know? They may not care that you had a rock band unless it’s an entertainment job. But for a strategy job, they might be impressed by your chess club or debating society membership.
Tip 5: Be Clear on your Career Objective
This may sound intimidating. Especially if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Many of us will take any job that comes up, so you may worry about restricting yourself. But if you think about it, you don’t wear the same outfit to church or parties that you do when you’re meeting your grandparents or in-laws. It’s the same with your job search.
Besides, you can have multiple versions of your resume. So write down your work objective in a sentence or two. It should be simple and concise, something hiring managers can absorb at a glance. Use everyday language and avoid sounding too high-minded. Here are a few examples:
- Looking for a customer care position with daily face-to-face customer interaction.
- Seeking a desk-job in an independent environment.
- An outgoing personality looking for a people-oriented service job.
- An introspective person seeking a field-based position in sales or data collection.
- Academic / Artistic candidate looking to build a career around my hobby.
- Planning to use my social media skills to secure a placement in marketing.
- Avid gamer seeking experience in the IT sector.
- Hobbyist chef searching for versatile kitchen experience.
Tip 6: Identify and Summarize your Skills
You have more employable skills than you realize. Mention any certifications that are related to your job objective. Keep it light but targeted. For example, say you’re applying for a tour guide position. You could mention you like bikes or are outdoorsy, meaning your hobbies expose you out-of-the-way places in your neighborhood. Here are a few skill summary examples:
- Experienced in research, filing, and office administration.
- Immensely patient, detail-oriented, and great with special needs’ kids.
- Disciplined, task-driven, and experienced in caring for pets.
- Good cook with an emphasis on sweet and savory desserts.
- Articulate and assertive with well-developed debating skills.
Keep your summary to one or two sentences, highlighting only what’s relevant to that particular job. Create a running document of varied objectives and summaries you can tweak. Update it regularly so it’s easier to copy-paste when jobs open up. That way, you can apply in minutes.
Tip 7: Make a Style Choice
While good resumes have similar content categories, the order of this content varies. And the way you layout your information is driven by preference and convenience. Some employers will specify how your resume should look. They might even have a template on their website. But there are three main styles you can use, either separately or in combination. These are:
- Chronological resumes – they focus on your work experience, listed from your most recent to your earliest job. This doesn’t apply to first-time job-seekers.
- Functional resumes – these are more effective for your first job since you have no work experience. Talk about your specific skills and how they can be useful to employers.
- Targeted resumes – As you progress in your career, you may have a waitress job, a valet job, or a clerking job. Write different resume versions for each of these industries, then tweak them for relevance. For example, you could use your waiter/waitress resume to apply for a stewardess position. Or your valet resume for a delivery truck position.
Whichever style you choose, you’ll include the same sub-sections: education, work experience, and special skills. The difference is in which sub-topic comes first, and what section has more emphasis. Remember, employers will recall the first and last sections they read, so arrange your information in a tactical manner. Create a targeted resume template that’s easy to tweak.
Tip 8: Identify Usable Skills
Just because you haven’t had a formal job doesn’t mean you have no work experience. Look back on your life and see what you can use. For example, most of your household chores count as work experience. Are you in charge of preparing meals or loading the dishwasher? That counts as service experience at restaurants, hotels, eateries, food trucks, and fast food joints.
Was it your job to mow the lawn and weed the garden? That’s landscaping experience. Did you write notes, letters, or social media posts for your grandparents? Use that to apply for communications jobs. Do you regularly update your own socials and have lots of followers? Leverage that for a digital marketing position or even a low-level PR job.
Did you babysit younger siblings? You can apply to babysit other people’s kids (for money). You can also list babysitting as experience for a job in elder care, hospices, or home assistance. Were you in charge of grocery shopping? You could be hired as a buyer at a retail store or mall outlet.
Look at each chore and list the skills you used. For example, grocery shopping involves meal planning, bargain hunting, coupon collecting, and commuting. Babysitting involves discipline (both for yourself and your charges). Dishwashing requires speed and dexterity to avoid breakage. Laundry involves sorting, timing, and the ability to follow care label instructions.
Tip 9: Maximize your School Experience
Your resume has very little focus on your grades. Instead, put on our employers’ shoes. They may not care how many classes you took each semester, but it’s okay to mention your GPA. On the other hand, if you want a job as a tutor, you can list the grades in the subjects you’d like to teach. Your A in woodshop or metal-work could get you hired as an apprentice.
Home-Ec could turn into a job as a chef, fry cook, caterer, or a fashion position in design or retail. Your experiences outside class matter too. Cheerleaders can become personal trainers. Athletes can become coaches. Your extra-curricular club could be an in. Drama club members could get acting jobs in local commercials. AV kids could be hired as crew in film or stage work.
Tip 10: Use Note Cards
Despite all this information, the writing process can still be overwhelming. Use notecards and write down the relevant information on each one. List your skills, relevant classes, volunteer work, and potential sources of work experience. Each notecard should only have one item, written in block letters or large print. Put a sub-topic at the top of the card.
Lay out all the cards on the floor so you can view them all at a glance. Now shuffle the cards into the order you want. Once you’re happy, stack them in the correct sequence and add any descriptive detail you might need. Now it’s easy to open your word processor and type out the content of the notecards. You can use free resume templates and fill the gaps in minutes.
Tip 11: Get your Grammar Right
Use action words in passive tense. Motivated. Develop. Acquired. Instructed. Looking. Seeking. Intending. These are all good resume terms. Avoid over-using ‘I’ or ‘you’. Keep your resume concise. Your first-job resume should be one page. Later ones shouldn’t exceed three pages.
Only include what’s directly relevant to the job you’re applying for. Don’t be generic. Proofread everything several times, and pass it through free proofing apps like Grammarly. You should also ask someone you trust to proofread it. And don’t forget to proofread your sub-headings, your name, and your contact details. You don’t want them dialing the wrong number.
So … how do you make a resume for your first job?
Start by believing in yourself and taking an objective look at your employability.
- Set up a professional email address for job-hunting.
- Include up-to-date contact details, but no photos.
- Choose the right resume style. Functional resumes are best for your first job.
- Draft a targeted resume template as well.
- Review your childhood chores for employable skills.
- Assess your high school or college experiences to see what you can leverage.
- Arrange your information using notecards.
- Proofread everything and get an outside eye to help.
Have you applied for any jobs recently? What worked and what didn’t? Tell us in the comments!