Writing your very first resume can be a daunting process.
And it doesn’t help to know that recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume before they make the initial decision on candidates, according to research conducted by TheLadders, an online job-matching service for professionals.
“Many students don’t know what should and should not be included in their first resume,” says Amanda Augustine, a career expert at TheLadders.
“While there are no hard and fast rules when writing a resume, it really depends on what content you have to work with, there are some preliminary guidelines all students or new professionals should follow.”
She says the most important things to think about when you’re creating your first resume are your job goals and your audience. “Ask yourself: If I handed the resume to someone who knew nothing about my college major or career direction, could they easily identify the type of role I’m targeting and why within the first 30 seconds?”
To get a clearer picture of what makes a resume great, we asked Augustine to create a sample of an excellent one for someone with little to no experience.
While your resume may look different, depending on the industry you’re in, the one below should serve as a useful guide for entry-level professionals with very little work experience:
What makes this an excellent resume for someone with no experience? Augustine outlines the following reasons:
1. The layout is clean and easy to read.
The same font type is used throughout the document. Dates and locations are consistently represented, so it’s easy to scan and pick out the important information. “In addition, the headers and main sections of information are centered on the page, which TheLadders eye-tracking study revealed is how recruiters tend to scan resumes,” she says.
2. It includes a link to the job seeker’s professional profile.
While it may seem a little premature, it’s important for students to develop good social media habits from the get-go. “Create one professional profile dedicated to your future career,” she suggests. “If you’re studying to work in a more creative field, consider developing an online portfolio to display as part of your contact information. In addition, increase the security settings on your personal accounts so they’re hidden away.”
3. The job seeker’s goals are clear.
Maria’s professional title and summary at the top of the resume clearly indicate her interest in securing an internship in advertising or public relations. “If her resume was passed along to someone by a friend, the reader wouldn’t have to guess,” Augustine says. “While Maria’s personal brand is still under development, her summary references the value she already brings to the table: the relevant degree she’s pursuing, her experience using social media, and her writing skills.”
4. It plays up the job seeker’s selling points.
Maria is pursuing her first internship and doesn’t have any relevant work experience to speak of. “As a result, we’ve shifted around the components within her resume to showcase her strengths: her relevant coursework, leadership activities, achievements, and skills,” Augustine explains. “Her work experience is moved to the bottom of the resume because it’s not directly tied to her internship goals.” However, it’s important to include this information because it demonstrates Maria’s work ethic and skills.
5. It includes some references to high school.
If you’re pursuing your first internship, it’s alright to incorporate some information about your high school career. This includes any awards, honours, or scholarships you may have received or sports you may have played. If you were valedictorian or salutatorian of your class, or you held an office in an honour society or relevant club, include it in your first resume, Augustine says. “This information paints a picture for the reader of a well-rounded student who was active in and out of school.”
6. It lists her social media skills.
“If you grew up with Facebook and other social media channels, it may seem silly to add these to your resume (doesn’t everyone know their way around Instagram today?),” she says. “But the reality is that this knowledge is an asset to many employers, and not everyone in the job market possesses it.” If you’re targeting internship opportunities in marketing, public relations, advertising, journalism, or even customer service, include these skills in your resume. Many employers are looking for interns to help manage their online brands; adding these skills to your resume will help them find you.
7. It doesn’t include a list of references.
You do not need a line at the bottom that reads: “References available upon request.”
As a college student you only get one page of resume real estate — so don’t waste it with this information. “Employers don’t ask for that information until you make it to a face-to-face interview, and they know you’ll provide it if they request it,” she says.
It’s important to remember that experience isn’t everything — and, luckily, employers filling internships don’t expect you to have much of it just yet, Augustine says. “However, they do want to see an active student who has demonstrated a genuine interest in their position.”
So, when you sit down to write your first resume, try to think about your previous jobs in a new light. “If your experience seems unrelated to the internship you want, think about what skills you’ve practiced or learned that could be applicable,” she says. “For instance, as a waitress you’re sure to develop skills in customer service, sales, and multi-tasking, all of which could be very valuable to a potential employer.”
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