How to Write a Resume for the First Time

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Whether you’ve just graduated a post-secondary school or even if you’re a high school student looking to save for college, applying for your first job is both exciting and very daunting.

The lack of experience means you’re starting behind the eight-ball. Making enough of an impression to simply be considered for an interview is a tall task. Making matters more difficult, is that the day and age of knocking on doors until you can meet and impress hiring managers is long gone. In its place, is impersonal online application processes.

The only sense a potential employer will have of what you can bring to the table is through the written word. Therefore, it’s paramount to write an effective resume that stands out from the pack.

Read below, for a deep dive into the resume-writing process; and learn how to sell yourself to your future employer.

Ideal Resume Format and Layout

Some experts believe that functional skills-based resumes are best for students, recent graduates, or anyone else looking for their first big employment opportunity. The name speaks for itself – in that this kind of resume places prominence on skills rather than work experience.

Here’s what should be included in the functional resume layout in order from top-to-bottom:

  1. Contact information
    • Includes a phone number, email, LinkedIn, or any personal website or portfolio
  1. Qualification summary
    • Places emphasis on strong traits and characteristics
  1. Work experience
  • The purpose is to detract attention away from the lack of relevant experience so this section will be the smallest
  1. Relevant Skills
    • Ensure that this section is the most fleshed out and thorough
    • Since you lack work experience it’s important to highlight your relevant, transferable skills
  1. Education
    • List applicable certification and your highest degree
  1. Awards and Honors
    • If you’ve received any commendations or rewards at school, place them here

There’s another school of thought suggesting that the reverse-chronological resume is best for inexperienced job-seekers because it’s the most flexible of resume formats.

Here’s what should be included in the reverse-chronological resume layout in order from top-to-bottom:

  1. Contact information
    • Includes a phone number, email, LinkedIn, or any personal website or portfolio
  1. Career objective
    • An introduction and a way to set the tone of a resume
    • As a job-seeker, you can tailor this section to a specific job
  1. Work experience
    • Although the section will be small, the only way it’d be detrimental is if there are large gaps in experience—which there won’t be as a first-time job-seeker
  1. Additional skills
    • Focus on exceptional skills that make you stand out from the pack
  1. Education
    • List applicable certification and your highest degree
  1. Awards and honors
    • If you’ve received any commendations or rewards at school, place them here

While there are similarities between the two layouts, functional resumes are better for people who don’t fit the mold of a position they’re applying to (e.g. if you majored in English but want to be a math tutor). Whereas, the reverse-chronological resume is perfect if your education matches the job (e.g. if you’ve graduated a business program and are applying at a bank).

Resume Keywords

As hiring managers and other decision-makers assess resumes, they’ll start by scanning for keywords (i.e. terminology, skills, abilities, credentials, and other qualities that make candidates ideal for the job).

There are talent management systems, otherwise known as applicant tracking systems (ATS), utilized by many companies when screening candidates. An ATS weeds out the resumes without pertinent keywords. As such, embedding keywords into your resume will demonstrate, initially, that you fit the job requirements and company culture.

For instance, as a customer service representative, you’ll want to use keywords such as:

  • Customer service
  • Customer tracking system
  • Computer skills

Or, if you’re looking to land an internship in creative advertising, use keywords such as:

  • Social media
  • Creative
  • Strong writer

It’s wise to study keywords in job postings that share similarities with the position in which you’re interested, then add them to your resume. These keywords will be visible in the “qualifications” and “responsibilities” sections of most job postings.

Furthermore, using keywords that are on the company’s website might show that you’re a good fit. Scan the “About Us” section for these terms.

Change keywords depending on the industry of a specific employer. For instance, students looking for a side gig could end up applying to an assortment of businesses spanning across several industries – therefore it’s important to do the research to find those applicable keywords.

Incorporate keywords throughout your entire resume, including your qualification summary and skills section.

Fonts and Font Sizes

A font says a lot about a candidate – and depending on the kind of job, you’ll want to find the font that best fits the scenario.

Here are some examples:

  • Times New Roman is a formal serif font that is electronically readable and matches the brick-and-mortar style of legal, operations, and corporate industries.
  • Arial is a classic serif font that’s perfect for marketers and advertisers with a creative flair.
  • Garamond is an elegant, graceful font meant for more academic positions (e.g. teacher’s assistant).
  • Cambria is a standard go-to font for more generic fields. It could work for customer service or H.R. positions.
  • Trebuchet MS is also ideal for the creative and marketing industries.
  • Didot is ideal if you’re looking for that dream internship at a fashion magazine or with a photography agency. It’s artistic but is professional enough for a resume.

Be consistent with whichever font you use.

The best font size to use is size 12 for the body text. But headings and your name should stand out, so either bold, Italicise, capitalize or underline those sections while increasing the font size to 14-16 points.

On one final note, it’s best to keep your resume to one page at the longest – leave your potential employer wanting more.

Conclusion: It’s Time to Take Your Plunge into the Workforce

Hopefully, after reading our blog, you’ll feel much more confident in writing your resume.

Just keep in mind that while you may lack in experience, many employers will relish the chance to mold a fresh mind into their #1 employee. In abiding by our tips we’ve listed above, you’ll give yourself a chance to stand out and be that young vibrant candidate your dream employer is dying to mentor.

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