How To Write Your First Job Resume (Guide)

30 August 2018 Reading Time: 9 minutes

At some point we all must go through our first time – our first time creating a resume, that is. Your first resume will lead to your first job and the rest of your career. When creating your first resume, some of the anxieties surround its length, how you write a first resume, and what needs to be on it. It can be particularly difficult writing your first resume when you “have no experience” too.

Fortunately, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide with examples to show you why you need a resume, what a resume needs, how you put all of that together, and how you can have the best one out there (with or without experience). Looking for a quick reference? You can find our first resume FAQ at the end of this post, too.

What will this guide do for me?

  • Provide an understanding of what a resume is
  • Explain what your resume can be used for
  • Provide tips to overcome resume writers block
  • Detail the major points that you need to include in your first job resume
  • Highlight successful examples that show these points in action
  • Give inspiration for how your first job resume can be created
  • Answer frequently asked questions on resume building
  • Prepare you for creating the best resume to get your dream job

Covering the basics

What is a resume?

Your resume is a formal record of your skills, attributes, interests, abilities, prior experience and relevant expertise in any field. For many people, a resume is off-putting as they don’t think they have any relevant experience nor do they understand how to approach it. One of the hardest steps to overcome with your resume is getting started, so be sure to check out how to overcome that struggle below.

Why do I need one?

Your resume is your conversation starter with any future employer. No resume in the world will be able to speak for you as well as you could yourself, but the aim is to make your resume as comprehensive and concise as possible so the recruiter (the people that hire employees) will want to hear more and offer an interview.

There are many ways that people find employment. However, if your personal network doesn’t give rise to finding a job, and you don’t have any friends that have jobs vacant, your resume is the first step. Think of it as the foundation from which you can build the empire of your career.

Who looks at my resume?

There are two main review systems used by employers. These are recruiter reviews and automated reviews (ATS). In some instances, an organisation may run your resume through an automated system that scans for keywords and key details. After that initial screening, a recruiter will further analyse the details on your resume.

As it is possible that your resume will pass through an automated service, it is important to use readable fonts and a format that makes sense.  

Overcoming resume-writing-block

You may be aware that there are different types of resumes: chronological order resume, functional resume, reverse-chronological resume and so on. While these resume types do exist, they aren’t as necessary as you may have once believed.

In reality, there are few sections that are required in a resume; no matter what position you’re going for. Some jobs have restrictions on the formatting, details and fonts you may use (for example, an Academic Resume), but for the most part, you can start with a blank slate and add what you feel is necessary. The key to building your resume is thinking about three things:

  • What is the job I’m applying for?
  • What is required of me in that role?
  • How do I convey that I fulfil those requirements?

If you keep those three things in mind, you won’t get overwhelmed by what you think should be happening in your resume – instead, you’ll be excited to start working and showing your talents.

Other tips you can use to overcome writer’s block when it comes to your resume are:

  • Speak to your family on how they have written their resumes and what they think might belong on yours
  • Sit down and think about moments you are most proud of
  • Talk to someone who has worked with you on some project or volunteering

Breaking down your first resume

While there is no one-size-fits-all way to create a resume, it’s helpful to see some examples of sections you can include. Some things are needed on all resumes no matter what they’re being used for. We’ll focus on those for now.

1. Name

The first thing the recruiter should see is your name and who you are below it. They’re not going to remember who turned in the resume at the desk or submitted it online. Without your name on your resume, there’s nothing to distinguish your resume from another person’s. It’s reminding the recruiter who you are at a glance.

Enhancv How To Write Your First Job Resume (Guide) First job resume

2. Contact Details  

Always include contact details on a resume. This can include your email, phone number, website and/or LinkedIn. It is necessary to include at least two ways that a recruiter can get in contact with you – just in case one of them doesn’t work.

Enhancv How To Write Your First Job Resume (Guide) First job resume

3. Personal summary

Chances are, you don’t have a lot of experience when writing your first job resume. This is okay – but you need to find a way to tell the recruiter more about you. A personal summary can be used to explain who you are and what you hope to accomplish from the role. Typically, 2-3 sentences just below your contact details is enough. It doesn’t have to take the form of a paragraph. You can use a Personal Philosophy Section or Most Proud Of (see: additional sections) section to convey more details.

Enhancv How To Write Your First Job Resume (Guide) First job resume

4. Skills Section

In one form of another, you’ll have to mention your specific skills on your resume. This is to show the employer what you’re capable of and what you’ll bring to your role should you be hired.

Some skills that you can mention in your first job resume (with working experience) are:

  • Customer relations (solving customer issues)
  • End of day processing (closing shop)
  • Data processing (inputting stock on excel)
  • Transaction maintenance (working on a checkout)
  • Inventory control (managing stock)

Some skills you can mention in your first job resume (without working experience) are:

  • Proficiency in Office Suite (Word, Excel, Outlook and Powerpoint)
  • Conflict resolution (you’re able to find compromise)
  • Human relations (communication)
  • Innovative problem solving (you can find creative ways to solve problems)
  • Time management (you can get things done on a deadline)

Just be sure to give examples that show that you have these skills whenever possible,

5. Previous experience (exc. previous work experience)

Your previous experience is a great way to show the recruiter that you can apply all of your skills to the real-world. Employers want to see you’re capable of making a difference in their organisation and that you’ll be an important piece of the puzzle in achieving success.

Before you skim over this section and think you don’t have any previous experience, it doesn’t have to be in a working environment. If you’ve spent time volunteering, babysitting, coaching, leading people at Summer Camp, taking on extra-curricular activities at school, all of these things are previous experience.

The important part of describing your previous experience is to go in-depth about what you accomplished more than what you were responsible for. See an example below for a Library Assistant and Equipment Manager. Make sure everything you mention is measured when possible.

Enhancv How To Write Your First Job Resume (Guide) First job resume

6. References

References or Referees are people you include on your resume that will be able to speak about you. There are two types: character references and professional references.

Character Reference

A character reference is used when you do not have any professional experience (working in a job). Traditionally, you should include two character references that can speak to your abilities and who you are as a person. These should not be family members if you can avoid it. Ask one of your teachers, coaches and so on. You should include their name, email and phone number.

Make sure to ask your referee (the person you include as reference) for their permission to do this and notify them when you are applying for jobs.

Professional Reference

Professional references are those from people that you have worked with / for previously. Usually, this will be your supervisor or manager. As with character references, you’ll need to include contact details and name. Again, be sure to ask their permission to include this.

Additional sections

There are some more sections that you can include on your first job resume depending on your personal preferences. These sections are more about showing your personality and interest and aren’t needed exactly, but they can help you stand out from the crowd. If you have little experience, these optional sections are a great way to show off your talents.

1. Most Proud Of

Your Most Proud Of Section gives insight into who you are as a person. It can be used to highlight some of your projects and personal achievements. This will help the potential employer understand how you fit in the company’s culture and the team.

2. Certifications

Certifications show you’re willing to dedicate time to learning new skills. Being certified in First-Aid, Manual Lifting, Microsoft Excel and more are great to include on a CV as they show you’re proactive in your work.

3. Passions

Passions are a way to quickly emphasise things that matter most to you. These can be personal causes or more business-focused. Some examples of personal passions are:

  • Music Production
  • Carpentry
  • Choir
  • Kayaking
  • Hiking
  • Water polo
  • Fighting homelessness

Some examples of business-focused passions are:

  • Improving efficiency
  • Growth and improvement
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Collaboration
  • Team-work

4. Awards

Awards are the pinnacle of a measured achievement. Including awards shows the employer that external parties have recognised your ability and rewarded it in the past. If you’re still in high-school, high-school awards such as Student of The Year are appropriate. As you enter college, you should try include awards and achievements from college instead.

5. Photo

For some industries, a photo is an excellent way of personalising your resume and adding a human touch. However, in some countries it’s forbidden or frowned upon to include a photograph. So, double check. This can be as simple as emailing the HR department to ask or ask your guidance counselor for some help with this.

Sample First Job Resume

Enhancv How To Write Your First Job Resume (Guide) First job resume

Reviewing Your Resume

After completing your resume, reviewing your content is the last step you should take before sending it out to recruiters.

1. Have you read the job description?

The job description is typically posted alongside any job listing. It will give details on what the job will entail and the duties you’ll be given. Reading the job description will help tailor your resume to answer the question the recruiter will ask.

For example, if the job description mentions accounting, you’ll know to include your math skills.

Not all parts of the job description need to be satisfied, however. Meet as many expectations as possible. If it mentions “experience with customers” this doesn’t have to be direct experience working in customer service. It can be selling hot dogs at your local football game.

2. How is your resume different?

Looking at your resume, you should spot things that make it unique. Remember, you need to stand out from the pool of people that are applying for the same job you are. Including personalised sections (Most Proud Of etc.,) tells your unique story and typically satisfies this idea.

3. Are your achievements measured?

Look over achievements to see if they are all measured. Again, listing responsibilities will only do so much. Providing a measure shows the recruiter what impact you have made in the past and gives insight into the potential impact you’ll have in the future.

4. Have you checked for typos?

Typos are very common in resumes. Everything else may be perfect, but if there’s a typographical error (spelling mistake, grammar mistakes, and so on) it will dampen the good impression you’re trying to leave on the recruiter. You can utilise Enhancv’s content analyzer to spot common typos.

5. Has a friend reviewed your resume?

Getting a fresh pair-of-eyes to look at your resume will do wonders. Not only will it give you an idea of how you resume comes across to a neutral party, but they may also find mistakes that you’ve missed. They may even think of some achievement you forgot to include. Luckily, Enhancv’s built-in referral link allows you to do this with ease.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long should my first resume be?

For your first resume, you should aim to keep your resume between 1-2 pages (1 is preferrable). Extremely long resumes are often filled with fluff and aren’t tailored to one particular job.

2. What font should I use?

Font restrictions are not very common, but check out the job description / application guidelines just in case. In general, use a readable font with clean edges. Arial, Times New Roman, Rubik and so on.

3. How many resumes should I have?

A good rule-of-thumb is to have a resume for every sector or industry you’re applying to. For example, a sales resume and a volunteer resume. For jobs that you really care about, you might even tailor your resume to that specific company.

4. What needs to be on my first resume?

Essential sections include:

  • Name
  • Contact Details (Phone Number & Email)
  • Skills
  • Previous experience (not necessarily in the working world)

Additional sections include:

  • Passions
  • Most Proud Of
  • Awards
  • Achievements
  • Personal Summary (important for your first resume)
  • Photo
  • Certifications

5. Where can I find first resume examples?

You can find real examples of people that have been successful with their resumes here. Dean’s story about what makes his first resume effective may interest you.

Writing your first job resume

Writing your first job resume can be difficult, but it’s manageable. Once you overcome writer’s’ block and start to think about the things you have done in your life, it will come naturally. To create a first job resume that resembles our sample resume and that satisfies all of our tips, be sure to check out Enhancv’s resume builder.

Dean O'Reilly

Psychology student with keen interest in academic research. Currently exploring the world of marketing distribution and content creation with Enhancv to help people get closer to the job of their dreams. Read more about my journey to Enhancv on Fast Company or Gay Times.

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