Applying for a position without job experience is stressful. Understandably, you are a bit anxious. Yet, it’s a necessary step that everyone goes through. Millions of people get their first job each year. Plus, there are plenty of entry-level job openings targeting a motivated newbie like you.
You will just need to work on your resume to make sure they will pick you – and I am here to help you with it! In this post, I give you the key strategies to write a winning first resume and things you should include to stand out. By the way, a resume is included in the range of paper writing services we offer, so you can just delegate this challenging task to the pros. Still, if you want to write your resume yourself, let’s dive right into it!
Select Clean Format
First of all, you must make sure that your job application looks professional. There are plenty of templates to choose from but remember – less is more. Keep it simple. No crazy fonts, no different colors, no logos, no frills. You want a neat, structured document where nothing distracts the reader’s attention from the content.
If you want to make it yourself from scratch, start by setting the margins. Go with the usual standard of 1 inch on each side. You can make them thinner – down to 0,5 inches, but no less. Stick to standard readable fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, etc. Don’t go wild with font size, either. Ideally, you have two or three sizes:
- - about 10 to 12 points for the content
- - 14 points to make section headings pop; you can also capitalize, bold, or underline them – but whatever you do, be consistent
- - 16 to 18 for your name at the top. It should be the biggest
Put your contact details under the name: phone, email, and location (just the city and the state are enough). If you have a website with your portfolio or professional social media channels relevant to the job – put them there as well.
Create a Summary
“What is there to summarize? It’s not like I’ve got three pages of job history here!” I hear you. Yet summary is the first thing your reviewer will see. It’s a hook of your resume. The blurb that sells you. When you don’t have any experience, you just shift focus on who you are: your personality, soft skills, work ethic. Place it at the top – directly under your name and contact info. Keep it brief. Use 2-3 sentences to describe your top strengths and skills and say what you are looking for in the role. For example:
“Driven marketing student seeking to develop more extensive experience in retail sales. Versatile team player, I bring strong negotiation and conflict resolution skills.” As an entry-level candidate, you may find bullet points more helpful than sentences. In that case, three is just about right. Less – and your resume looks sparse. Four and up – it’s too busy.
List Your Skills
Next, list your skills. The ideal place is beneath the summary and above your education details. This is particularly relevant for tech positions where they look for a bunch of specific hard skills, and if you don’t have them – it’s a no-go. The person who scans your resume may spend no more than 7 seconds, and they must see at a glance that you have those prerequisites. List 5 to 10 skills you think are the most relevant for the job.
List Your Education
Start out with your highest educational degree. List the institution, title, major. For example, “Chestnut Hill College, Bachelor in Human Services.” If you are still a student, give your anticipated graduation date and GPA. For example, “Class of 2023, GPA 3.45.”
List Your Experience
Although you don’t have any formal work experience, you actually have a lot more applicable life experience than you think you have:
- - Part-time work, such as babysitting, dog walking, or lawn mowing
- - Freelancing
- - Volunteering
- - Civic groups, student organizations, and other extracurricular activities
- - Relevant course work or personal projects
- - Academic writing and published works
Don’t forget that you should highlight the skills you’ve developed in the listed roles – primarily, skills that are relevant for the position you aspire to fill. Use action verbs to communicate those experiences: maintained, built, grew, cared, organized, led, etc. Where it’s possible, use numbers to describe your achievements. For example, “Grew client base from one family to eight homes in four months.”
“All experience counts, and the best way you present yourself, your skills, and your assets to a hiring manager is to provide them with a strong resume that showcases your own unique talent,” – stresses Alison Doyle, one of the most prominent job search experts out there.
After this section, you may include awards and achievements you are particularly proud of. That’s about it when it comes to structuring.
Now, let’s get into strategies to make each of these sections hit the target and convince them to arrange an interview the moment they see your resume!
Use Strong Adjectives
Jennifer Herrity, a career coach at Indeed, advises using adjectives to give additional insight into who you are and describe your personality instead of professional history. “This is especially helpful technique for entry-level candidates who may lack years of experience,” – says Jennifer.
Use meaningful words to describe yourself: energetic, motivated, organized, enthusiastic, dedicated, adaptable, friendly, innovative, etc. Don’t use descriptors that are too general: “smart,” “great,” “best.” They sound hollow. Remember that your goal is to stand out. Look at the words you use and ask yourself: could my friends describe themselves this way? If so, that’s too general. Try to pinpoint something very specific to you and relevant for the job. For example, “networking,” “conflict resolution,” or “relationship building” instead of just “people skills.”
Tailor your skillset to fit the job
There is no one-size-fits-all winning resume. Even if you don’t have any job history, you still have a lot to offer. Choose only your relevant characteristics and experiences to highlight. Your task is to show that you can do this particular job well and meet company needs – and no job or company is the same.
Take time to craft a specific summary and skillset for each job you’re applying for. Carefully review the position description and think about which requirements overlap with your skills and experiences. Then, choose three critical ones. Look for those that are mentioned more often, seem the most important, or give you the edge over other candidates (something you have that the majority of others are unlikely to have). Start with those three. Pro tip: put them in words similar to the ones used in the job description to make sure that automated search will notice your resume.
Don’t list your traits as skills
One of the mistakes inexperienced candidates often make is listing characteristics in place of skills. For example, “born leader,” “people person,” or “hard worker.” They might as well be true, yet they come off as unsubstantiated claims. Instead of naming all those qualities, try to demonstrate them instead through your experiences. For example, “organized a student club,” “was resident advisor,” or “combined tutoring, studying, and volunteering during my sophomore year.”
Dodge the eliminator
The first reviewer of your resume has one goal: weeding out those who don’t fit to create a smaller pool of relevant candidates. This can be a person or an ATS (applicants tracking system). This system works similarly to a search engine. It takes the query (job description), breaks it down to keywords, scans resumes for those keywords, and returns those that show the highest percentage of matching. That is why it is so important to incorporate keywords from the job description throughout your application.
Impress the selector
The second reviewer of your resume is usually the person with a deep knowledge of the industry and the job’s specifics. They no longer look for the reasons to sieve you away – they look for reasons to pick you out. Compelling this person is more of a creative task. Go online and look for more information on the industry, the company, or the role you are applying to. Try to imagine which skills are needed to excel in this field and which of them you have. This way, you demonstrate your deep understanding of the job and stand out among other, less thorough candidates.
See? It takes some time and research, but it isn’t so hard. No lies, no padding – just the truth about the valuable asset to their company that you are!