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How to Make a Resume for Your First Job


Employment & Learning

Research resume keywords

One tool that many employers use to record and sort applications is software called an applicant tracking system (ATS). Often, an ATS will sort applications based on keywords. This means that when you use the same keywords from the job description in your resume, you may increase your chances of being noticed. To find the right words to include in your resume, start by carefully reviewing the job descriptions that appeal to you. Write down these words and then, reflect on the proven skills and abilities you have that could fit these requirements. Those may be leadership positions you’ve held, skills you’ve gained in your education, projects you’ve completed or clubs to which you’ve contributed. As you focus in on the job description, recall specific experiences that align with their ideal candidate and record them on your resume.

These experiences reflect the applicant’s ability to successfully complete the tasks that will be required in the role, as well as some traits for which the employer is looking. Even for employers that aren’t using an ATS, those who review your resume are more likely to respond positively if it includes the same language used in the job posting.

Feature your skills and education

When applying for your first job, choose a resume format that puts skills and education at or near the top. Organizing your information highlights key aspects of your background, giving employers the opportunity to quickly understand why you’re a good fit for the job. Though you may not have professional experience, putting other important activities or coursework in a primary position on your resume gives you a better chance at moving forward in the hiring process.

Write a resume objective

The resume objective, also called a career objective, resume summary or objective statement, is usually composed of one to two sentences that summarize your relevant skills. Often it’s placed at the top of your resume to capture the hiring manager’s attention. Writing a clear, concise resume objective can quickly give employers context around where you are in your career, what you’re looking for and the strengths and experiences you have that make you a great fit for the job.

Include your skills

When listing skills on your resume, you should include both soft and hard skills. While there are exceptions, soft skills tend to be parts of your personality while hard skills are things you may have learned to do.

Soft skills are intangible personality traits that are often difficult to teach, and therefore of great value. Some examples of soft skills to put on a resume include: effective communication skills, decision making, time management, collaboration, dealing with ambiguity, adaptability, and an ability to work under pressure

The technical skills, or hard skills, you should include depend largely on the field you’re planning to enter. Refer to the job description for clues on what the employer requires. Technical skills could include anything from knowledge of specific programming languages or software, or speaking a foreign language. When listing technical skills, be as specific as possible. If an employer lists certain technical skills as desired, place them in a prominent position on your resume and include your level of proficiency.

List your relevant education and certificates

On a resume for your first job, the education section may be of more important to the employer than other experience. Understanding your area(s) of study, degree level, concentrations, coursework and sometimes GPA can help provide context around the value you may bring to the company. For education, you may want to include: coursework relevant to the job(s) receiving the resume, academic achievements, overall GPA (if it is a 3.5 or higher) and major-specific GPA (if higher than a 3.5, and if your college provides one). Researching the companies you’re applying to can be helpful in selecting what information about your education background to include.

Include volunteer work and extracurriculars

Highlighting extracurricular activities and volunteer experiences can help add context to value you’ll bring as an employee. These activities provide a wealth of real-world experience that is valuable to employers, building both soft and hard skills in candidates. Align any traits and skills listed in the job description with the volunteer work and extracurriculars in which you’ve participated.

Include a tailored cover letter

While not always required, a cover letter can be especially helpful context for employers when applying to your first job. A thoughtful cover letter can demonstrate that you’ve put significant effort into preparing your application and gives you extra space to describe your qualifications for the role. Your cover letter should include: who you are, relevant skills and experiences to the job, your interest in the position, knowledge of what the job entails and how you effectively fill the role, and proof that you’ve researched the company and understand their mission. Use your cover letter to elaborate on how you experiences (like volunteer work or extracurriculars) have helped shape the soft and technical skills the employer wants. The cover letter should focus less on self-promotion and more on what you can bring to the company in a way that aligns with their missions and objectives. Your cover letter should fit on one page and contain around 300 words.

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Employment & Learning


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