What are the Essential Qualities for Your First Resume?

Creating your first resume can be a challenging task. When you’re planning your first resume, chances are that you don’t have much work experience to list. How can you compensate for this deficit and convince potential employers you have a lot to offer despite this lack? Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to focus on your strengths, talents and non-work experience to still put together an impressive first resume.

Making the most of your work experience:

Very often, people composing their first resume worry that jobs they’ve held, such as part time or summer jobs, are not going to be impressive to potential employers. This is not necessarily the case, especially if you can frame your experience in a way that calls attention to skills that can translate from one work environment to another.

When listing your previous jobs, don’t simply list the job title and description. Be sure to mention responsibilities that required you to work under pressure, interact with customers, show initiative or supervise other employers. For example, at many service jobs, more experienced employees are required to help newer employees learn the ropes. This can be phrased on a resume as “responsible for training new employees on company policy, operation of computer and customer service policies” -or whatever the specific tasks may have been.

Academic and other non-work achievements:

If your work experience is limited, you can emphasize your school-related accomplishments. This goes beyond grades and includes clubs, committees, athletics, charitable activities and anything else you may have been involved with in college. Make sure you list anything that suggests leadership skills or that is directly relevant to your career goals. Some examples of notable academic activities include sports teams, involvement with school newspapers or websites, offices you held or honor society membership.

You should also list achievements and experience that you’ve racked up outside of school or work. This might include travel, volunteering, involvement with civic organizations or membership in community or religious groups. All of this type of experience tells employers something about you and your ability to commit and interact in your community.

Emphasise skills:

No matter how limited your actual work experience, there’s nothing to stop you from listing your skills and abilities on your resume. Whenever possible, list specific instances when you have used these skills. This could be at a job, in school or in your free time. For example, if you’ve built a blog or two that has a professional appearance you could list “Website Design” as a skill along with a link to your website. Other skills you might list, if relevant, include social media, computer programs at which you’re proficient, foreign languages you speak or machines you can operate or repair.

Even skills that are not directly relevant to a job you’re applying for can bolster your resume. If you are bilingual, for example, it shows that you have certain verbal abilities. If you are proficient at playing the piano, it reveals both discipline and creativity.

The importance of honesty:

Job seekers are often tempted to embellish the truth on resumes, otherwise known as lying. When you are creating your first resume, you may think your chances of landing a job will improve by bending the truth. You should resist this temptation, as employers are becoming more thorough about fact checking resumes. Recent research has found that almost 60% of employers have caught job seekers lying on resumes. In this age of social media and quick background checks, it’s harder than ever to get away with lies. It’s far better to be honest and present the truth about yourself in as positive light as possible. Lying, on the other hand, can not only prevent you from getting a job, it could harm your reputation.

Make your resume professional and concise:

Employers see large numbers of resumes. They don’t want long documents that take a long time to read. The best resumes are one or two pages and no longer. You have many choices when it comes to style and layout, as long as it has a clean and professional look. You can find many resume templates online, either for free or at a reasonable cost. Make sure that all of the information on your resume is accurate and up to date. The following is a checklist of everything you must have on your first resume:

  • Objective: If you want, you can list a primary objective at the top of the resume. You may want to change this and tailor it to different job applications.
  • Contact Information: Name, address, phone number, email.
  • Education: Including degrees obtained, honors, awards or affiliations.
  • Work History: You can include part time, summer and work-study jobs if your experience is limited.
  • Skills: Any skills that are related to your field or that reveal attractive qualities such as team spirit, creativity, discipline, intelligence or ingenuity.

RELATED: Resume Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts

Amy Klimek is an experienced HR recruiter and VP of Human Resources for ZipRecruiter, a company that simplifies the hiring process for small to medium size businesses. Prior to that Amy has held similar roles at, eBay and US Interactive. For Amy, corporate culture isn’t about dogs and free lunches, it’s about empowering employees and creating an enriching environment for people to excel.

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