Learn how to build your first resume, even with no prior work experience.
If you’re looking for your first job, you may be wondering what to put on your resume. While you may not have any formal job experience yet, you almost certainly have gained skills and other experiences through your education and extracurricular activities.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to write a resume for your first job when you have no experience. Learn how to identify your most marketable skills and experiences, and how to format your resume to show them off.
A resume is a formal document that presents your background, accomplishments, and skills to potential employers. When you submit a job application, your resume is typically the first thing a recruiter or hiring manager looks at to evaluate whether you’re a good fit for the role.
Outside of the US and in academic settings, a resume is often referred to as a Curriculum Vitae, or CV for short. The Latin term means “course of life.”
Many job listings ask for relevant experience. But just because you haven’t had a job before, doesn’t mean you don’t have experience. Your experience happens to come from outside the workplace. For a first job, your resume should concentrate on your academic achievements, as well as any informal work, volunteer experience, or extracurricular activities.
Here are some steps you can take to create a resume for your first job.
The bulk of many resumes focuses on job experience, listed from latest to oldest. If you don’t have job experience to list, pick a resume format that includes an education section closer to the top.
Writing a solid resume begins with studying the job description for the role you’re applying for. You want your resume to match up with what the company is looking for, so start by making a list of the key terms from the job description.
Go through the job description, and write down or highlight all the abilities, skills, and values listed within. Pay close attention to those listed as required.
Now, think about experiences in your own life that match up with the items on the list. If the job listing asks for someone with strong organizational skills, think about times when you’ve had to be particularly organized. Maybe you helped plan a school event or led a group project.
It’s okay if you don’t have something for every item. Keep this list nearby as you begin to fill in your resume template.
You may find it helpful to start with the education section of your resume. List your school and dates attended, as well as:
Relevant coursework: Have you taken classes that relate to the job you’re applying for (or from your job description research)? Be sure to list them.
GPA: A strong GPA (typically a 3.5 or higher) can show employers that you have the skills and work ethic to succeed in the job.
Academic achievements: Also include anything else that demonstrates your ability to succeed academically—making the dean’s list or the National Honor Society for example.
Extracurricular activities: Focus on the activities that align with the job listing. Involvement in student council, for example, could demonstrate leadership skills, collaboration, and problem solving. Playing a team sport shows that you can collaborate and manage your time.
Certifications or online courses: If you’ve taken any training, bootcamps, courses, or certification programs outside of school, include them here if relevant.
If you’re still enrolled in a program, list it as “in progress” with your anticipated graduation date.
Next, add in an experience section. While you may not have formal work experience, you should include any volunteer work, community activities, internships, or informal work experience (like tutoring, blogging, or helping with a family business) that’s relevant to the job.
As you fill in this section, refer back to the list you created in Step 2. You don’t have to include everything; instead, focus on your experiences that align with terms that appear higher up in the job description, or those listed as required rather than preferred.
Include a list of skills as bullet points on your resume that highlights both your human skills and any technical skills you may have.
Human skills, sometimes called soft skills or workplace skills, are those that apply to just about any job. Some examples include communication, decision making, leadership, time management, and problem solving. Technical or hard skills tend to be more job specific. These might include programming languages, software proficiency, or knowledge of a foreign language.
The skills you list in your resume should reflect what’s listed in the job description. For technical skills, also include your level of proficiency. If you’re still developing a skill, for example, you could write, “Familiar with Excel spreadsheets.”
It’s okay if you don’t have many technical skills to list. A study from job site LinkedIn found that 80 percent of companies value candidates with better workplace or human skills, which can be harder to teach . The same study found that the five most in-demand human skills are:
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This short statement goes at the top of your resume to summarize your skills. It’s usually a good idea to write this last once you have a better idea of what’s in your resume. Keep it to one or two sentences that state who you are, what you want, and what you can offer the employer.
Now that you’ve filled in most of your resume, here are some tips to help make it stand out.
Keep it to a single page. This is especially true if you’re not including work experience. Include what’s relevant to the job, and leave out the rest.
Use action verbs when describing your skills and experiences. Try to start sentences with verbs (e.g. designed, guided, led, improved, established, managed).
Include the same words and terms from the job listing. Many companies use what’s called an applicant tracking system (ATS) to sort applications by keywords. When you use the same words and phrases as the job description, you might increase your chances of getting your resume noticed.
Customize your resume for each job. Each job posting will have different keywords and requirements. You don’t have to start over each time, but make sure to adjust your resume for each job you apply to.
Proofread. Make sure your resume is free of any spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors. If possible, ask a friend or family member to proofread for you as well.
Include your contact information, including your full name, phone number, and email address.
Here’s a resume sample for a high school graduate applying for a job as an IT technician.
When you’re ready to build your own unique strengths, experiences, and skills into your own resume, feel free to use this first job resume template as a starting point.
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1. LinkedIn. "LinkedIn 2019 Talent Trends: Soft Skills, Transparency and Trust, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/linkedin-2019-talent-trends-soft-skills-transparency-trust-bersin/." Accessed August 10, 2021.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.