How to Write Your First Resume

Resume. The world alone sounds scary and intimidating enough, right? And, if you’ve never actually tried to sit down and pull one together, the mere thought of having to craft your very first professional document is likely enough to make your palms clammy and your knees shaky.

Plus, if this is your very first resume, chances are you don’t have a ton of career history and information to actually include—making the process that much more frustrating.

Writing your resume is not an easy task—I’ll be the first to admit that. But, as a job seeker (and, well, an adult), it’s undoubtedly necessary.

“Well, great!” you’re thinking to yourself now, “That’s all well and good, but how on earth do I get started?”

Don’t panic yet, my hesitant friends! Creating your first resume might seem like a daunting task. But—armed with the right tips—you’re sure to pull together a document that’s polished, impressive, and reflective of all of the amazing things you’ve accomplished. Here’s what you need to know!

1. Start With the Basics

When the process seems totally overwhelming, sometimes you just need to get started. So, jump right in with some of the basic information you know you’ll need to list on your document.

This includes your name (well, duh) and the contact information hiring managers should use to get in touch with you. There! That may not be the hardest part, but at least you have a start to get you rolling!

2. Choose Your Focus

When you feel like you don’t have much impressive information to list on your resume, it can be tempting to fill it up with absolutely everything—including your high school job dishing out pizza slices in the mall food court and the twelve years you spent in ballet.

But, it’s important to remember that the goal of your document is to present you as a qualified candidate for the jobs you want—not every single job under the sun. This means you need to narrow your focus and emphasize the skills and experiences that relate specifically to that.

For example, if you’re applying for marketing jobs, you’ll want to be sure to highlight your relevant internship and your involvement with the marketing group at your college—and place less emphasis on the things that don’t directly relate to what you want to be doing. Makes sense, right?

3. List Your Key Skills

Even if you’re low on experience, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re low on skills. Sure, maybe you don’t have years and years of work history under your belt. But, you still have significant expertise and value to offer a potential employer.

The best way to demonstrate that is by including a key skills section near the top of your resume where you list out your main areas of expertise. These can be soft skills like “communication”, “leadership”, or “organization” or more specific know-how like “Photoshop expertise” or “Bilingual”.

We all know that hiring managers don’t spend a ton of time skimming through your resume. So, this is a great opportunity to get your most impressive qualifications right out in the forefront.

4. Detail Relevant Positions

Now’s the time to list out the previous positions you’ve held. This might be a little tricky, particularly if you don’t have a lengthy career history to detail. However, resist the temptation to fill the page with irrelevant information like your high school babysitting gigs.

Instead, focus on beefing up the most recent positions you do have with impactful and impressive descriptions. Choose the main theme of each position (perhaps it’s customer service, administration, or sales) and make sure that your bullet points support that message and accurately describe what value you brought to that employer.

Believe me, you can make virtually any job sound impressive—as long as you choose the right words.

5. Add Extra Sections

Finally, it’s time to fill out the rest of your document with any additional information you want to include. An education section is expected, so make sure that information has a home somewhere on your document.

You can also add sections for volunteer work, extracurricular activities, published work, or any impressive awards or accolades you received. Again, always refer back to your focus to help you choose the information that best supports your goals. When you have limited real estate on your resume, you want every single line to pack a punch!

6. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

But, wait—before you send that document anywhere, there’s one last important step you need to make sure you tackle.

That’s right—proofreading. Submitting a resume that’s riddled with typos, errors, and grammatical mistakes is a guaranteed toss into any hiring manager’s wastebasket. So, make sure that you read through your document several times to pick up on those blunders. My favorite tip? Read the document backwards. That strategy forces you to pay extra attention to each and every sentence, making you that much more likely to catch any mistakes your eye may have skipped over the first time.

There you have it—six simple tips to help you get started on your very first resume. Yes, pulling that document together can seem intimidating. But, take a deep breath, tackle these steps in order, and you’ll be well on your way!

Related Topics: , ,

Kat Boogaard

Written by

Kat is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer covering topics related to careers, self-development, and entrepreneurship. Her byline has appeared in numerous outlets and publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, QuickBooks, Business Insider, and more. Find out more about her on her website, or connect with her on Twitter.

More Articles by Kat Boogaard