Everyone knows that making a good first impression is critical to landing your first real job. What exactly does this mean, though? Typically, a first impression is based on a face-to-face meeting with someone new. This isn’t the case when applying for a job, however. Long before you meet your interviewer in person, he or she will have already based an opinion of you from reviewing your job resume. Since your resume will make the first impression on the hiring manager, this professional document needs to be as near-perfect as possible. Sound daunting? Don’t sweat it. Instead, take a look at our top 10 proven tips for building your first job resume.
1. Start With a Well-Crafted Objective
Your job resume should lead with a concise but powerful objective statement. If written correctly, this objective will accomplish three things. It will: emphasize your strengths as a job candidate, describe your career interests, and illustrate your worth to the company you hope to work for. Think of the objective as a brief synopsis of your entire resume and use it to entice the hiring manager to consider your resume in its entirety. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of using a one-size-fits-all objective statement—instead, customize it to the specific position you’re applying for. Some experts recommend writing the objective last since it is a summary of sorts for your resume as a whole. Even so, it should be the first thing HR sees when they pick up your job resume for review.
2. Focus on Industry Buzzwords
Your first job resume will be (necessarily) brief. Since you don’t have much in the way of experience, you’ll likely want to keep it to just one page in length. This concise format is preferable for hiring managers because it enables them to assess numerous resumes quickly. To make a good impression within such a small space, you’ll need to carefully choose your words. Fortunately, there is a proven strategy for doing just that, and it has to do with terms commonly referred to as “buzzwords.” These buzzwords are impactful words and phrases that pack a punch. They’re so powerful, in fact, that some companies look for them specifically on a candidate’s job resume.
How does one go about discovering which buzzwords to use? Job postings will often use certain industry buzzwords in their advertisements for open positions to attract the right candidates. You can use these same terms on your resume to indicate to HR that you’re precisely the right fit for the job. Another good place to look for good keywords is its website, particularly the “About Us” or “Mission” section.
You may be surprised to learn that buzzwords are sometimes a requirement for a qualifying resume. Some large companies use resume tracking software to scan resumes for certain words and phrases electronically. These systems eliminate candidates without proper industry keywords. There are hundreds of industry buzzwords that could be beneficial to include in your resume, and these keywords will vary by industry. Below are some examples for the sake of illustration:
Before using buzzwords on your resume, be sure to do your homework to uncover the terminology trending in your industry.
3. Conduct Your Own Interviews
When preparing your resume, the only type of interview you’re probably thinking of is the one you hope to score with a prospective employer. To get your job resume ship-shape, though, you’ll want to do some interviews of your own. In particular, it’s wise to talk to some professionals already working in your occupation or field to get a real feel for the work environment. Ask them exactly what the position consists of and, specifically, what skills and qualifications employers are looking for in new hires. Not sure where to find good interviewees? Consider your school’s alumni network.
4. Check Your Spelling and Grammar
Even if you didn’t major in English, it’s important to check your resume with a fine-toothed comb for any possible spelling or grammar mistakes. Ensuring that your resume is polished and professional shows that you’re serious about your job prospects, and you’ve put in the time to edit your work. The translation for hiring managers? You’ll make a conscientious, detail-oriented employee with a solid work ethic.
A quick run-through of your completed resume isn’t going to cut it here. That may have worked for your college essays, but there’s too much on the line when it comes to an actual job resume. Use an editing tool like Grammarly to check for errors and improve any awkward phrasing. Have a trusted mentor review the resume as well for good measure.
5. Feature Your Academic Highlight Reel
Normally, a job resume focuses on employment experience, not academics, but your very first job resume is an exception. Since you may have no real work history, you should use this space to zero in on some of your academic achievements. If your GPA is above average, be sure to feature it prominently. Were you the recipient of any special awards or merits? List them too. If you were an overachiever, you might not have the space to list every recognition on your resume. Instead, focus only on those awards relevant to your major or future occupation.
Related: 30 Great Merit Scholarships
6. Include Your Part-Time Jobs
You may think that your summer babysitting job or lawncare gig you took on to help pay for college is irrelevant to your current job hunt, but don’t leave it off. Any work experience is worthy of placement on your first job resume so long as you left the position on good terms. When listing any work experience that doesn’t directly connect to your future career, focus on the soft skills you demonstrated through the position, such as communication, work ethic, or teamwork, for instance.
7. Emphasize Experiential Learning
Another thing to list under academics on your first job resume is any experiential learning experiences you had during your college career. This includes internships, practicums, volunteer work, and even study abroad trips. These are important to list because, in lieu of job experience, they’re the only thing an employer has to gauge your real-world experience in the field.
8. Underscore Soft Skills
When listing skills on your first job resume, be sure to include as many soft skills as are relevant to your desired occupation. These are skills like communication, work ethic, and reliability that are beneficial for virtually any occupation. Employers typically value these skills even more than job-specific skills because soft-skills are vital to a successful employment arrangement but are often difficult, if not impossible, to teach. A recent survey identified the top soft skills employers are looking for in job candidates to be:
- listening skills
- effective communication
- interpersonal skills
- critical thinking
- active learning
9. Include the Right References
References are important on any job resume, but they may be even more critical on a first resume. That’s because hiring managers can usually review an applicant’s work history to verify their qualifications. This isn’t the case on a first job resume where prior experience may be limited or even non-existent. In these cases, references become invaluable. When choosing which individuals to list as references on your job resume, consider those in a position to speak highly of your professional nature. Avoid family members or close personal friends, and instead, think of individuals like professors, mentors, or colleagues. Anyone who knows you in a professional sense is fair game.
10. Focus on Format
You would think that the content, not the format, of a first job resume would be most important. The truth is, though, that both of these resume elements matter. Applicants are usually aware that their resume details are significant, but they often overlook formatting specifications. The right resume format can help feature your skills and education to overshadow any perceived deficit when it comes to work experience. Indeed.com recommends first-time resume builders use a functional resume format, for example.
Can a single-paged document make or break your chance to interview for a good entry-level position? It sounds preposterous, but the answer is “absolutely!” You’ve worked hard for years earning a college degree and racking up skills and qualifications for your dream career. Now, it really does come down to a single piece of paper. We can’t overstate how important it is to put your proverbial best foot forward here. Using the tips and strategies above can put you in the best position for success as you craft this all-important first job resume.