Top 5 tips to get started on your first resume
When you’re just starting, it can be overwhelming knowing what to include, what to leave out, and what employers actually care about on your resume.
While there’s a lot of advice out there to help you get started with your resume--it’s hard to tell what will actually get you the job. JobCheetah prefers to cut right to the chase, so we put together a list of 5 tips for writing your first resume
Tip #1: Create a Master Resume
One of the first things you should do is think about the experience you have so far, and get that all on a page.
Something we find super helpful is creating a Master Resume--basically a resume-like list of every credential and experience you have so far, regardless of its relevance to the job you’re interested in applying for at the time.
The reason this is a good thing to do first is because you’ll have all of your experiences and resume bullets in one place to pick and choose from as you navigate internships and jobs.
Trust me--it will be way easier to avoid forgetting things and re-thinking the wheel when editing your resume in the future.
Once you have captured your experiences, it’s time to look at the job or internship you’re interested in and think about what’s relevant. It’s important to think about the interviewer’s perspective and the story you want to tell them through your resume (remember, this is your first impression).
Early on, this may be difficult because you don’t have a lot of experience to choose from, so you may need to include things that aren’t direct experience. If that’s the case, focus on showing you are a competent worker and able to learn new skills for the job quickly.
As you gain more experience, you’ll know more about the career path you want to take (or think you want to take), and the story you tell becomes stronger and supported by evidence.
After you’ve decided what makes sense to include on your resume, it’s time to start tailoring it further for your specific application.
Tip #2: Before anything else, prepare for the ATS
Chances are you’ve never heard of the Application Tracking System (ATS), however, it’s become an industry standard that you need to be ready for. In fact, the majority of resumes are rejected by the ATS before ever reaching a recruiter’s eyes!
So, what is the ATS?
In essence, it is a software that automatically scans resumes and rejects candidates that do not match the job description. Though it may not seem fair, the world continues to be more connected and there are more applicants than ever before--so it makes sense that most companies are using technology to speed up the hiring process.
This means you need to be very careful in the words you choose in your resume. This is another reason we think it makes sense to start with a Master Resume, as you never know how you will need to slightly adjust your resume to get your foot in the door.
To get started, carefully review the job description and identify the keywords (which are often “buzzwords”) that appear to be important to the job. Pay attention to how they phrase and spell things, as this reflects how the software will search through your resume (e.g. if they spell words out or use acronyms).
Keywords at two different companies may vary even between the same job--so pay careful attention to the nuances between job postings. Use the same language, spellings, and acronyms that the job description uses.
As an example, if a job posting states they are “Looking for a candidate that demonstrates proficiency with Excel,” it is likely a good idea to include “Proficiency” and “Excel” in the skills section of your resume.
Tip #3: Quantify results when possible
For whatever reason, numbers always seem to grab people’s attention more than plain text. I know that at least for me, whenever I’m reading a resume my eyes dart for the numbers and metrics. Our advice is to review your experiences and accomplishments to see where you can add numbers.
You managed a budget--how much money was it?
You were the leader of the club--how many people did you manage?
You managed a process--how many times did you perform it a day/week/month?
Now, don’t force numbers where they don’t belong, but remember quantifying your experiences can be a powerful tool to stand out from other candidates.
Tip #4: Don’t be shy--highlight your accomplishments!
Your resume is your time to shine! Don’t withhold any accomplishments or awards you’ve received. While this sounds like common sense, a mistake some people make is that they don’t focus enough on the improvements or results of their experience. Your resume bullets should not only tell the recruiter what your job is, but the success and results you’ve achieved.
Let’s use the examples from Tip #3:
You managed a budget--did you manage to save any money? Did you make improvements to the budget? How did the budget change over time?
You were the leader of the club--what did you achieve while you were in charge? Did you increase numbers of members? What results did you produce?
You managed a process--did you find ways to make the process more efficient? Did you help others become more efficient or better at their job?
To take it a step further, quantifying your accomplishments or results will have an even more powerful effect on the recruiter.
Tip #5: Keep your bullets and formatting simple
Compiling the document consists of two key parts: the content and the formatting. The content will consist of elements like your name, contact information, work experience, and technical skills.
Your name, contact information, and technical skills should be pretty straightforward, while your work experience will take some thinking (Note: Your technical skills should be reflected throughout your work experience).
As you decide, remember that as you get older and get more “real-world” experience, you will want to remove high school roles or college internships.
Think about it, if you’re a graduating college senior, not many employers are going to care about your high school GPA or the club you started 5 years ago. As mentioned earlier, read your bullets from the interviewer’s perspective.
Will they make sense to someone that’s unfamiliar with your prior job? Do they showcase your responsibilities and accomplishments? Are there extra words or “fluff” that you can remove?
Hopefully, you’ve already started writing your bullets using your Master Resume, the keywords from the job description, and started using them to start compiling a resume relevant to the job. Once you’ve finalized the content that will be on your resume, it’s time to make sure everything is formatted consistently in a way that’s easy for the recruiter to read. There’s no right or wrong answer, but the bottomline is that it should be clear.
Common formatting tips include:
Use consistent font and styles throughout your resume (e.g. bold and underline job titles consistently, use the same size font)
Use the same number of bullets for each experience, and keep them to 1-2 lines each (though in some cases it makes sense to include more for your most recent experience)
Always put your experiences in reverse chronological order--start with what’s most recent!
Make sure everything is lined up appropriately!
If you have a lot of experience to add, don’t try to cram it all on the page. It’s okay to make the font smaller to fit more items, but pick what’s most relevant and make sure you aren’t overwhelming the recruiter
Remember, everyone’s situation is different and you may need to deviate from the rules a bit--that’s okay!
Writing your first resume can be a long, tedious process. We hope the tips we shared above will help you write your resume and get started on your path to your first internship or job.
If you need help, please feel free to sign-up for a free consultation--whether you haven’t started yet or think you have a finished product, we’ll take a look and share our advice.