How to Write Your First Job Resume [For 2021]

16 March
8 min read

So there you are, sitting in front of a screen, staring at a blank Word page for hours, with one task at hand: writing your first job resume.

Where do you even start?

And most importantly: How do you fill those 1-2 pages when you have no work experience?

We feel your struggle and we’re here to help!

In this article, we’re going to guide you through the entire process of creating a first job resume from start to finish.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

How to Write Your First Job Resume

The exact process for creating this solid first job resume is:

  1. Pick the right resume template
  2. Write down your contact information (correctly)
  3. Include a resume objective
  4. List your education (in detail)
  5. Instead of work experience, focus on…
  6. Highlight your skills
  7. Mention optional sections
  8. Stick to the one-page limit
  9. Get inspired by a first-job resume example

Don’t worry, we’re going to cover all of the above in detail!

Starting with the first step:

#1. Pick the Right First Job Resume Format and Template

There are 3 main resume formats you can pick from. Each of them highlights a different part of your resume.

  • Reverse-Chronological Resume - In this format, your work experiences and education are listed in reverse-chronological order. 
  • Functional Resume - Instead of work experience, this format focuses on your skills and achievements.
  • Combination (or Hybrid) Resume - This format focuses on both your skills and work experience.

For 99% of job-seekers, we recommend sticking with the reverse-chronological format.

While a functional resume can sometimes help for career changers or recent graduates, it’s still nowhere near as common as the reverse chronological one.

Plus, recruiters world-wide are familiar with the reverse-chronological format, making it a safer bet.

A reverse-chronological resume looks as follows:

reverse chronological format for first job

Once you’ve picked the format, the next step is to perfect your layout, font, and the like. Here’s what we recommend for that:

  • Use a Two-Column Layout. A two-column resume layout allows you to fit a lot more content into your resume.
  • Pick a Common Font. We recommend Ubuntu, Overpass, or Roboto.
  • Use Bullets to Describe Your Experiences.
  • Don’t Go Over One Page. Unless you’re a professional with a decade of work experience, we recommend sticking to the one-page resume limit.

Want to avoid all the hassle of formatting your resume layout? We don’t blame you - if you wanted to build a good-looking resume from scratch, it would take you hours before you could even start filling it in.

Thankfully, there’s an easier way out: using a resume builder.

With Novoresume, all you have to do is pick a template, and fill in the contents. It’s that simple.

And on top of that, Novorésumé resumes are ATS-friendly. Meaning, your resume won’t be swallowed up by an applicant tracking system just because it can’t read it.

Want to get started with Novorésumé? Browse our resume templates.

first job resume examples

#2. Write Down Your Contact Information (Correctly)

It’s important for the recruiter to have at least two ways of reaching back to you.

Meaning, you should always provide your contact information in your resume. That includes: 

  • First and last name
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Location

Apart from these must-haves, you can also provide:

  • LinkedIn URL - This is a good way to complement your resume. It also makes the recruiter’s life easier since they usually check your LinkedIn profile anyway. Make sure all information is updated and consistent with your resume, though. 
  • Relevant social media (like Quora or StackOverflow) - Any social media that is related to the job position and puts you in good light should be included in your resume. In most cases. If you’re a developer, it could be projects on GitHub. Writer? Personal blog.
  • Website or blog - Again, this should be something related to the job. It shows your interest and dedication to the industry and how you spend some of your free time.

When it comes to your contact information, the key is to write everything correctly. Double-check you’ve spelled your name and email right, make sure the phone number you’ve listed can be reached, and that the accounts you have linked to are up to date

Something else you should know regarding location is how much detail you should be providing. 

The reason recruiters want to know your location is so that they have an idea of whether you’re in the vicinity of the company or not (and if you’ll need to relocate for work). 

That means, providing the city and country where you live will be enough. No need for your full home address. 

#3. Include a Resume Objective

Recruiters spend on average 7 seconds scanning each resume before deciding if it’s worth more consideration or not. 

That means your resume has about 7 seconds to leave a great first impression and convince the recruiter you’re the person they’re looking for.

A good resume objective does that for you. 

A resume objective is a 2-3 sentence snapshot of your skills, achievements, and career goals. Its purpose is to communicate your motivation for getting into the field and your interest in this particular position. 

This makes it ideal for the first job resume of a recent graduate or somebody who’s changing careers. Basically, any resume with no work experience

Your resume objective should be tailored to the position you are applying for and highlight skills that will help the company achieve its goal. Use as many facts and numbers as you can to back up any statements or achievements. 

Correct Example:

  • Creative and motivated recent graduate with a B.A. in Marketing from the University of Michigan. Seeking permanent employment in the field of marketing after completing successful internships in 2 major media companies. Looking to further develop my market analysis skills and contribute to future marketing strategy developments at XY Company.

Incorrect Example:

  • I am looking to put my marketing skills into action by initially working for the marketing department of a well-known company until I can finally get to an executive position.

#4. List Your Education (In Detail)

For starters, you should know how to list your education entries correctly in the following format:

  • Program Name e.g.: B.A. in Information Systems
  • University Name e.g.: University of Chicago
  • Years Attended e.g.: 07/2013 - 05/2017
  • GPA (only if really high)
  • Honors (If applicable) e.g. Cum Laude

Exchange Program (If applicable) e.g. Exchange program in Berlin, Germany

Apart from your skills, your education is the biggest selling point in your first job resume. This is not the place to be humble and play down your achievements!

Write down your GPA (if it’s something impressive), emphasize your honors, and most importantly, highlight your academic achievements by describing them in detail.  

What you can also do is list specific courses that you have taken that are relevant to the position you are applying for. 

Here’s an example of what an entry on the education section should look like:

Example:

B.A. in English Literature (Cum Laude)

Boston University

07/2014 - 05/2018

  • GPA: 3.9
  • Courses: Advanced Topics in Literature: Shakespeare’s Work 
  • Clubs: Boston University Drama Club
  • Exchange program in London, UK

#5. Instead of Work Experience, Focus On This

As a recent graduate, the recruiter knows you don’t have any work experience - and that’s OK. As long as you’re applying for a junior or entry-level position, the experience isn’t something expected from you.

Instead, the recruiter will be looking for other experiences that enrich your profile, like:

  • Internships
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Projects

When talking about these experiences, format them just like you’d format your work experience. 

For Example:

Business Analyst Internship

AAA Company

Milan, Italy

05/2019 - 12/2019

  • Ran weekly and monthly analysis on diverse areas of the business
  • Created insightful reports of the analysis to present to managers and teams
  • Defined strategic KPIs, in order to monitor the efficiency of commercial operations

When possible, try to focus on listing your achievements and not your responsibilities. This will help you stand out from the rest of the applicants.

Haven’t done any internships? Include extracurricular activities.

More often than not, an applicant with extracurricular activities and an average GPA will impress the recruiter much more than a 4.0 GPA student with nothing else to show. When listing your extracurricular activities, each entry should have the following format:

Example:

Moot Court Club Member

Boston University

2017 - 2019

  • Participated for two years in a row at the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, making it to the finals in 2019
  • Researched and prepared written pleadings, called memorials addressing timely issues of public international law
  • Helped train the new club members in topics of international law

Finally, you can also list independent projects, if you have any. Think, something you did on the side just for yourself. This can be a personal project, small business or startup, side-gig, blog, etc.

You can format such experiences as follows:

Amy’s Book Club Blog

2018 - Present

  • Created my own book club website for reviewing and discussing the latest books.
  • Curated a monthly book calendar for my followers to follow, combining trending, relevant, and classic books.
  • Created over 40 book review articles.
  • On average, received 2000 visitors per month to the blog.

#6. Highlight Your Skills

The two types of skills you can mention on your resume are soft skills and hard skills.

Soft skills are attributes that help you adapt to work environments, work in a team, and apply your hard skills effectively. They are related to your personality, social skills, communication, attitude, etc.

Hard skills refer to technical knowledge and specific tools. They are skills that one learns and applies directly to the job. Some examples of hard skills include:

  • Financial accounting
  • C++
  • Adobe Illustrator

Although soft skills are becoming more and more in demand by employers, for your first job resume, we recommend sticking to hard skills. 

Sure, attributes like “teamwork” or “critical thinking” are much appreciated by just about any employer. 

The thing is, though, the recruiter can’t really tell if you actually have critical thinking skills, or just listed it on your resume to fill space.

Hard skills, on the other hand, are very easy to test.

Tailor Skills to the Job Ad

Not sure which skills to mention in your first job resume?

The simplest way to find the essential ones is to check the job ad.

The recruiter themselves mentioned the skills they’re looking for - the only thing you need to do is mention them in your resume (as long as you have them, anyway).

Let’s say you’re applying for a graphic designer position that wants the following qualifications and skills:

  • Adobe Creative Suite proficiency, particularly InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and Acrobat; XD, Animate and/or After Effects are a plus
  • Working knowledge of presentation software (Canva, PowerPoint and/or Keynote)
  • Ability to work under pressure, manage work on multiple projects daily, manage a large workload and meet deadlines.
  • Detail-oriented, highly organized

Based on that, your skills section should include the following:

  • Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat
  • After Effects and Cinema4D
  • Canva and Keynote
  • Time management
  • Detail-oriented

If the job ad isn’t too descriptive, you can also check out these 101+ most in-demand skills for 2021

#7. Mention Optional Sections

Still have some space on your resume?

That’s not a bad thing! You can use this space to your advantage and add some other useful sections.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Volunteering - If you have some volunteering experience, make sure to include it in your first job resume. Such a section shows commitment, dedication, and a sense of purpose, something most recruiters will appreciate.
  2. Languages - With companies becoming more and more international, additional languages are always appreciated. 
  3. Hobbies - You can show your genuine interest in the industry or field by listing some relevant hobbies/interests.
  4. Awards & Certifications - Whether it’s an award from an essay competition in college or a certificate from an online course, anything that flatters your profile should be added. 

#8. Stick to the One-Page Limit

How long should a resume be?” seems like an eternal dilemma at this point. 

Generally, the answer is: it depends. 

Since you’re making a first job resume, the answer is: definitely one page

Unless you have an extensive employment history that can’t fit into one page, there’s no need to go over that limit. 

It’s unlikely that the recruiter will want to look at two pages of extracurriculars and hobbies. 

#9. Get Inspired by This First-Job Resume

Need some inspiration for your resume? Check out the resume examples below.

resume for first job

First Job Resume FAQ 

Still have some questions on how to write a convincing first job resume?

We’ll answer them here.

Q — 

1. What do I put on my no-experience resume?

There’s plenty of other things you can include in your resume instead of work experience. For starters, you should:

  • Focus on your education, making sure the entries are formatted correctly.
  • Pick the right skills that match what the employer is looking for.
  • Talk about internships, personal projects, or extracurricular activities. Describe your achievements in detail.

If you still have some space left, you could use it to your advantage and add extra sections like volunteer work, languages, awards & certificates, or hobbies.

Q — 

2. Is a resume necessary for a first job?

Depending on the region, a resume or CV is always necessary for a job application, be it the first or the 20th. 

Before deciding if they should call you for an interview, the recruiters need to have some insight into you and your skills.

Q — 

3. Do I need work experience to land my first job?

Short answer: You don’t! 

If you’re a recent graduate, it’s a given that you won’t have any work experience. Most employers don’t actually expect years of work experience for an entry-level or junior position. 

Instead, they’ll be looking at your other types of experiences (internships, extracurricular activities, etc.) to decide on whether you’re a good fit for the job or not.

Q — 

4. How do you write a resume for your first job?

The process is quite similar to the one for writing a regular resume, but with a few tweaks.

The exact steps for creating a first job resume are:

  1. Pick the right resume template
  2. Write down your contact information (correctly)
  3. Include a resume objective
  4. List your education (in detail)
  5. Instead of work experience, focus on extracurricular activities, internships, projects, etc.
  6. Highlight your skills
  7. Mention optional sections
  8. Stick to the one-page limit

Key Takeaways

Writing your first job resume doesn’t have to be stressful!

Remember the following tips and you’ll do just fine:

  • Pick the right format and template to avoid the hassle of formatting your resume. Make sure to pick an ATS-friendly resume template.
  • Write a concise and attention-grabbing resume objective. Show the recruiter that you’re relevant for the role and that they should read the rest of your resume.
  • Instead of work experience, include information on your internships, projects, and extracurricular activities.