How To Write A Resume That Helps You Land Your First Job


Many people writing a resume for their first job make these mistakes:

  • They try too hard to be clever and stand out by using fancy fonts, colors, clip art or even video resumes.
  • They think volunteer work, summer jobs and school honors or adult-ed courses do not count.
  • They are not clear about their career goals; they apply for everything and expect their resume to get them “any job.”
  • They do not research what employers want.

Your resume helps you land your first job by presenting you at your best to recruiters and hiring managers who are looking for someone with your achievements, skills, and education.

Related: 10-Minute Transformation: Give Your Resume A Power Punch!

Here’s what you should be doing:

1. Forget about clever paper, fonts, and presentations.

Companies are not impressed by an origami resume. Focus on skills and achievements and you will quickly grab their attention.

2. Recognize and embrace the value of your experiences and education.

One of my clients worked the same summer job every year and showed enough skill in that short time to win two promotions. Another client who wanted to become a training manager wrote her thesis on “Mentoring in the Workplace.” A future sales person helped sell tickets to a nonprofit’s fundraising event. These are all important achievements.

3. Write your resume for the job you want, not “any job.”

Do you prefer to work in a forest or an office? Do you like to travel and meet people, to work in a team or to work at home alone? Did you take courses in biology or art? Apply for the jobs you are prepared for and excite you.

4. Find out what employers want.

Read the ads. Talk to people who already work in the job or industry that appeals to you. Read books about your chosen field. When you know what employers want, you can write a resume and cover letter that shows how you meet their needs.

This post was originally published at an earlier date.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Robin Schlinger

Robin Schlinger is the founder of Robin’s Resumes which provides excellent services to those who value the best in resumes and career marketing documentation.


  1. Thanks to Careerealism! I get some of the best advice here! Kudos to Robin!

    I work editing resumes, and those seeking their first job often have it pretty tough. Making it to level 46 in Black Ops simply isn’t the most relevant business achievement for most positions. There are other things to look for though.

    If you don’t have any skills to speak of, ask yourself what you learned from athletics in school – Or clubs? Did you organize social/family events for holidays or weddings? Babysit much? Do you know how to search the internet to find information? Have you ever timed how quickly you type? Do you use Windows? Photo editing programs? Have you done presentations in school? What topics have you researched? If there is a pattern, could this be a passion for you? Do friends come to you for advice? Do you do homework without coercion? Are you a list maker, able to organize and prioritize? Answers to all of these questions hint at skill sets that you may be able to include on a resume.

    Volunteer (just like the author said, it’s experience!) I know you need money. But you have to have a job to make money. And you have to have experience to get a job. Take the hit. You can do anything for 6 months! A 6 month commitment will give you experience, references (so long as you treat the job as a JOB), and an idea of what you may like (or dislike) in a more permanent position.

    Where to volunteer? Community service programs regularly seek volunteers. Check the YMCA, your local hospice, schools, Goodwill/Salvation Army types of industries, the hospital, nursing homes, programs for seniors or the disabled, humane society, women’s shelters, non-profit organizations (kiwanis, rotary, eagles, elks, girlscouts, boyscouts, boys/girls clubs, political parties). But remember that some of these volunteer positions are also competitive, so have a resume ready, even if you have to explain how awesome you are with little proof.

    A #3 “Don’t” – Do not use your resume to tell an employer what you want. Tell them what you OFFER as it relates to the position they are filling. There is a huge difference between, “I want a job where I can grow with the company” and “Customer service idealist with a strong work ethic that includes punctuality, dressing appropriately, and representing my employer well, seeking Blank Position with Company Name”

    It isn’t easy to design a resume with little or no work history, but it isn’t impossible. Best wishes!

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