15 Tips to Help You Write Your First Resume Ever — No Work Experience Necessary

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Lorelei Yang
Lorelei Yang718
Wonky consultant with a passion for words

Writing your first-ever resume can be daunting. Trying to figure out where to begin can feel overwhelming, especially if you don't have a good sense of what a good one looks like. 

In this article, you'll learn how to find the right format for a first resume and get some writing tips to help ensure yours will stand out from the crowd. 

Finally, you'll learn about some of the jobs you can apply to without prior work experience.

Finding the right format.

First and foremost, you'll want to find the right format. To keep things simple, using a pre-formatted resume template in Word, Pages or similar word-processing software is a great start. When you use a template, many of the common content blocks — including education, work experience and a header with contact information — will already be included. As an added bonus, templates will already have appropriate bolding, italicization and multi-column layouts set up where appropriate, saving you the trouble of having to fiddle with these elements yourself.

If you're using Word or Pages, these programs already have templates preloaded for users' use; additional templates for these programs are also easily available online, many for free. In addition to these tools, there are also many other resumé templates available online for job seekers to use. Some of these are free, and others are paid — you should choose what's best for you based on your budget and preferences. For a first resume, however, you should be fine using a basic template without having to pay to buy a template. 

15 resume-writing tips.

1. Include internships and other work experience.

Assuming you have internship experience or other work experience (such as an on-campus job or summer job), this should be front and center in your resume as it demonstrates your work experience. 

2. Include education.

With very few exceptions (i.e., service industry jobs), potential employers want to know your educational background. Including the name of your college, degree, GPA (which you can drop down the line after gaining more work experience, but which is important while still a student) and relevant coursework is useful as a way to signify your qualifications. To help with listing education on your resume, look at these examples for different scenarios

3. Include skills.

When you don't have a long work record to fall back on, it's important to give potential employers a sense of your relevant skills. Programming skills, proficiency in specific programs and knowledge of foreign languages are all useful things to include. To help decide what skills to list, check out the 10 best skills to list and read up on effective versus ineffective examples of including skills on your resume

4. Include relevant coursework.

When you don't have extensive work or internship experiences, including relevant coursework is a good way to show potential employers that you have relevant knowledge and expertise that you can apply in a role.

5. Include your phone number.

To help potential employers contact you, include your cell or home phone number.

6. Use a professional email address

This seems like a no-brainer, but your email address should be professional. "[email protected]" isn't the attitude you want to convey to potential employers. With this in mind, using your school email address or an email account with your name in it (such as [yourname]@[domain].com) are both good options.

7. Use descending chronological order for lists.

List work experiences and education (if you have multiple educational institutions listed) in descending chronological order, with current or most recent experiences first.

8. Include locations of previous work experiences and internships.

When you list previous experiences and internships on your resume, you should include where those experiences were. This is especially important for big companies with offices in multiple locations (in which case potential employers may want to know which office you were at) and small companies that potential employers may not have heard of.

9. Consult your school's career services office for resources.

If you're a college student, your school's career services office is a great resource to help you get started with the resume-writing process. It'll likely have useful guides, examples of successful resumes and even in-person resources to help you polish your resume.

10. Proofread, proofread, proofread!

Your resume is the first impression you'll be giving to a future employer, so it's in your best interest to ensure that everything is spelled properly with correct grammar. While you're spellchecking your resume, it's also a good idea to make sure that formatting is consistent, with bolding and italics (if used) consistent across text blocks.

11. Print it out to see how it looks on paper.

After you finish drafting your resume, printing it out and reviewing again on paper has two important benefits: 1) it helps you ensure that it'll look good once printed and 2) reviewing documents on paper can sometimes help you catch typos and grammar mistakes that you didn't notice when reviewing on the computer screen.

12. Keep the font a reasonable size

While it may be tempting to decrease the font size on your resume to squeeze just one more experience onto the page, it's important to keep readability in mind. To this end, don't make the text on your resumé so small that readers have to squint to read it... because they won't.

13. Decrease margins if you need more page space

If you need more page space, decreasing margins, rather than decreasing font size, is a good way to create more page space. 

14. Consider including a special interests section

This isn't a requirement, but if you have professionally relevant interests and hobbies, you could consider including them in your resume. Potential hobbies to include on your resume include: artistic activities (such as painting or graphic design), community service, travel, writing or blogging. Potential interests might include: making or listening to music, social causes, foreign languages or theater.

15. PDF your resume when sending it out

Unless an employer specifically asks for a Word resume, it's generally best to send it in PDF format because PDFs look more professional, are easy to open and maintain your formatting.

Jobs you can apply to without prior work experience:

Entry-levels jobs across a range of industries are accessible to applicants with the right qualifications (and if you're a teenager looking for your first-ever job, here are some jobs for you). These are just three examples of jobs that typically don't require experience: 

Customer Service Representative

If you like talking to people and have strong communication skills, this is a great entry-level job for you. Customer service jobs are available in a broad range of industries, and can be a foot in the door to an industry of interest. 

Publicity Assistant or Public Relations Assistant

Public relations (PR) firms frequently look for fresh candidates who they can shape to their own standards. If you're a strong writer and people person, this is a great entry-level career. Many larger PR firms have rotational programs for the first one to two years, allowing you to explore different areas of the business and learn about your strengths and weaknesses.

Administrative Assistant

If you're detail-oriented and good at multitasking, an entry-level administrative assistant job can be a good way to get your foot in the door at a bigger company. After you've been at a company for a while, you may be able to work your way up to a more specialized role.

Once you've written your first resume and identified opportunities that interest you, you'll be well on your way to landing an entry-level position, internship or summer job. Once you start hearing back from potential employers, here are some 12 ways to stand out in an interview and 40 common interview questions.

Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.