How to write your first resume

A resume is a marketing document. It should highlight your interest, skills, and qualifications for a specific job – to sell your candidacy for that role. So, the first step to writing one is to carefully read the job descriptions for the kinds of positions you will be using it to apply for.

What are employers looking for in candidates for those roles? Decide what in your background most suggests you’d be a successful candidate for it. Then start to write.

Some basic do’s and don’ts to get you started:

Do

  1. Use 10-12-point standard font- Arial, Verdana, etc. Times isn’t recommended, and don’t use Comic.
  2. Use bullet points and white space to make your document easy to read.
  3. Customize your job title and intro paragraph to each job you apply for.

Don’t

  1. Use a lot of colours, graphics, or overuse bold and italics.
  2. Use a miniscule font or cram all of your text together to get it all on one page. It’s better to have an attractive multi-page resume than an unreadable single page.
  3. Include references in your resume – or even say ‘references’ available. Employers know that, so this is just a waste of space.

Start at the top

The title at the top of your resume should match the job you are applying for. Retail clerk. Cashier. Camp Counsellor. Driver. Day Labourer. Whatever the specific job is should be in bold across the top of your application.

Next, your contact information. List your name, email address, and phone number.  

Intro paragraph

Open the body of your resume within introductory sentence or two. These are a mini cover letter. They should highlight why you would be a great candidate for the position. (Note: this is not an ‘objective statement.’ Don’t begin by talking about what you want from an employer – point out what you have to offer them.)

Example:

An enthusiastic and hard-working Retail Clerk who is passionate providing excellent customer service and able for evenings, weekends and shift work. Proven team working and communications skills, able to work independently and learn new software and systems quickly.

Skills and experience

You probably don’t have a great deal of working experience to list on your very first resume, but that doesn’t mean that you have nothing in your background that can make you stand out. When employers are hiring for entry-level positions, they usually aren’t looking for candidates with a huge portfolio of paid work. They want people with a good work ethic who are willing to learn.

Have you had summer jobs, done volunteer work, been a part of school organizations or community groups. What you want to put on your resumes are examples of things you’ve done where you’ve proven you can show up on time, work well with others, and be accountable.  

Many skills are sought after by employers across sectors. These include soft skills like teamwork, communications skills, problem-solving, and customer relations, as well as more technical abilities such as documentation and computer use, spreadsheets, budgeting, and scheduling.  

Because you want your resume to set you apart from other candidates, you’ll want to particularly highlight any instances where you made significant contributions to a team. Where you accomplished something others in a role might not have. What are your particular accomplishments?

Education

If you are applying for a job post graduation and your education specifically certifies you for the role, then lead off with it. Highlight that right at the top of your resume.

Otherwise, list your education below your practical experience. Be sure to include any relevant courses or certification you may have received. Online communications, Microsoft Office, business math, for example, can be very relevant to many roles.

Also, include any awards or recognitions you have received. These are further examples of how you stood out from the crowd.

Finally, be sure to proofread your resume carefully. Written communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to produce error-free work are all highly valued in job candidates. Spelling mistakes and typos can give the impression that you have none of those things.

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