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How to Write a Resume When You’re Just Starting Out: A Beginner’s Guide

Derek Cirino - Jun 17, 2024

Writing a resume can be a daunting task, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of experience to showcase. However, everyone has to start somewhere, and a well-crafted resume can help you land your first job or internship. This guide will walk you through the steps to create a compelling resume that highlights your strengths and potential, even if you have little or no work experience.

1. Understanding the Purpose of a Resume

Before diving into the specifics of resume writing, it’s essential to understand what a resume is and why it’s important. A resume is a document that summarizes your education, skills, experiences, and accomplishments. Its primary purpose is to showcase your qualifications to potential employers and convince them that you’re a suitable candidate for the position.

2. Choosing the Right Resume Format

There are several resume formats to choose from, each with its own strengths. For beginners, the most commonly used formats are:

a. Chronological Resume

This format lists your work experience in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job. It’s ideal if you have some work experience that is relevant to the job you’re applying for.

b. Functional Resume

A functional resume focuses on your skills and qualifications rather than your work history. This format is perfect for beginners or those with gaps in their employment history.

c. Combination Resume

As the name suggests, a combination resume blends elements of both the chronological and functional formats. It highlights your skills and experiences while also providing a timeline of your work history.

For most beginners, a functional or combination resume is usually the best choice, as it allows you to highlight your skills and abilities even if you don’t have much work experience.

3. Crafting a Strong Resume Header

The header is the first section of your resume and should include your contact information. Make sure to include:

  • Your full name
  • Phone number
  • Email address (use a professional email address)
  • LinkedIn profile (if you have one)
  • Address (optional; city and state are sufficient)

Ensure your contact information is up-to-date and professional. Avoid using nicknames or unprofessional email addresses.

4. Writing a Compelling Objective or Summary

An objective or summary statement gives potential employers a snapshot of who you are and what you bring to the table. This section should be concise and tailored to the job you’re applying for.

a. Objective Statement

An objective statement outlines your career goals and what you aim to achieve in the position you’re applying for. For example:

“Recent college graduate with a degree in Marketing seeking an entry-level position to utilize my communication and organizational skills to contribute to the success of a dynamic company.”

b. Summary Statement

A summary statement highlights your key qualifications and achievements. It’s typically used by those with some experience. For example:

“Detail-oriented marketing professional with internship experience in social media management and content creation. Skilled in Adobe Creative Suite and Google Analytics. Seeking to leverage these skills in an entry-level marketing role.”

For beginners, an objective statement is often more appropriate.

5. Highlighting Your Education

For those just starting out, education can be one of the strongest sections of your resume. Include the following details:

  • Name of the institution
  • Degree obtained or pursued
  • Graduation date (or expected graduation date)
  • Relevant coursework (if applicable)
  • GPA (if it’s strong and relevant to the job)

If you have any academic achievements, such as honors or awards, be sure to include them as well.

6. Showcasing Your Skills

The skills section is crucial for beginners as it allows you to highlight the abilities that make you a good fit for the job. Focus on both hard and soft skills:

a. Hard Skills

These are specific, teachable abilities or knowledge sets that are relevant to the job. Examples include:

  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite
  • Coding languages (e.g., Python, Java)
  • Graphic design software (e.g., Adobe Photoshop)
  • Data analysis
  • Foreign languages

b. Soft Skills

These are interpersonal skills that are often harder to quantify but equally important. Examples include:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Adaptability

Tailor your skills section to the job description, emphasizing the skills that are most relevant to the position you’re applying for.

7. Including Relevant Experience

If you have limited work experience, don’t worry. You can include other types of experiences that are relevant to the job, such as internships, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities.

a. Internships

Internships are valuable experiences that can demonstrate your ability to work in a professional setting. Include details such as:

  • Name of the company
  • Internship title
  • Duration (start and end dates)
  • Key responsibilities and achievements

b. Volunteer Work

Volunteer work can showcase your commitment and skills. Include details such as:

  • Name of the organization
  • Your role
  • Duration
  • Key responsibilities and achievements

c. Extracurricular Activities

Participation in clubs, sports, or other activities can demonstrate your leadership, teamwork, and other skills. Include details such as:

  • Name of the organization
  • Your role
  • Duration
  • Key responsibilities and achievements

8. Adding Certifications and Training

If you have any certifications or have completed relevant training programs, be sure to include them. This could include:

  • Online courses (e.g., Coursera, Udemy)
  • Certifications (e.g., Certified Public Accountant, Certified Marketing Professional)
  • Workshops or seminars

Including certifications can help you stand out and show your commitment to continuous learning and professional development.

9. Listing Professional Affiliations

If you’re a member of any professional organizations, include them in your resume. This can demonstrate your commitment to your field and your desire to stay informed about industry trends. Include:

  • Name of the organization
  • Your role (if applicable)
  • Duration of membership

10. Tailoring Your Resume for Each Job Application

One of the most important aspects of resume writing is tailoring your resume for each job application. This means customizing your resume to match the job description and highlight the qualifications that make you a strong candidate for that specific position.

a. Analyzing the Job Description

Carefully read the job description to understand what the employer is looking for. Identify the key skills, qualifications, and experiences they’re seeking.

b. Customizing Your Resume

Adjust your objective or summary statement, skills section, and experience to align with the job description. Use the same language and keywords found in the job posting to make your resume more relevant and increase the chances of getting noticed by applicant tracking systems (ATS).

11. Proofreading and Editing

Before submitting your resume, it’s crucial to proofread and edit it carefully. Errors and typos can make a bad impression and reduce your chances of getting an interview.

a. Proofreading Tips

  • Read your resume aloud to catch any errors or awkward phrasing.
  • Use spell check and grammar check tools.
  • Ask a friend, family member, or mentor to review your resume and provide feedback.

b. Editing Tips

  • Ensure consistency in formatting, such as font size and style.
  • Keep your resume concise, ideally one page for beginners.
  • Use bullet points to make your resume easy to read and scan.

12. Creating an Eye-Catching Design

While the content of your resume is the most important aspect, the design and layout also play a significant role in making a good impression. A clean, professional design can help your resume stand out.

a. Choosing a Template

There are many free and paid resume templates available online. Choose a template that is simple, professional, and easy to read. Avoid overly flashy designs that can distract from the content.

b. Formatting Tips

  • Use a professional font (e.g., Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman).
  • Keep font size between 10-12 points for the main text and slightly larger for headings.
  • Use bold and italics sparingly to highlight important information.
  • Ensure there is enough white space to make the resume easy to read.

13. Using Action Verbs and Quantifying Achievements

To make your resume more impactful, use action verbs to describe your responsibilities and achievements. This makes your descriptions more dynamic and engaging.

a. Examples of Action Verbs

  • Led
  • Managed
  • Developed
  • Implemented
  • Coordinated
  • Analyzed
  • Created

b. Quantifying Achievements

Whenever possible, quantify your achievements to provide concrete evidence of your skills and impact. For example:

  • “Increased social media engagement by 30% through targeted content strategy.”
  • “Managed a team of 5 volunteers to organize a community event attended by 200 people.”

14. Preparing a Cover Letter

While not always required, a cover letter can complement your resume and provide additional context about your qualifications and interest in the position.

a. Cover Letter Structure

  • Introduction: Briefly introduce yourself and explain why you’re interested in the position.
  • Body: Highlight your relevant skills, experiences, and achievements. Provide specific examples to demonstrate your qualifications.
  • Conclusion: Reiterate your interest in the position and thank the employer for considering your application. Include a call to action, such as requesting an interview.

b. Customizing Your Cover Letter

Just like your resume, tailor your cover letter for each job application. Address the specific requirements and qualifications mentioned in the job description and explain how you meet them.

15. Leveraging Online Resources and Tools

There are many online resources and tools available to help you create a strong resume. Some useful tools include:

a. Resume Builders

Resume builders can simplify the process of creating a resume by providing templates and step-by-step guidance. Some popular resume builders include:

  • Canva
  • Zety
  • ResumeGenius
  • Novoresume

b. Online Courses and Tutorials

If you’re looking to improve your resume writing skills, consider taking online courses or watching tutorials. Platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and YouTube offer valuable resources on resume writing.

c. Professional Resume Reviews

Many career services and professional organizations offer resume review services. Consider seeking feedback from a career counselor, mentor, or professional resume writer.

16. Networking and Seeking Referrals

Networking can play a significant role in your job search. Many job opportunities are discovered through personal connections and referrals.

a. Building Your Network

  • Attend industry events, conferences, and workshops.
  • Join professional organizations and online communities related to your field.
  • Connect with professionals on LinkedIn and engage with their content.

b. Seeking Referrals

If you know someone who works at a company you’re interested in, don’t hesitate to ask for a referral. A referral can significantly increase your chances of getting an interview.

17. Preparing for Job Interviews

Once your resume catches the attention of potential employers, you’ll need to prepare for job interviews.

a. Researching the Company

Learn as much as you can about the company, its culture, and the specific role you’re applying for. This will help you tailor your answers and show that you’re genuinely interested in the position.

b. Practicing Common Interview Questions

Prepare answers for common interview questions, such as:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Can you describe a challenging situation and how you handled it?

c. Preparing Questions for the Interviewer

Prepare a few questions to ask the interviewer. This shows that you’re interested in the role and have done your homework. Examples include:

  • Can you describe a typical day in this role?
  • What opportunities for growth and development does the company offer?
  • How does the team I’d be working with collaborate?

18. Following Up After Applications and Interviews

After submitting your resume or completing an interview, it’s important to follow up with a thank-you note or email. This demonstrates your professionalism and continued interest in the position.

a. Following Up on Applications

If you haven’t heard back after a week or two, consider sending a polite follow-up email to inquire about the status of your application.

b. Following Up After Interviews

Send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview. Express your gratitude for the opportunity, reiterate your interest in the position, and briefly highlight why you’re a strong candidate.

19. Staying Positive and Persistent

Job searching can be challenging, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s important to stay positive and persistent throughout the process.

a. Handling Rejection

Rejection is a normal part of the job search process. Instead of getting discouraged, use it as an opportunity to learn and improve. Ask for feedback if possible, and adjust your resume and interview techniques accordingly.

b. Staying Motivated

Set realistic goals for your job search, such as applying to a certain number of jobs each week. Celebrate small victories and stay focused on your long-term career goals.

20. Continuous Improvement and Learning

The job market is constantly evolving, and it’s important to keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date.

a. Pursuing Further Education

Consider taking additional courses or pursuing further education to enhance your qualifications. This can include online courses, certifications, or even advanced degrees.

b. Staying Informed

Stay informed about industry trends and developments by reading industry publications, attending webinars, and participating in professional organizations.


Writing a resume when you’re just starting out can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can create a compelling document that highlights your strengths and potential. Remember to tailor your resume for each job application, proofread carefully, and stay positive and persistent throughout your job search. With these tips and strategies, you’ll be well on your way to landing your first job and kickstarting your career.

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