Ten tips when writing that first resume
Writing a resume is not an easy thing to do, especially when you are looking for that first job. Where do you start? What information should you put in it? Here are some tips to help you create a great resume. Don’t forget that your school may also have staff available to help you. Good Luck!
- You can choose to use a template that you find online or through Microsoft Word/Google Docs to get you started. A neat, attractive design can make a great impression on an employer and will make for an appealing resume. Try and choose a template that you believe looks good but avoid using an unprofessional style with cartoon fonts and designs. Even if you think it looks good, remember that a resume is meant to be a professional document.
- List your name and contact information – home address, phone number and email – at the top of the page in a large font. Be sure that your voicemail has a professional outgoing message and that your email address reflects maturity. An address such as PartyAnimal@email.com could turn a potential employer off before they read any further.
- You have experience! Be sure to list any part-time work (baby-sitting, mowing lawns, retail, etc.), volunteer experience, leadership experience, extracurricular activities, athletics experience, or other activities you feel highlight your talent and work ethic.
- Under each work experience, list your duties and accomplishments using action words such as “Administered” or “Implemented.”
- Feature any special skills and accomplishments you may have, such as the ability to speak a second language, special certifications, or awards and recognitions you may have won. A perfect attendance award tells an employer that you show up when you are supposed to and winning that school spelling bee tells an employer that you are a high achiever.
- Keep it to one page. You may need to make a decision as to which activities are most important to highlight and emphasize activities that show relevant skills to the job for which you are applying.
- Be sure to proofread for grammar, spelling, clarity and conciseness. Spell check is helpful, but having your parents, friends or teachers is better.
- Keep an electronic copy for future use and keep it updated. You never know when you will need to share it.
Here are sample resumes for reference - Chronological resume | Functional resume.
Do and Don’ts when writing your first cover letter
Looking to stand out when you lack the work experience of other job applicants? A well-written cover letter helps you quickly highlight and demonstrate your knowledge and skills and better explain your current and future career path to prospective employers. A good cover letter should be clear, concise and to the point. As a job seeker who is trying to get that first job, what do you include? Here are some things to do and not to do to help you write a letter that gets your resume noticed. Don’t forget that your school or local career center may also have staff available to help you. Good Luck!
Things to do:
- Begin with a greeting and mention the title of the job that interests you. Preferably to a specific person at the company and using the exact title mentioned in the job posting. Research the name of the hiring manager and address the letter directly. If you are unable to find a specific name, don’t guess, address the letter to “hiring manager” or something similar.
- Discuss any work experience and employability skills developed. Many people may have work experience even if it is not a “formal” job. It could be babysitting, mowing lawns, or working in an unrelated industry and these experiences should be emphasized in a cover letter. If you haven’t done any of these, don’t worry, many people are active in school clubs, athletics, or even volunteer activities. Talking about experience gained through these activities are a great way to show employers you have relevant skills for the position. You can use these experiences to emphasize your “employability” such as hardworking, dedication, motivation, professionalism, etc. For example, a member of the high school’s speech and debate club could emphasize public speaking and communication skills, or a captain of a sports team could talk about being an “experienced leader” or “team player.”
- Research the position and company. Do not send out the same cover letter twice. This is an opportunity to tell a hiring manager why you are the perfect fit for the position. Research what skills and duties the position requires and, using that information, share why you are a good fit for this position specifically and how you have developed those skills.
- Use an engaging, but also professional tone. Your cover letter is the hiring manager’s first impression of you, so try and make it a good one. Using a bland and generic tone will not differentiate you from the crowd. An ideal cover letter will be personal, sincere, and appealing, while keeping a professional tone.
- Show sincere interest and ask for an interview: Employers want to know that you are truly interested and excited to work for their company. Try and highlight not only why you are qualified for this position, but why you are particularly interested in working there as well. At the end of your cover letter, end with a few polite closing sentences and ask to schedule an interview. This will help increase the likelihood of getting an interview and emphasize your interest.
Things to not do:
- Write over one page. Hiring managers will have to read through many applications. Writing too long of a cover letter may lose the attention of a busy hiring manager. Keep it simple.
- Apologize. As an individual with possibly less experience than other applicants, you may feel underqualified for a job. You are not. Hiring managers have your resume, there is no need to highlight any lack of experience you have. Focus on positive attributes rather than wasting time focusing on any lack of experience or other potential shortcomings.
- Repeat your resume. If your cover letter reads like a list of things you’ve done instead of telling a story about your experience and skills you most likely repeated your resume. Try to find 1-2 meaningful experiences that you can tell a story about. This will help highlight your skills while also writing an engaging letter.
- Forget to proofread! Make sure your first impression is a good one. Be sure to read over your cover letter to eliminate spelling or grammatical errors. Ask for help from a parent, sibling, or friend to get another perspective before you submit it. It is hard to proof your own work.
Check out this template for a sample on how to write a cover letter, and good luck!
Reference Tips for First Time Job Seekers
Having a good list of references is an important part of landing that first job. Your resume, cover letter, and interview say a lot about your character and accomplishments, but that is you talking about yourself. A reference is a hiring manager’s opportunity to confirm with someone else that you are as good in person as you look on paper and perform in an interview. For job seekers with little or no work experience, finding and asking the right person to be your reference can be tough. Who should you ask? Here are some tips to help you.
Who Do I Ask for a Reference when I have no work experience?
As you move into the world of work, reference lists primarily consist of individuals you have worked with and for who can attest to your work-related skills and character. As a first-time job seeker, your reference list will mostly include people who can attest to your character and how they feel you would do as an employee.
Here are some helpful qualities of a great professional reference:
- Authority – someone of stature, accomplishment, seniority, or with a well-known reputation in your community. Their reputation will reflect on you. (e.g. the town mayor or a well-known local business leader)
- Experience – someone who works in the same industry or occupation you’re applying for is more meaningful, all other things being equal (e.g. a family friend who works in the industry)
- History – a relationship measured in years is better than one measured in weeks (e.g. a pastor or coach)
- Knowledge – someone with deep knowledge of you and your diverse qualifications is better than someone who only knows little about you personally or professionally (e.g. a teacher)
- Context – someone with knowledge of how you might perform on the job is better than someone who just knows you personally (e.g. a coworker)
- Enthusiasm –someone who is excited to talk to about you and will give a glowing recommendation is better than someone who will give short or lukewarm responses to a reference checker (e.g. a neighbor or friend)
- Honesty – a reference that contradicts your application or appears to be stretching the truth about your qualification can work against you
Here are some potential personal reference categories:
- People you have done odd jobs for – You may not have held a formal job, but you may have mowed a neighbor’s lawn, babysat or other types of odd jobs from time to time. The individuals who hired you to do these jobs make great references. They can speak specifically to your performance.
- Teachers/Professors – If you’re a student in college or high school, getting a reference from a teacher or professor is a great idea. Identify a teacher that you have a good relationship with and who can attest to your character and skills.
- Volunteer Supervisors – If you regularly volunteer your time, the people you work with in that capacity are great references. While you are not paid for your work, a potential employer would appreciate hearing how you do in that setting.
- Coaches/Organization Leaders/Club Advisors – If you are a part of a sports team, a service organization, an academic club, or another type of extracurricular activity the adults who help lead that group could be good references. They know your work ethic and could speak to it.
- Neighbors/Family Friends - Neighbors or family friends can be great references particularly if you have known them for a while. They can speak directly to your character.
It is a good idea to have references form different categories listed above. If a potential employer asks for three references, don’t give them the names of three teachers or three family friends, give them a teacher, a volunteer supervisor and someone who you babysit their children. If you provide them three teachers, the employer only learns about you in a school setting, and they want to learn about you in different settings to make an informed decision about how you would perform on the job.
The important thing to remember is that whoever you choose, be sure that they know you well and you are confident they will give a positive reference.
How Do I Ask For a Reference?
Make sure that you ask for permission to use someone as a reference before you give it to a potential employer. Don’t be shy to ask, here are some tips:
- Ask your preferred contacts to be a reference before you list them on an application. In person or by phone is preferable so they can ask you questions. Asking via email or text can be acceptable depending on your relationship but...
- …If they agree, send them the details regarding the job as well as your resume so that they are familiar and can tailor their comments to needs and requirements of the position.
- Remember, you are asking for a favor, they can say no. Be polite and friendly and be sure to ask rather than demand.
- If the reference seems hesitant or unwilling, thank them and find someone else. You want all your references to be positive and a hesitant individual may not be the best person to speak to a potential employer on your behalf.
- If you think a prospective employer will call your reference, try to let them know in advance. This way they can be prepared to speak and are also on the lookout for a phone call or email.
- As they agreed, ask how they would like to be contacted and compile their full name, job title, preferred method of contact and their relationship to you.
- Be sure to keep your references updated on how your job search progresses and send a personalized note to thank them afterward.
Preparing for an interview is key
Congratulations! You now have an interview. This means that you are one of a limited pool of applicants that are being considered for the job. Just as you have done in the steps leading up to the interview, preparation is key.
Some tips to prepare for the interview:
- Learn as much as you can about the company and position. Talk to people in your network who work for the company, read over the website, read over the original job posting.
- Showing that you know about the company will impress your interviewer and better allow you to explain how your skills and knowledge can help the company
- Understand the Essential Employability Skills and think about how they could apply to the job
- Do a Practice Interview with these Sample Questions, if possible.
- Your local career counselor may have the ability to help you
- Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer about the company, job and work environment
- Bring two copies of your resume and a list of references as well as two forms of identification
- Don’t bring anyone else with you to the interview. If someone gives you a ride, ask them to stay in the car or come back later to pick you up
- Plan to arrive 15 minutes early to the scheduled time. If the interview is being held somewhere you are not familiar with, you may want to find the interview location a day or two ahead to ensure you know where to go.
- Watch your appearance!
- Make sure are clean and neat. If needed, get a haircut, and/or trim beards and mustaches.
- Be yourself, but don’t go too heavy on the makeup, perfume, cologne
- Wear clothes appropriate to the situation that are clean and neat. Use an iron if they are too wrinkled and polish your shoes, if needed.
- Don’t smoke before or during the interview & don’t chew gum.
- Turn off your cell phone.
During the interview:
- Introduce yourself with confidence, greet all interviewers with a firm handshake, make eye contact and introduce yourself using your first and last name.
- You will probably be nervous but watch your body language. Sit up straight, keep your feet on the floor and try not to fidget.
- Try to get a business card from all interviewers or write their name and title down in a notepad
After the interview:
- Provide hard copies of your resume and references, if requested.
- Be prepared to schedule a second interview if requested.
- Be prepared to discuss an offer or call to start work
- Within 48 hours, send a thank you note to all interviewers, thanking them for their time and restating your interest and qualifications for the position.
Interviews are not all face-to-face. Some employers prefer multiple rounds of interviews to help narrow a field. Often these first rounds are completed over the phone or via a video call, while the later rounds are normally in person.
The great thing about a telephone interview is that you can have notes ready to review without the interviewer being aware that you are referring to them. Take advantage of this, be prepared and have multiple items ready to refer to such as: your resume, the job description, questions to ask the employer, notes about the company and your calendar to schedule a second interview. Practicing the interview with a friend can be very helpful and a good way to get feedback about how you come across over the phone.
Other things to remember when participating in a phone interview:
- Conduct the interview in a quiet place alone. Ignore any distractions such as a doorbell, another phone ringing and disable call waiting, if possible
- Standing up during the call will help your voice project better, you will also feel more engaged
- Be enthusiastic and smile, as this will come through in your voice
- Use a landline, if possible. They have a clearer connection with less of a chance to being disconnected.
- Speak slowly and clearly. Your voice is the only way to set yourself aside from the other candidates.
A video interview is becoming more and more popular as a first means of interview as the technology and internet connections become faster and more prevalent. The better way to do a video interview is through your computer, but a cell phone will work as well. Just like a telephone interview, solid preparation is helpful. Practicing an interview with a friend ahead of time will get you comfortable with using the software – Skype, Zoom, Go-to-Meeting, etc. – and allow you to get more comfortable
Video interview tips:
- Conduct the interview in a quiet place alone. Ignore any distractions such as a doorbell, another phone ringing and disable call waiting, if possible
- Dress for the interview just as you would for an in-person interview
- Adjust the camera, sound volume and background.
- Close all other programs on your computer
- Sit up straight, don’t fidget or spin in your chair
- Look directly at the camera, avoid the temptation to watching the interviewer on screen.
- Only refer to a cheat sheet when you need to, and make sure it is not seen by the camera.