4 ways to make a strong resume for your first real job

March 17, 2023

You’ve already got the skills you need to exceed — here’s how to make them stand out on your resume.

No matter where you hope to end up in your career, internships and entry-level positions are a great way to get started on the path toward achieving your dreams. Getting early experience in the field you’re interested in — whether it’s engineering, healthcare, marketing, construction or something else — will allow you to learn from the experts and help you understand whether it’s the right fit for you. But before getting a position, you’ll want to make sure you have a strong resume. Here are a few key things to consider when crafting a resume for your first job or internship. 


1. Update your resume each time you apply for a position

If you’re applying for an internship or entry-level role, you may not have years of experience just yet. While hiring managers don’t expect you to be an expert in your field, they’ll be impressed with your knowledge of their company and the specific role you’re applying for. Rather than creating a generic list of your skills to send to many companies, tailor each cover letter and resume to each individual position you apply for.

Outlining what you admire about a certain employer in your cover letter and then tailoring your resume to reflect the qualities they’re seeking in the job description will show that you’ve put research, time and effort into the application. This level of interest and effort will signal to hiring managers that you’re likely to take that same approach in the day-to-day work. Even if you’re still developing your skillset, the desire to learn and apply yourself will speak volumes.


2. Stay away from cliché terms but align with the job posting

When reflecting on which strengths, experiences and skills to highlight in your resume, aim to be as specific and detailed as possible. Rather than using generic phrases like “motivated self-starter” or “team player,” make a list of strong points that are unique to you while trying to align with the terms you see in the job posting.

For example, if you’ve had experience as a babysitter or camp counselor, you could highlight the qualities you’ve gained that make you a responsible leader. You have your own unique story and have grown from these experiences, so use that to your advantage. Spend time identifying your accomplishments by journaling or talking with a friend about your history, interests and strengths so you’ll be able to highlight and speak about what makes you a unique asset. Take a look at the job posting and include some of the terms in your resume to help your skills stand out. If you see action words like “demonstrated”, collaborated”, or “developed” add those to your resume.


3. Have a clean resume presentation

Once you have a robust list of skills and a succinct description of past experiences that make you well-suited for the position you’re applying for, focus on the layout of your resume. If you’re not sure how to get started, find templates online or ask an experienced friend or family member to share an example.

Making an organized format where your name, contact information and educational history are easily accessible is important. This will help the person reviewing your background to gather insight quickly. Outlining separate sections for work, educational, organizational and volunteer experience (with corresponding dates and a brief description of your duties) will also give the person reviewing your application a clear overview with the details they’re looking for. Finally, adding skills that are relevant to the position within your description of past experiences will help keep everything orderly while highlighting your strengths. You can also include strengths as a separate section at the bottom of the page.


4. Proofread carefully

When you’ve completed your resume with experiences and skills that align with the specific job you’re applying for, you’ll want to make sure everything is not only laid out neatly, but also spelled correctly. While typos can happen from time to time, missing one on your resume, cover letter or any other application materials may come across as careless or signal that you didn’t put much time or thought into it — even if that’s not the case.

Raise your chances of getting an interview by carefully spellchecking your resume and reading over it several times. You may even consider asking a friend or professor to take a final look before submitting it — having a second set of eyes can help you catch something you might have missed.

Applying for jobs can be stressful, but with a strong, thoughtful resume that reflects your positive qualities you’ll be well on your way to finding a role that’s right for you. 


We’re here to support you in your job search. Check out these five things to consider before accepting your first position.

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