The term entry-level job typically refers to candidates with less than 5 years of professional experience, and includes those just starting out in their careers, as well as individuals in high school and college. For entry-level job seekers, putting together a resume poses a unique challenge in determining just what experience and attributes should go into a document.
Most of the traditional resume “formulas” don’t apply here. You often don’t have tons of accomplishments, or results-driven statements to work in, Early experiences like internships are more about learning than creating impact. However, the resume should still provide a unique story around your professional and personal development.
Start first with the basic sections of the resume and work from there in creating interesting content and providing details around your experience, skill sets, and accomplishments. These sections can include an introductory summary, education or training section, professional experience, volunteer work (or additional experience), membership and affiliations, and technical skills.
Lost on where to begin, or how to improve your existing resume? Start with these 5 tips to make your resume stand out and look polished:
Create a Descriptive Summary to Set the Tone
The summary section on a resume is the first thing that recruiter or hiring manager will read, and it sets the tone for the rest of the document. It’s an ideal place to brand yourself and create a profile around the type of candidate you are, and how you want to be perceived. A strong summary should uniquely describe your background, relevant experience, and skill set. Include pertinent information you don’t want hiring managers to miss. For example:
Graduate in online marketing with experience developing, tracking, and managing campaigns across social and digital marketing channels. Well-versed in digital marketing tools including Google AdWords, SEO/SEM, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, HootSuite, and MailChimp. Skilled at developing original content for social media, digital marketing campaigns, websites, and blogs. Passionate about furthering expertise in the technology and design fields.
Show Potential Along With Experience
Entry level resumes aren’t just about what you’ve done because you don’t have much experience at that point. With that said, they’re also about showing potential, and you can do so by describing not only your tangible experience, but things you have done that speak to your interests and skill set – such as volunteer work, pro bono or freelance projects, or classes that you’re taking.
Highlight Your Most Relevant Projects
Avoid cramming in extra or too much information. Instead, if you’ve worked on a lot of projects, whether through school, an employer, or on your own, choose a few highlights that represent your best work. The rest you can discuss in the interview, or use as examples in another context.
Keep It Relevant
Outlining every detail or responsibility is also not necessary. Keep the resume concise by primarily highlighting the responsibilities and accomplishments most relevant to the company and role.
As you progress through your career, consider what things might no longer be necessary – such as GPA, collegiate activities or affiliations, or coursework. Experience prior to college can generally be left off once you’re a few years into your career. You might make an exception for relevant volunteer or entrepreneurial work.
Be Thoughtful About Design
Avoid unnecessary visual elements that take up space, unnecessarily large margins, excessive formatting, or too-large fonts. This is a common mistake entry-level job seekers (and many others) make. They draw attention away from a lack of experience, in hopes of making the resume stand out. Unfortunately, that tactic generally does not work. Hiring managers would rather see a clean, polished resume that describes a candidate with potential.
Finally, be sure to update your resume regularly as you gain experience, take on new projects, acquire additional training, or refocus your career path. As you build career momentum and develop professionally, so too should your resume. You won’t always be after an entry-level job.
Make sure that you’re always putting your best, most relevant, and most up-to-date foot forward so that you’re providing hiring managers with an accurate picture of their next hire!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Brooklyn Resume Studio.
About the Author: Dana Leavy founded Aspyre Solutions, focusing on small business development and career consulting. Her mission is to support creative and socially-conscious small businesses. She also offers career transition coaching and business consulting.
Dana has helped hundreds of professionals execute effective career plans to find and DO the work they are passionate about. She has presented seminars on navigating careers, transition and work-life balance to several colleges and universities. Her advice is featured on MSN Careers, Fox Business News, NewsDay, CareerBuilder.com, GlassDoor and About.com. Follow Dana on Twitter!