How to write an entry-level resume? Tips and resume examples
Crafting a solid entry-level resume is crucial when you’re on the lookout for your first job. It acts as a primary tool to make a positive first impression on potential employers. Such resumes emphasize a candidate’s readiness for the workforce, focusing on academic achievements, internships, and transferable skills obtained from various experiences such as volunteer work and academic projects. This is especially important for those with limited professional experience, as it helps bridge the gap between their academic background and their desired career path.
An effective entry-level resume showcases relevant skills and experience, accomplishments, and the ability to adapt and learn, positioning the candidate as a valuable asset to potential employers, thereby increasing their chances of landing professional opportunities.
This guide provides resources to orient your first job search, tips for resume writing and tailoring, along with entry-level resume examples.
Table of content
- Tips for entry-level job seekers: The search process
- Preparing to write an entry-level resume for your first job
- If you need to write a resume with no experience whatsoever
- If you have obtained (or are studying towards) a college degree
- If you have completed relevant coursework
- If you have earned relevant achievements or awards
- If you have completed any internships or other work experience
- If you have completed relevant personal or professional projects
- If you have participated in relevant volunteering or club activities
- Tips for writing an entry-level resume and for optimizing format
Tips for entry-level job seekers: The search process
Entry-level job seeking has different points of emphasis from later-stage jobs. By definition, these jobs are less specialized and don’t require expertise. As a result, there is a lot of competition for such jobs, so it is essential to make sure your resume stands out from the crowd.
Focus on job fit
Entry-level jobs are not necessarily easy to get. According to research, 79% of entry-level jobs in the US require at least a college degree. A study by LinkedIn showed that 35% of LinkedIn entry-level job postings require years of relevant job experience (so much for ‘entry-level’).
Therefore, when pursuing an entry-level job, prioritize positions that closely align with your background: Education (specialization), project work you’ve done, and even hobbies. Even having one or two key skills in an entry-level job can help you stand out. Ask yourself whether a recruiter for that position can identify you as a strong entry-level candidate. If you can’t find a good reason, find another job with a better fit.
Tailor your resume
Given limited work experience, customizing your resume for each specific position is crucial. You’ve already identified why you stand out for that particular position. Now, make sure that your resume highlights these factors. Help the recruiter by making your match obvious. The impact of showcasing the right coursework or project cannot be overstated. It can either propel you forward or hinder your prospects. Emphasize relevant academic experiences to demonstrate your foundational knowledge and practical skills, making you more attractive to hiring managers. Conversely, featuring irrelevant coursework or projects can detract from your resume’s effectiveness.
What is less important?
So you need to put more emphasis on selecting the jobs and tailoring your resume; how can you manage your time more effectively? We generally recommend choosing a straightforward resume format that will be easy to edit and tailor. You can use a resume template from a resume builder as long as it allows you to focus your efforts on the essence and not on the looks of your resume. Some resume templates are too restrictive in that they contain editing options in favor of resume design. Make it easy for you to create revisions that are perfectly tailored to the job description.
Preparing to write an entry-level resume for your first job
Tailoring your resume effectively depends on the unique assets you bring to the table. If you lack traditional work experience, leverage your coursework and volunteering experiences to craft a compelling narrative. If you have even a year of work experience, emphasize and structure your resume around it. If you have completed any internships, make sure to highlight them. The key is to strategically use all your assets to create a cohesive and impactful resume. Each component should contribute to the overall story of your qualifications, allowing you to maximize the benefits of every aspect of your background. Let’s take a closer look at how to tackle each case.
If you need to write a resume with no experience whatsoever
When you have little to no real-world experience, your resume should focus on highlighting your education, relevant coursework, transferable skills, and any extracurricular activities or projects that demonstrate your abilities. Emphasize your academic achievements, such as your degree, GPA (if strong), and any relevant coursework that directly relates to the job you’re applying for. Additionally, showcase your soft skills, like communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and adaptability, gained through coursework or extracurricular activities.
Highlight any personal or academic projects, internships, volunteer work, or part-time jobs that provide even a small glimpse of your practical skills and enthusiasm for the field. By focusing on these elements, you can create a compelling resume that positions you as a promising candidate despite your limited real-world experience.
If you have obtained (or are studying towards) a college degree
Your education section should encompass majors, minors, concentrations, and pertinent coursework that align directly with job prerequisites. Additionally, in the summary portion of your resume, you can tailor your education by highlighting the most relevant aspects of your academic background, such as key courses or concentrations, to demonstrate their direct alignment with the job requirements.
When competing for a job in software development, including specific programming languages and technologies studied, such as Java, Python, or web development, in both the education section and summary underscores your foundational expertise and reinforces your suitability for the position.
Entry-level resume example that goes under the education section:
B.Sc. in Computer Science | XYZ University - Concentration in Software Engineering - Minor in Data Analytics
If you have completed relevant coursework
When crafting an entry-level resume with a focus on coursework, the key objective is to highlight relevant academic achievements, specific courses, and technical skills that directly align with the job requirements. Emphasize your academic prowess, any coursework projects or research that demonstrate practical application of knowledge, and technical proficiencies gained through your studies. Showcase your ability to learn and adapt quickly, as well as your strong foundation in the subject matter. Tailor your resume by selecting courses and skills that closely match the job description, effectively positioning yourself as a candidate with the necessary academic background and potential for success in the desired role.
Expanding on the previous example
If you have earned relevant achievements or awards
Achievements and awards should be strategically integrated to showcase your standout moments and capabilities. Include honors and accomplishments that are directly relevant to the job or reflect transferable skills. Describe the impact of these achievements, such as how they contributed to a project’s success, improved processes, or demonstrated leadership. Use quantifiable results whenever possible to provide concrete evidence of your achievements. Prioritize those honors that align with the job’s requirements and emphasize qualities that make you a valuable candidate, such as teamwork, problem-solving, or innovation. The inclusion of awards and achievements should ultimately reinforce your suitability and potential for the role.
Don’t underestimate the impact of academic achievements and awards on your entry-level resume. Including your GPA , mainly if it’s strong ( 3.0 and above), can bolster your credentials. For instance, if you’re applying for a finance position, showcasing your high GPA, along with academic awards like Dean’s List, demonstrates your commitment to excellence.
For example, integrate in the education section :
B.A. in Economics, XYZ University (Graduated May 2023) GPA: 3.8/4.0 | Dean's List (Fall 2021 - Spring 2023) Honors: Outstanding Student Award in Economics, 2022
If you have completed any internships or other work experience
If you have completed one or more internships, you should focus on showcasing the practical experience gained during those internships. Emphasize the skills, responsibilities, and achievements directly relevant to the job you’re applying for. Use these internships to demonstrate your ability to apply academic knowledge to real-world situations, your adaptability in professional settings, and your contributions to projects or tasks. Highlight any progression or increasing responsibilities across different internships, and make sure to tailor your resume to match the specific requirements of the job you’re seeking. While your overall work experience may be limited, the quality and relevance of your internship experiences can play a significant role in positioning you as a strong candidate for entry-level positions.
An example of how to integrate it into the resume, under the experience section:
If you have completed relevant personal or professional projects
Leveraging both professional and personal projects effectively on an entry-level resume can significantly enhance your qualifications and make you stand out to potential employers. Here’s how you can do it:
- Highlight Relevant Experience: If you have completed professional projects during internships, part-time jobs, or freelance work, make sure to include them in the “Experience” section of your resume. Describe your role, responsibilities, and achievements, emphasizing how these experiences have equipped you with industry-specific skills and knowledge.
- Quantify Achievements: Whenever possible, quantify your achievements in professional projects. Use numbers, percentages, or other metrics to showcase your impact. For example, “Increased website traffic by 30% through SEO optimization strategies.”
- Demonstrate Transferable Skills: Professional projects provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate transferable skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, communication, and project management. Use specific examples from your experiences to showcase these skills in action.
- Create a “Projects” Section: Consider adding a dedicated “Projects” section to your resume to showcase personal projects that are directly relevant to the job you’re applying for. This section can come after your work experience and education.
- Highlight Technical Skills: Personal projects are a great way to highlight your technical skills, especially if they align with the job requirements. For instance, if you’re applying for a software development role, you can list personal coding projects to demonstrate your programming abilities.
- Emphasize Innovation and Initiative: Personal projects can illustrate your passion, creativity, and initiative. Use them to show how you’ve taken the initiative to work on projects independently, solve problems, or explore new concepts.
- Tell a Story: When describing personal projects, tell a concise but compelling story. Explain the problem or challenge you wanted to address, the solution you implemented, and the results or outcomes achieved. This narrative can captivate recruiters and highlight your problem-solving abilities.
Remember to tailor the inclusion of projects on your resume to match the specific job description and requirements. Only showcase projects that directly align with the role and emphasize how they make you a strong fit for the position.
For example, under the project section :
Business Process Improvement Project | University Capstone Project January 2023-April 2023 -Orchestrated a team project to revamp a local retailer’s inventory system, reducing excess stock by 30%. - Analyzed current processes, introduced a JIT approach, and implemented cloud-based inventory software. - Presented findings to stakeholders, resulting in a 20% cut in inventory costs and improved stock tracking.
If you have participated in relevant volunteering or club activities
Customize your extracurricular and volunteering experiences to subtly underscore the soft and hard skills demanded by the role you’re seeking. For instance, when applying for a customer service position, you can spotlight your participation in a student-run helpline, effectively showcasing your adept communication and problem-solving abilities. When the job leans towards a professional context, it’s crucial to frame such experiences as non-paid internships with nonprofits, highlighting their relevance and your dedication to your chosen field. This tailored approach enhances your resume’s resonance with the specific job requirements.
An example of how to integrate it into the volunteering resume section:
Tips for writing an entry-level resume and for optimizing format
Whatever resume template you might be using, we recommend that you write your resume sections in the following order:
- Resume summary
- Skills section
- Experience section (remove if you have no experience whatsoever)
- Projects section
- Volunteering section
You should be able to compress an entry-level resume to one page. When you make resume revisions to tailor it to a specific job posting, you can use the same order, section by section, to adjust your resume to the job description.
Resume summary (also called resume objective) section
The resume summary (or resume objective) should be placed at the top of your resume. A well-written resume summary provides precisely the proper evidence for the hiring manager or recruiter to note you as a standout candidate. Craft a tailored summary that encapsulates your unique strengths and aspirations (check out our guide for writing the perfect resume summary).
When discussing your experience, focus less on the number of years and more on the relevance of your skills and accomplishments. Mention your education and the status of your study, while emphasizing your specialization, including your major, minor, or concentration, to showcase your expertise in a particular area. Additionally, explain your connection to the company or industry, demonstrating your interest and alignment with their values and goals.
Your skills section should highlight relevant skills acquired through coursework and previous experiences that match the job description (Check out our guide for identifying required skills and tailoring your skills to the job description). This section should include a blend of soft skills (i.e, interpersonal skills) and hard skills that are relevant to the job.
Hard skills could use precisely the exact keywords that were used in the job description. It can help your resume pass filters and get found in applicant tracking system (ATS) searches (that’s where your resume is stored when you apply for a job). Showcasing that you have most of the critical skills for the job will make a resume stand out, and that’s why this section should be the second section in the resume.
In your entry-level resume’s “Experience” section, focus on showcasing any relevant internships or work experiences you’ve gained. The focus in this section is on experience, so make sure to include non-paid internships. Using 3-5 bullet points, describe your roles, responsibilities, and achievements during these experiences, emphasizing how they’ve contributed to your skill development and your readiness for the targeted job. Use action verbs and quantifiable achievements to make a compelling case for your candidacy, even if you have a limited work history. Writing these bullet points using a STAR format will make your resume look more professional.
Your education section is a critical component of your entry-level resume. Here, you should highlight your degrees, certifications, awards, club memberships, and relevant coursework. Mention your major, minor, and concentration. This section provides valuable insights into your academic achievements and your commitment to personal and professional development. As discussed above, include only coursework which is directly relevant to the required skills for the specific job. By including relevant details about your educational background, you demonstrate your qualifications and dedication to potential employers, further strengthening your candidacy for the desired role.
When including a “Projects” section in your entry-level resume, it’s essential to provide clear details about what you did in each project, the skills you utilized (both soft and hard skills), and any notable impacts resulting from your contributions. By elaborating on your role and responsibilities within each project, you showcase your hands-on experience and problem-solving abilities. Highlighting the impact of these projects demonstrates your ability to deliver results. If a public project page is available, consider including it, as it allows the hiring manager to explore your work in more detail, providing an added layer of transparency and credibility to your qualifications.
When detailing your extracurricular and volunteering activities, it’s essential to consider their relevance to the job you’re applying for. If your involvement necessitated the application of hard skills directly related to the position, it’s advisable to include these experiences in the “Experience” section instead. This placement emphasizes the practical skills you’ve gained through these activities.
On the other hand, if your extracurricular activities revolve around leadership roles, teamwork, coordination, or other interpersonal skills, you should emphasize them by using language similar to that in the job description. Use a STAR or PSR format to describe your experiences, highlighting how these activities have leveraged skills like leadership, teamwork, communication, and problem-solving. This approach showcases your ability to transfer these soft skills to the workplace, making you a well-rounded candidate for the role.