Grow Your Career
Six winning tips for crafting a first resume
A resume is the first step to your career. Here's how to ace yours.
The following article is part of "The Path," a series to help young people in their first jobs.
When Max Caldwell noticed SurveyMonkey at his campus recruiting fair, he knew he wanted to apply for a sales job with the Bay Area tech company. The University of California, Santa Cruz, economics graduate made sure to leverage his previous internship experience at an electronics company, and make it relevant to the SurveyMonkey job he wanted. The result: a resume that demonstrated sales performance using specific growth numbers.
The strategy worked. In fact, Caldwell's resume was such a hit that he used it again when he applied for his current job at a graphic design company.
Everyone isn't so lucky.
What if the only college work experience you've had is working at an ice cream shop every summer? That's totally fine. There are still ways to incorporate numbers in your resume to weave an honest, convincing narrative—and get the job you want. “Emphasize positions of responsibility. If you were a cashier and handled money," Caldwell says, "that can be something that's very valuable, especially if there's some level of progress you can tell a story around."
Here are six key tips to keep in mind as you build your first resume:
1. Pack your story into one page
Keep it short, advises Devin Graham, campus recruiting associate at JPMorgan Chase. "Sure, you can have tighter margins to write more, but don't include things that aren't absolutely necessary," she says.
There's no need to include an objective statement on your resume, because the goal is obvious: to find a job. You can also leave out every class you've ever taken, as well as any details about high school, says Robynn Storey of Storeyline Resumes. Photos on resumes are generally unnecessary.
2. Chalk in a little color
If your resume is for a tech job, include skills in which you excel. Fluency in other languages may help, too. "Knowing if a candidate is fluent in French or Italian or Spanish helps us because that might be an asset in some of our roles," Graham says. Be sure to include internships and summer jobs you have had.
Add a splash of color by outlining your interests, Graham suggests, because they can serve as conversation starters when you get to the interview stage. "Including your interest in International Travel or Harry Potter, for example, is a way to make yourself memorable in a stack of resumes," Graham says.
First-generation college students should note that on their resumes because it gives hiring managers added perspective on who you are.
3. Scrub your social image
Image might not be everything, but it's certainly important. Including a link to your LinkedIn profile on your resume is a smart idea for a first job, especially in finance or tech, Graham says. But remember that some potential employers will check other social media profiles. So some proactive scrubbing is advised. Pictures of partying, for example, are a bad idea. Be careful about social media posts that might be interpreted as too politically-charged. The easiest solution? Keep all your social media pages private.
4. Play up relevant experiences
A major in physics or music doesn't disqualify you from a job in finance or tech, especially if you've shown interest in related activities. "If you went to an interesting coding boot camp or leadership summit that is relevant to the expertise we're looking for, that's good to see," Graham says. There are many campus events that companies like JPMorgan Chase host. Participating in them and documenting such activity on your resume is an effective way to convey interest to recruiters, and hiring managers.
5. Show, don't tell
"When they don't have a lot of experience, young people often get caught up in building a resume full of clichés," Storey says. "Almost everybody says they're a hard worker." In your resume, show how you've proven that you're a hard worker, and the best candidate for the job. Leadership roles in planning committees or at other jobs and internships narrate the story without platitudes that can fall flat.
6. Can the cover letter
Cover letters are quickly becoming a relic, so it's okay to dump them, unless a company specifically asks for one. In some cases, companies may require pre-recorded interviews, which will still allow you to make your case through video, but through a set of focused answers.
In the end, think of your resume as a college admissions package, Graham advises. "Not one thing is more important than the other. If you don't have an internship it's not a big deal, you can definitely play up something else."
Ultimately, she says, your resume's job is to make a convincing case that you're the right person for the position.
Interested in launching your career at JPMorgan Chase? Search programs on our website.
Poornima Apte is a Chase News contributor. Her work has appeared in Venture Beat and Tech Crunch.