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How to write an entry-level resume

Published May 30, 2024| minute read
Dhara Singh

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    As a recent college graduate, you’ll likely have to craft an entry-level resume before you start applying for jobs. If you’re stressing over how to go about it, particularly because you don’t have much work experience to include at this stage in life, know there are ways to craft a resume to set yourself up to stand out to recruiters and hiring managers.

    Just as a quick refresher, entry-level jobs usually refer to roles geared toward people entering the workforce for the first time – like recent college graduates. These roles are often designed for people who don’t have a lot of work experience.

    Continue reading as we break down what to include on a resume if you’re an entry-level candidate, how long your resume should be, and more.

    What do I include on a resume for entry-level jobs (and in what order)?

    While there isn’t one resume template guaranteed to get every recent college graduate a job, there are some elements to consider including.

    You may want to consider a specific order as you build your resume as an entry-level candidate that’s slightly different from what you’d do if you were further along in your career, too.

    Your contact information

    Make sure you have your contact information listed on your resume and that it’s easily accessible to anyone viewing it. If employers or recruiters want to contact you or refer you to another hiring manager, it’ll be important that they know a way to contact you and don’t have to dig around for that information. Many experts suggest that you put your contact information at the top of your resume.  

    Your education and relevant coursework you’ve completed

    “Early in your career, when you get out of school, your education needs to go on top,” Stacie Haller, Chief Career Officer at Resume Builder, told CNBC. “That flags you as entry-level.”

    If you’re a recent college graduate, employers don’t expect you to have several full-time roles on your resume. They often want to see information about your education, your major, and any relevant coursework you have under your belt that may relate to the job you’re applying for. Depending on your college grade point average (GPA), you may want to include that information in this section as well.

    Consider putting this section at the very top of your resume, underneath your contact information.

    Professional experience

    If you have internships, part-time, or even full-time roles under your belt, you'll want to build a section on your resume listing this experience. You may want to list each professional experience, with your title, the months or years you worked in each role, and key accomplishments for each.

    Writing this section may feel tricky if you’re an entry-level candidate. You may not have work experience that feels relevant to the roles you want to apply for. Because of that, as you think through your work experience, consider thinking about the transferable skills you’ve gained with the work experience you do have. For instance, highlighting that you gained leadership, project management, or technical expertise may be as impactful to share with hiring managers as the tasks you were responsible for. Chances are you have more transferable skills than you think you do, too.

    Relevant skills

    You may consider including a relevant skills section on your beginner resume that includes a combination of technical and soft skills. From spreadsheet prowess to AP-style writing expertise, every industry prioritizes different skills, and you may have some of them without having gained them from work experience.

    What top skills do recruiters and employers want to see on a beginner resume?

    According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), problem-solving is the number one skill employers seek on a candidate’s first job resume. In fact, according to the NACE’s Job Outlook 2024 report, 88.7% of employers said they value problem-solving skills, while less than half value skills and traits such as strategic planning, an outgoing personality, creativity, and fluency in a foreign language.

    Other top skills employers look for from recent college graduates include:

    • Ability to work in a team (78.9%)
    • Written communication skills (72.7%)
    • Strong work ethic (71.6%)
    • Flexibility or adaptability (70.1%)
    • Verbal communication skills (67.5%)

    If you’re applying for roles where a portfolio or personal projects may help showcase your skills, you may choose to include a portfolio link on your resume or figure out how to showcase a personal project.

    Let’s say you’re applying for an entry-level social media content position. In this situation, if you’ve built up your own social media following, you may decide to highlight this on your resume, as well as the skills you’ve gained as you’ve done this.

    Extracurricular activities and volunteer experience

    In addition to listing your professional experience and skills, you may want to include an extracurricular activities and volunteer experience section. This section is where you can include that you participated in collegiate clubs, sports teams, theater, a volunteering role, or other activities you did during your time as a student (along with those outside of school).

    Languages you speak

    Some roles look for candidates who know another language besides English. If you speak another language other than English, you may want to consider including that information on your resume, as some hiring managers may find value in that.

    What’s the best resume format for a beginner?

    While there isn’t a “best” resume format that all successful job applicants or recruiters expect, several experts advise against one that includes your picture.

    “You don’t want the reader to be distracted by your photo,” according to Amanda Augustine, a counselor at TopResume told CNBC.

    Beyond that, stick to a clear and concise format that you think matches the experience and skills that you have to share. Keep the design simple and professional and avoid any distracting fonts or colors.

    You may want to search online for a resume template to use as your base. There are many options to consider, and finding a template may be helpful as you go about crafting a resume.

    How long should an entry-level resume be?

    For entry-level job candidates, a resume should ideally be one page long. This length encourages conciseness and will allow you to focus on including only your most relevant experience. Keeping it to one page makes it easier for hiring managers to assess your qualifications quickly without having to sift through too much information as well.

    As you progress in your career and gain more experience, you can then consider extending your resume beyond just one page.

    Final thoughts

    At the end of the day, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to writing a winning entry-level job resume. As you craft your resume, you may consider tailoring it to specific jobs you want to apply for. That may mean slightly changing language and what you’re choosing to highlight on your resume as you apply for jobs.