Whether you have years of volunteer experience, are leaving an internship for your first full-time job, or are applying to your first job role, you’ll need a little advice to write the best entry-level resume. Here’s a detailed writing guide, downloadable templates, and a useful online tool to help you craft an interview-snagging resume.
You may have noticed that entry-level doesn’t always mean no experience: most entry-level job openings ask for three to five years of experience for openings. However, that experience can be pulled from both formal experience from previous jobs as well and practical experience pulled from schoolwork, volunteer work, internships, and extracurricular activities.
We’ll teach you how to format your resume to boost all of your experience, as well as how to tailor your personal experience to align with an open job position.
Most resumes follow one of three common resume formats: chronological, functional and combination. These resumes differ because each showcase different aspects of your experience.
As an entry-level applicant, you’ll want to use a format that prioritizes your skills, training and certificates over your lack of formal experience. Your best options are one of the following two formats.
Functional resume: This is also known as a skills-based resume. This format features multiple sections dedicated to your general and specialized skills as well as your education, certifications, and job-related interests while reducing the amount of information related to your previous employment. This resume is best used for one-on-one opportunities from in-person job fairs or small businesses. Avoid using this format if you’re applying for online jobs. Each section will follow this page structure:
Combination resume: The combination resume is a marriage between functional and chronological resumes. Although this format only features one skills section, your skills sit above your formal experience section and are some of the first details employers learn about you. This format follows a traditional resume structure and is best for online applications that can scan and eliminate functional resumes. Each section will follow this page structure:
Chronological resume: This format is the most used and recognized resume. Although it’s considered a resume standard, you should avoid using this for entry-level jobs. This format works best if you have over 10 years of experience and want to showcase promotions and steady career advancement. Its sections include:
Thankfully, your contact information includes the same information regardless of what format or experience level for which you apply. This section will include the following mandatory and optional information:
Although most resume writers recommend that you write a summary statement, where you explain how your former experience aligns with the open job needs and how you plan to utilize that experience and accomplishments to the potential employer’s benefit, an entry-level resume lets you use the traditional objective statement.
An objective statement allows you to inform a potential employer what you hope to gain or accomplish if you are hired. As an entry-level applicant with minimal experience, you’re allowed to take this approach.
For example, if you’re entering a marketing position after a few years of part-time retail experience, you can write:
“After years of retail customer service and offering localized fashion advice to frequent shoppers, I’m excited to learn how to expand and adapt my marketing experience for a national market. I hope to better understand global marketing trends and learn how to adapt my intimate understanding of our customer to a larger demographic.”
Let’s continue with our retail associate looking for an entry-level marketing position. We’ll theorize that they have two years of store experience and three years of volunteer experience. Once you’re ready to write your work history section, you’ll format it in one of two ways, depending on the resume format you choose.
Work history for a functional resume: This section is simple and focuses on your job title, employer and place of employment, and general range of dates worked. Avoid talking about specific responsibilities related to each position –– you’ll dive into these details under your “Summary of Qualifications” section. Your work experience should follow this simple structure:
Cashier: Grain Goods
Atlanta, GA. 2020 - Present
Fitting Room Attendant:Target
Atlanta, GA 2020
Work history for a combination or chronological resume: This section follows the same structure for these two formats, but they’re placed in slightly different places. You’ll add your job title, employer and place of employment, dates of employment, daily responsibilities and accomplishments under each role. Follow this simple structure:
Cashier: Grain Goods
Atlanta, GA May 2020 - Present
Fitting Room Attendant:Target
Atlanta, GA 2020
Volunteer Salesperson:Kiwanis Club
Atlanta, GA September 2018 - January 2020
Your education follows the same structure across all three formats. Include your high school graduation information if that’s your highest degree, if you’re in the midst of pursuing an associate or bachelor degree, or if you’re pursuing work immediately after graduation.
Stonybrook High School
May 2020, GPA 3.4
Functional resumes differ from chronological and combination resumes by creating several skills sections based on the professional skills you want to highlight. As an entry-level applicant, you may want dedicated sections for “general skills,” “language skills” “digital skills,” or “social media skills.”
Your skills section should feature about six to eight featured skills. If you add more than eight skills, you risk overcrowding this section and describing your strengths without the context of the work history or summary of qualifications. We researched and compiled a list of the most commonly requested skills in the job market to help you craft this section
Summary of qualifications
This section is only found on functional resumes. A summary of qualifications is like a detailed skills report. You pick two or three skills most relevant to the open entry-level job for which you’re applying and lend credibility to them by listing relevant responsibilities and accomplishments related to those skills. For example:
Although you may have limited practical experience, you can pursue specialized training and certifications that can strengthen an entry-level application. Here are some examples of additional training you can pursue to add to your entry-level resume:
First Aid Certificate:
First Aid and CPR Certification via Red Cross
Infant First and CPR Certification
Emergency Medical Response Training via Red Cross
State-Approved First Responder Course
Forklift operator license
Commercial Driver’s License, Class AB
Commercial Driver’s License, Class C
If you’re a teen writing a resume for the first time, don’t worry. Most employers know that you may not have formal experience, but appreciate it if you can share practical experience related to time management, customer service, or leadership. Here are some examples of skills related to common job titles:
Although you haven’t graduated from college yet, you have probably developed practical skills and experience that you can showcase on your resume. For example, you can feature all of the following high school coursework and extracurricular activities on your resume:
A good entry-level job can vary depending on your interests and level of experience. If you’re looking for a white-collar job, you can identify an entry-level opening if it asks for three to five years of experience. This experience can include your college-era accomplishments.
If you’re looking for a blue-collar job, you can start with part-time and seasonal work that can extend to full-time work with enough experience and training. Here are some examples of entry-level jobs that you can pursue:
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