Writing your first resume can be a daunting challenge. You may have little work experience or proper qualifications. You may not think any employer would take you seriously. Yet you might be surprised by how much you have to offer. Your first resume is all about listing experiences and skills that demonstrate potential. Your goal should be to craft a clean and professional resume that tells an employer that you mean business.
Most high school resumes have a fairly similar structure. You can move around the sections somewhat (or use alternative titles), but for the most part it’s best to follow a common template.
Keep your contact information simple and to the point. Include a home address, phone number, and email address. Avoid quirky or exotic email addresses (e.g., email@example.com) and generally don’t share social media accounts (e.g., your Twitter name). In fact, while we’re on the topic, make sure you clean up your online appearance in case the employer googles your name.
Alternate titles: About Me; Profile
Most high school resumes start by mentioning the objective. This can be a simple one-liner (“to find part-time employment”) or it can be more detailed. Either way, the more you can customize it to each specific workplace, the better:
Looking for summer and part-time employment in clothing retail. I have two years of experience working at Walmart and I love interacting with customers. I am a keen follower of fashion trends and would be excited to join your team.
As you can see, describing your objective can easily transition into a sales pitch. That’s why you’re allowed to replace the objective with a short bio:
I am a high school student (Grade 11) with a keen interest in the sciences (especially biology and chemistry). I’m passionate about the conservation of nature, and this last year I was president of our school’s Outdoors Club. I have CPR training and speak Spanish fluently. I’m energetic and love working with others.
Don’t overdo it, though. You want to share just a few highlights.
Alternate title: Qualifications
You can list specific skills (grade 6 piano, black belt in judo) or mention soft skills (good at scheduling and multi-tasking). Talk to friends and family and ask them to list your skills.
As you share your qualifications, try to avoid cliches (e.g., team player) and make the items in your list parallel. For example, don’t start some with verbs (completed, mastered) and some with nouns (dance instructor) or adjectives (punctual, reliable). Be consistent.
For more information about creating parallel structure, check out comprehensive list of the best action verbs for resume writing.
This is your chance not only to mention where you go to school, but also to say something about any special training you’ve received (certificates or diplomas). You might also consider including your GPA or grade average and whether you’re taking specific advanced courses.
If you have absolutely no work experience, leave this section out. However, you might have done the odd job here or there. Perhaps you’ve done some baby-sitting, or you’ve made some money mowing lawns and cleaning cars. Obviously doing chores for your parents doesn’t count, but if you think long and hard you might come up with something.
Alternate title: Community Service
Increasingly employers like to see some community spirit. Perhaps you’ve done face painting at a community event, or you’ve sold cookies to raise money for a good cause. You don’t have to be Mother Theresa to make a difference.
This is where you can brag about your accomplishments. Whether you won a 5K race or earned second place playing violin at your local music competition–don’t be shy about showing off.
Finally, many high school resumes mention a few personal interests and hobbies (reading, swimming, computer programming, etc.). Just don’t say that you’re a budding graffiti artist.
While we recommend that you keep your resume clean and concise, you may add additional sections as you see fit. Some employers like to see a list of references, people they can call to ask about you. It’s tacky, however, to write “references upon request.” If you want to include references then provide specific names and contact information.
In rare cases you can indicate what times during the week you are available for work. This may be useful if you have a rather unique schedule, but if you do include a line about availability it’s best to indicate some degree of flexibility.
Finally, you can include a picture of yourself, as long as it’s professional and not too obtrusive.