Almost every college graduate faces the same conundrum when searching for a first job: How do you demonstrate you possess the necessary qualifications for a job when you haven't had a "real job" before? Fortunately, it's an easier question to answer than ones you may have encountered in philosophy class ("What is consciousness?").
Indeed, even if your work history is brief -- or nonexistent -- you can craft a compelling résumé. Here's how:
Drop the objective statement
Most objective statements ("Go-getter seeking sales position") say more about what a job seeker hopes for in a job than why that person would be a good fit for the position. So ditch the objective statement and create a summary section instead. It's a brief rundown of your skills and qualifications, targeted to the company and opening. For example: "Accounting graduate with experience gained through internship with regional CPA firm. Able to excel in fast-paced, deadline-driven office environments. Advanced knowledge of Microsoft Office applications, including expertise in Excel."
Create a combination résumé
Instead of submitting a traditional chronological résumé, consider a combination résumé. This format allows you to place more focus on your professional skills by grouping them near the top of your document. You might, for example, have a section titled "Computer Skills" or one called "Supervisory Experience." Don't limit yourself to abilities you've honed through full- or part-time jobs. Skills you've gained through internships, volunteer work, or even clubs or social committees can be just as relevant.
Near the end of your résumé, briefly list your work history in reverse chronological order. Also include your educational experience -- school, area of study and GPA if it's higher than 3.0.
Focus on transferable skills
Think the years you spent waiting tables won't help you land a marketing gig? Think again. This experience may have prepared you for your career better than you realize. If you supervised some other staff members, for example, you have managerial experience to add to your résumé. You could also highlight your strong customer service and communication skills. Almost every employer values these abilities.
Create a LinkedIn profile
Creating a profile on LinkedIn or a similar professional networking site may help in your search for employment. Many hiring managers and recruiters search sites such as LinkedIn to find job candidates -- and the trend is growing. In fact, in a recent survey of human resources managers by Robert Half International, 36 percent of respondents said it's at least somewhat likely that résumés will eventually be replaced by profiles on social and business networking sites.
Aim for a "100 percent complete" profile: Include your experience, areas of interest and a photo. Adding a few recommendations -- ask a professor or your internship supervisor -- will further distinguish you from the crowd.
Don't go it alone
Your résumé is the key to getting an interview -- or not. It's important to get it right. In addition to proofreading your document several times before submitting it, ask a few trusted friends, mentors or family members to review it for errors.
Also request feedback on the structure and content. After all, many have them have written résumés. Their advice could help you turn a good document into a great one.
Keep it relevant
Winning your fraternity's annual hot-dog eating contest two years in a row won't help you land most jobs. Avoid including personal information such as your hobbies unless they're relevant to the position to which you're applying.
One final note: Don't think your résumé has to be a certain length -- one page or less, for instance -- just because you're beginning your career. Although you don't want to add fluff in order to make yourself seem more qualified, it's OK to run past a single page.
Remember that one size does not fit all when it comes to résumés. Take the time to create a quality document that shines a light on your most marketable skills and experience, and you'll give yourself the best shot at landing an interview and, ultimately, the job.
Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.