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Resume Writing for Teens and Young Adults

by Michael Howard


Youth face very different challenges than older job-seekers with regards to resume design.  Three major differences are as follows:


  • Experience:  Traditional resume formats focus on employment experience and youth typically have short work histories or no experience at all.  This leaves them questioning how to build a resume when they are just starting their careers.


  • Competition:  Youth can have a hard time differentiating themselves from their competitors because their qualifications are similar.  For example, it’s difficult for a 15-year-old with only babysitting or lawn care experience to get noticed by a restaurant manager if most of the other applicants have similar experience.  Their employment history can’t really begin to set them apart from their competitors until they progress further in their careers and develop a record of accomplishments.


  • Character:  Teens often face negative stereotypes regarding their character and work habits.  Employers may doubt their maturity, dependability, motivation, and honesty, or at least have low expectations, and these concerns don’t get addressed with conventional resume formats.


So how can young job-seekers deal with these challenges?


Emphasize Education


Since youth have more history with school than work, they can enhance the education section of their resume, particularly if they have very little work experience.  Rather than just listing their diploma, degree, or grade level, they can also include academic status and awards, certificates of merit or achievement, impressive grades in individual courses, major projects they worked on, involvement with sports/academic teams or student government, workplace training or certification, computer courses, volunteer experience at school and, of course, work experience placements, internships and practicums.


Highlight Relevant Qualifications and Experiences


Besides education, teens and young adults have many other qualifications that can be included when they don’t have much work experience.  Depending on the type of job they’re seeking, they may want to highlight their computer skills, team and leadership experience, scheduling availability, accessibility to the place of employment, language skills, travel experience, or fitness level.  If relevant, they may also want to add whether they have obtained and passed a criminal record check, hold a driver’s licence and have access to a reliable vehicle, or own any tools, apparel, or footwear necessary for the targeted job.


Provide Proof of Soft Skills


Finally, young job-seekers without much work experience can include soft skills on their resume, but they shouldn’t simply list them in a Summary of Qualifications section.  Hiring managers see character traits like hard-working, reliable, and trustworthy on almost every resume they review, and they have absolutely no reason to believe these claims.  Instead, job-seekers need to offer proof or provide examples that demonstrate these traits.  This can be done in many ways, including referencing school report cards or employer performance evaluations on the resume and offering copies upon request.


As job-seekers develop their work histories and career achievements, their other qualifications take a back seat.  Employers begin to place less importance on qualifications besides work experience and education, and start to make assumptions about work character based on the accomplishments.  Until that point, however, youth can benefit from expanding their concept of resume design beyond the standard formats used by more experienced job-seekers.


Michael Howard is a professional resume writer and the author of Alternative Resumes: Definitely Not Your Parents’ Resume Book.  For more information, please visit

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