After turning in their final exams and collecting their diplomas, recent college graduates might assume that their paper-writing days are behind them. The truth is, they still need to write one of the most important papers of their adult life: their resume.
Resume-writing poses a particular challenge for recent college graduates. How can you impress recruiters when your professional experience is limited to part-time jobs and summer internships? And how can you compete with applicants who’ve been in the workforce for several years?
The road to employment isn’t always easy for recent grads, but there are clever ways to spin even the most superficial experience to be more attractive to potential employers. Keep in mind these tips to create a resume that will get you noticed.
1. Include a summary of qualifications. By highlighting your most impressive qualifications and accomplishments at the top of your resume, you’ll ensure that recruiters don’t miss out on important details during their 30-second scans. Include details about what you can offer the company, taking into account the skills you’ve learned in classes, at internships and at previous jobs. Just avoid using generic terms like “responsible,” “organized” and “driven.”
2. Emphasize your education. Seasoned professionals are advised to put their education at the bottom of their resumes, but grads can keep that information closer to the top, in order to showcase their most recent accomplishments. Once you have a bit more professional experience, you can move your educational information back down.
3. Treat your classroom experience as work experience. Think your college courses don’t belong on your resume? Think again. Rather than listing all of the classes you’ve completed over the last four years, focus on the courses that are most relevant to the job you’re seeking. Highlight specific projects you’ve completed, summarizing the process and end result.
4. Play the numbers game. Make it easy for recruiters to recognize your accomplishments by presenting them in an easily quantifiable way: with numbers. Whereas it’s easy to get lost in a sea of words, numbers tend to stand out. Emphasize your specific accomplishments, whether they have to do with money (raised $25,000 for the Student Government Association), time (volunteered for a literacy organization 15 hours per week), or amount (increased your newspaper’s readership by 25 percent).
5. Use action verbs. Using overly formal language and passive sentence structure might just put a recruiter to sleep. Instead, use action verbs, key words and quantifying statements that will grab the reader’s attention and set you apart. A good rule of thumb is to begin each bulleted sentence with a well-chosen action verb like “analyzed,” “championed” or “generated.”
6. Showcase your involvement. Even if you’ve never held a job before, chances are you’ve been involved in at least a few activities during your time at college, whether volunteering with a local organization, playing a sport or getting involved in a club. Describe your involvement, highlight your accomplishments and show how the skills you gained as a participant can apply to the job you’re seeking.
7. Keep it simple. Recent graduates have to get a little bit creative when writing their resumes, but that doesn’t mean they should go overboard with the fonts and formatting. In most cases, simple is better when it comes to resumes. Recruiters appreciate offerings that are clean and concise, so save the crazy fonts, colors and clip-art for another project.
What are some creative ways you’ve beefed up your post-grad resume? Please share your ideas in the comments!
About the Author
Michelle Kruse has over 10 years of hiring and recruiting experience and a background in coaching and leadership development. At ResumeEdge, Michelle recruits and hires resume writers, provides training and ongoing support, and manages strategic partnerships and serves as a subject matter expert on the job search process.