A great résumé can open doors for new grads as they make the transition from college life to the career world. But what if you're struggling to write one? In a Monster.com survey, only a quarter of Class of 2018 grads who wrote a resume for their job search said they were happy with the finished product.
"This is your first mode of communication with your potential new employer so you want to make the best impression possible," says Jacqueline Berman, principal at talent acquisition firm WinterWyman.
That can be challenging if you're just starting a career and don't have a lengthy professional work history. Stephanie Cartwright, a certified professional résumé writer and founder of Off the Clock Résumés, says new grads should use their résumés to showcase what they can do for an employer, versus what they've done. The goal is to "focus more on standing out by helping employers connect the dots between your résumé and the role they're looking to fill," Cartwright says.
Creating a polished résumé starts with knowing what to include. As you work on your résumé, be sure to include these items.
1. Personal Information
This may seem obvious but any new grad's first résumé should include:
- Your name
- Email address
- Phone number
A stellar résumé does you no good if employers don't know how to get in touch with you. This information should be at the top of your résumé.
Cartwright says there's something else you may want to include in this section: a link to your LinkedIn profile.
Your LinkedIn profile can provide more detail about projects or academic activities," Cartwright says. It can also "show a prospective employer if you're connected to anyone else in the company and add more personality to your application."
2. Personal Branding Statement
Résumé templates often include a space just under your name where you can include a brief summary of your experience or what you're looking for in terms of career goals. Cartwright says this is an opportunity to include a personal branding statement, which is essentially a short elevator pitch highlighting your skills, qualifications and the unique value you bring to the table.
In creating your personal branding statement, remember to:
- Be authentic and honest
- Keep it concise
- Sell your strong points
Taking a look at examples of personal branding statements for inspiration can help you create one that showcases who you are personally and professionally.
Following your contact information and branding statement, list your education. That includes where you attended school, what you earned a degree in and the year you graduated.
"Education should be a top priority for all recent graduates, as this should be the most relevant information for an entry-level position they're applying for," says Nick Francioso, founder of résumé optimization tool SkillSyncer.
You may also list courses relevant to your field. For example, "if you took an online course for coding, then include that on your résumé to showcase what you learned," Francioso says.
Berman says it's okay to include your GPA here as well, along with any academic distinctions or honors you received, such as graduating summa cum laude.
4. Relevant Experience
Ideally, this part of your new grad résumé should afford employers the most detail about your background and what makes you suited to the job. Within this section, there are several different types of experiences you may include:
- Work experience (which can include jobs you've held as well as businesses or side hustles you ran while in school)
- Volunteer experiences
- Study abroad
"Since you likely do not have a lot of work experience just yet, it's really important to emphasize what you do have and make yourself look well rounded," Berman says. "Any work experience you do have is important to list even if it does not directly relate to your prospective career goals as it shows you're a hard worker."
"Whatever you do, do not exaggerate or stretch the truth," Berman says. "It's a small world and they will definitely find out somehow."
5. Special Skills
Employers are looking for a mix of hard and soft skills from new hires. On the hard skills side, that might include things like:
- Proficiency in Microsoft Office
- Graphic design skills
- Cloud software experience
- Foreign language fluency
These types of skills are often learned in an academic setting or through real-world professional experience, although foreign language proficiency may be something you pick up outside the classroom. For example, you may learn a second language as part of a study abroad experience, through volunteer experiences, traveling with friends or family, or at home if your family is multilingual.
If you're thin on hard skills, however, you can use this section to play up your soft skills.
"Soft skills are transferable skills that you can bring from one job to another," Francioso says. They can include time management, communication skills, problem-solving skills, a good work ethic and the ability to work well with others as part of a team.
As you're adding hard and soft skills to your résumé, keep it interesting and relevant.
"New grads can play up their real-life experiences and skills by telling short and concise stories about solving problems or meeting goals," Cartwright says. "Listing skills without any context isn't helping you stand out."
For example, you may have spearheaded a fundraising effort to raise money for a specific cause on-campus. Rather than just saying "I volunteered at XYZ Organization," you could include a brief description of what you did, how much money you raised and who you helped. The goal is to show your employer the type of results you're capable of producing.
Review and Revise Carefully
Once you've written your résumé, go over it again before sending it out to employers. Check for spelling and grammar errors or phrases that don't make sense. And consider having someone else take a look to make sure it flows and reads well. A second pair of eyes can help you pinpoint any mistakes you need to correct to ensure that your first résumé is an attention-grabber.