5 Resume Tips for New Grads


After the majestic cadence of Pomp and Circumstance faded from my graduation ceremony, the realities of post-college life hit me like a ton of bricks. “I need to find a job, but where do I start? I probably need a resume. How do I write one? I don’t have a clue. How will I figure it out? I’ll look online and throw one together.” My first job-landing success after college was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Here I was with a new, shiny bachelor’s degree and all of the deserved pride that accompanies that accomplishment and I was selling shoes for a well-known department store. And, before you run over and check out my LinkedIn profile, I’ll save you some time - it’s not listed there.

To avoid my job search frenzy and get a job you aren’t embarrassed to put on your LinkedIn profile, here are 5 resume tips for new grads.

#1 No rules, just write.

One of my favorite movies of all-time is Pirates of the Caribbean. What does this have to do with you and your resume? Well, resume-writing is a lot like the pirate’s code. They are really more like guidelines, than actual rules for writing a resume.

The supreme guideline when trying to decide what to put on your resume is - does putting this information on my resume help me land an interview? If yes, put it on there. If not, leave it off. Because at the end of the day, the main objective of your resume is to get your foot in the door of your dream employer.

What are some of those guidelines, Captain James? I’m so glad you asked. Here are some things you’ll want to include on your resume:

  • Your name, contact information and your LinkedIn URL - I recommend using the entire URL because the hyperlinks don’t always transfer
  • The title of the position you’re hoping to land or the objective you’re hoping to accomplish. If you’re a recent or up-and-coming graduate with little to no work experience, using an objective is your best option.
  • If you use a career objective, be specific. Avoid using broad objectives like, “Seeking a challenging position at an innovative company that offers growth and advancement.” Rather, something like, “High-achieving 3.8 GPA Thomas Edison State University graduate seeking a Customer Service Representative position at a growing technology firm. Offers proven oral/written communication and conflict resolution skills.”
  • A summary of the achievements you’ve accomplished so far in your career - the more specific, the better and use numbers whenever possible.
  • Paid or volunteer positions you’ve held in the past that relate to the job you’re trying to land
  • Specific challenges you faced, actions you or a team that you were on took, and the specific results gleaned
  • Use easy-to-read and common fonts, such as: Arial, Calibri, Verdana, Times New Roman, etc.
  • The Return-On-Investment (ROI) for the employer hiring you; keep reading for more ideas.

#2 It’s about them and you, not just you.

Here’s another perspective you’ll want to have when it comes to writing your resume - it’s about what you can do for your employer, not simply a brag-sheet about you. In many ways, your resume is a summary of what you’ve accomplished, where you’ve worked, and how you go about doing your best work.

But at the same time, you must remember that the goal of your resume is to intrigue the person on the other side of the table. You want that person to invite you in for an interview. Your resume is a marketing tool, so it must connect with the other person. So before you start writing your resume take a moment to get inside the other person’s head and ask yourself, “What is it that they really want?”

The Executive Brain Coach, Susan Whitcomb, in her book “Job Search Magic” offers 10 things that motivate an employer to hire you:

  • How can you make their company money?
  • How can you save their company money?
  • How can you save their company time?
  • How can you make work easier for them?
  • How can you solve a specific problem they face?
  • How can you help their company become more competitive?
  • How can you help their company build strategic relationships with other businesses and influencers?
  • How you can you help them expand their business?
  • How can you attract new customers?
  • How can you help the business retain existing customers?

Take some time to figure out how the accomplishments you’ve achieved, the skills you bring to the table, and your personal brand all help the company you’re wanting to interview for succeed. Identifying the connection between what you’ve done and what the company wants is your resume gold mine.

#3 Keep it brief.

You actually might breathe a huge sigh of relief after reading this tip, because it will make your resume-writing project easier. If you’re a recent graduate with limited work experience, keep your resume to one-page. Why? Your potential employer is probably combing through hundreds of resumes and you’ll want to make their job easier, not harder.

And since you don’t really have a lot of work experience, there’s no sense in conjuring up information to give the impression that you have more experience than you really do. This will only backfire on you, because when you go in for the interview, the truth of how much experience you have will actually come out.

My advice is to “be bright, be brief, and be gone.”

#4 Put your education at the top.

If you don’t have a lot of related work experience for the job you want to interview for, it’s probably best to put your education at the top of your resume. After all, your bachelor’s degree is likely the biggest project you’ve completed recently, so go ahead and use it to your advantage. You invested a lot of hours and money into your education, market it.

Oh, and on a side-note, there’s an inner saboteur that may rear its ugly head and whisper something in your ear like, “Who do you think you are?” Or “Aren’t you big for your breeches?” Remember, anything that is true is not bragging. If you completed your bachelor’s degree in under 4 years, this is an exceptionally notable accomplishment. Tell your potential employer about it.

What do you want to include? The level of your degree (e.g. Associate’s or Bachelor’s), your area of study, when you completed it, and if you have a great GPA, include that too.

#5 Use something that differentiates you.

When it comes to marketing yourself on your resume, understand that you are one of many fish in the sea and it’s your job to differentiate yourself in a way that intrigues your potential employer. At the same time, you want to stay true to who you are, so that in the long-term you and your employer are super happy that you work together.

Sure, you may be applying to be an entry-level designer, a project manager’s assistant, a manager in training, or a marketing analyst. But what makes how you do what you do different from everybody else? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Are you a slightly quirky designer with an off-beat sense of style that draws others to you?
  • Are you a highly-focused achiever who always gets the job done before key deadlines?
  • Are you a people-oriented leader who makes friends and motivates others easily?
  • Are you a no-nonsense, analytical decision-maker who loves spreadsheets and data?
  • Are you a reflective observer of life who can describe and capture experiences with words?

If you need more ideas on what makes you unique, ask your friends, family, and classmates to tell you what they see. You’ll start to see trends in their responses. Use that information on your resume!

A parting thought - when looking for work in today’s job market, you’ll want to have a polished LinkedIn profile too. Check out this article to discover 5 Ways To Polish Your LinkedIn Profile