Professional Development Resumes & Cover Letters

14 Resume Strategies for Recent Graduates

Written by Kate Lopaze

Writing a resume can be hard even for the most seasoned professional. Writing one to net you your first job out of college can be downright terrifying. Here are 14 tricks you can use to maximize your chances of getting the interview, and getting your career off to a great start.

1. Use a professional email address

It may have been a great laugh to be back in the day, but now that you’re entering the adult world, it is high time to consider something a bit more… mature. It might even help to create an address dedicated solely to job searching and your professional life. When in doubt, lastname.firstname or ought to do the trick.

2. Link to LinkedIn

If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, make one. It will be a necessary tool for you now and in the many work years to come. Once you’ve set yourself up nicely, follow the instructions on the site to make a customized link, i.e. and include it in your resume. This will be particularly useful if you’re submitting a pdf; the recruiter will only have to click on the link to find your profile.

3. Don’t pad it with fluff

BS might have worked in your sociology intro class, but a professional hiring manager is going to see right through buzzwords like “team player” and “ambitious self-starter.” Try to be a bit more unique in your word choice and show your experience rather than relying on keywords. If your job description is clearly showcasing your teamwork or leadership skills, then you don’t need to oversell the point.

4. Optimize

That said, keywords are an important and useful tool, particularly when your resume might be evaluated online before reaching a sentient human. Rather than just include the usual “hardworking” and “strong leader” terms you think you have to include, try using keywords included in the job listing itself. That’s a sure fire way to catch a company’s eye. Give them what they’re looking for!

5. Leave high school out of it

Hiring managers are much more interested in your relevant work experience and what sort of work (and grades) you did in college. Also any skills or certifications you may have picked up along the way. Including high school education only makes you look like you’re desperate for filler. When in doubt, leave it out.

6. Include your GPA

If your GPA is 3.0 or higher, go ahead and brag about it. And if your GPA within your major is even higher than that, showcase that achievement. They won’t care if you got a C+ in Underwater Basket-weaving. But if you have a 4.0 in Economics, they’ll be sure to pay attention.

7. Don’t include your schoolwork

While your GPA or major can be an asset in your job search, no recruiter really wants to know how you spent your class time (unless you did something really unique and exciting and/or prestigious). They pretty much know what college is about—even specific to your major. Internships are much more relevant and impressive; focus on those.

8. Play up your strong points

If you have a big internship or some other work experience that’s super impressive, lead with that. If you don’t, it’s okay to lead with other things, such as your grades, your intensive software knowledge, foreign language skills, programming experience, etc. If you have tons of honors but little work experience, you still might have enough oomph to get your foot in the door for an interview.

9. Include company descriptions

For each employer in your work history, include a brief description of the company—particularly if it isn’t a well known brand-name company that people will already be familiar with. Just a sense of the industry, the work done, and the work environment should do it. Keep it brief to maximize space.

10. Use bullets

Bullet points are an assertive visual way to draw a recruiter’s attention to exactly what you’d like for them to focus on. Go ahead and use this to your advantage. Bonus: you’ll get points for clear and eye-friendly formatting.

11. Use action verbs

Let your language do the bragging, especially if you don’t have a whole lot of work experience. You can put all the work verbs into sections describing your other experience. We’re thinking: managed, led, supervised, developed, created, built, etc.

12. Brag

Go ahead and include any honors, scholarships, or extracurricular achievements you might have under your belt. Can’t hurt, might help.

13. List your relevant skills

Read the job description carefully and multiple times. And be sure to pick out and list all of the skills it says are required for eligibility. Failure to list that you do, in fact, have fluency in that programming language, is your error. The recruiter isn’t responsible for knowing what you assume they should know. Make sure to explicitly list the things they’re looking for as things you can do.

14. Don’t include references

Don’t waste space on the “References available on request” line. It’s already implied. If they get close enough to hiring you to need them, rest assured that they will ask. You can also include this line in your cover letter instead.

Now take a look at TopResume’s infographic showcasing what a perfect resume for recent college graduates would look like:

recent graduates


About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.