Resumes & Cover Letters

5 Essential Resume Tips for Recent Graduates

Written by ResumeSpice

If you’re a recent graduate or are about to graduate, chances are you’ve been giving your resume a lot of thought. And with so much contradicting information in the marketplace about how to write a proper resume, it can be confusing.

The reality is that resume advice that pertains to a mid-level professional or senior executive may not apply to a new grad. So, with that in mind, the team at ResumeSpice has put together a list of essential resume tips for new grads. Consider this list your recent grad resume starter kit. Nail these five things and you’ll be in great shape.

Start with your education

Most resumes should begin with work experience – the exception is a new grad resume. Since a new grad’s education is the activity that has been taking up most of their time and energy in the recent past, it’s important to highlight it up front. If you had a high GPA, be sure to include that as well. What is considered high varies from school to school and major to major, so ask around. A professor, other recent grads, and counselors can all provide input. All 3.2 GPA’s were not created equally.

List all internships, work studies, honors or awards, study abroad programs, as well as other relevant activities that show your experience outside of school. In lieu of full-time jobs, internships are typically considered the most valuable extra-curricular activity, as they help demonstrate real world skills and value that you can immediately bring to an employer. Treat an internship like you would any other job, by listing out your responsibilities and accomplishments in bullet form.

Include all work experience, even if it seems irrelevant

Sure, managing a shoe store may not have been your dream job, nor does is exactly match the career path you’ve chosen, but when you’re a recent graduate, all experience matters.

When you’re applying for an entry-level position, it’s about translating the duties and skills from your current or past positions to a language that speaks to the hiring manager.

For example, if you’re applying to a marketing coordinator role and you managed a retail store, use relevant marketing experience from the store and intertwine it with the job requirements for the role you’re seeking. It’s likely that you staged store fronts, placed signage around the store, or made sure every customer received a flyer of the upcoming promotions. That’s all relevant; you just have to use the right language.

List extracurricular activities or volunteer experience

Under your work experience section, you should include extracurricular or volunteer work that is professionally relevant. If you participated in student government activities and/or volunteered your skills to an organization, it will not only help fill out your resume, but it will also give the recruiter a glimpse of who you are and how well you will fit within the organization.

If you’ve been volunteering your time to a cause you care about, that’s great! Do be aware that some causes / organizations may alienate some prospective employers, so be careful about religious or political affiliations, for example – unless you don’t mind potentially turning off a group of employers. Only you can make that call.

Keep it clean

We’re talking about the format here. It’s tempting to want to put together a highly-stylized, unique, or pretty resume, but the reality is that recruiters value clarity and simplicity over design.

The reality is that due to the volume of resumes they receive, most recruiters and hiring managers don’t read resumes – they skim them. And a lot of stylizing can make your information hard to read. So you’ll want to make sure all the fat is cut away (graphics, lines, too much formatting, etc.) and that what’s left is the lean takeaway that recruiters really care about (experience, education, tenure, etc.)

The only exception is if you’re a creative professional, such as a designer. In that case, a little creative leeway is appropriate, but we also recommend focusing most of your creative energy on putting together a great online portfolio and providing the link to it on your resume. That will get you a lot further in the process than over formatting your resume.

Write a great cover letter

We know that applying for jobs can be tedious and time-consuming, so the last thing you want to do is submit a cover letter when one isn’t required, but we urge you to view it through a different lens.

Writing a great cover letter can set you apart. It gives you more space to talk about your background, why you’re interested in the role, and what makes you uniquely qualified. Just be sure you’re tying everything back to the job.

For example, if one of the job requirements is attending tradeshows on behalf of the company, you can write something along the lines of, “During my three years as treasurer within the student government organization, I represented the university during summits and competitions.”

There are, of course, many ways to write a resume. But when you’re a recent graduate, writing the resume that will get you hired can sometimes feel impossible. Use these five pointers as a way to guide your approach. If you’re still stumped, you can check with your university to see if they offer resume critiques or you could consider hiring a professional service such as ResumeSpice.


Savannah Ober is a resume writer and career consultant at ResumeSpice. In addition to being a resume expert, Savannah is also an experienced corporate communications professional, working with one of the world’s largest global companies. Savannah has written recruiting advertisements for trade publications, created marketing collateral, written press releases and blogs, and developed social media content. Savannah holds a BA in English, creative writing.

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