The New Grad’s Map to Resume Writing
To land that interview, you’ll first need a proper resume.The topic of resume writing is often covered in the blogosphere and beyond, but your resume will be different from your dad’s or your big sister’s.
There are special considerations for a new grad’s resume — you are likely brand new to the job market, and with little (or no) experience. Certain tips can help you get through the door, and into the interview hot seat, while some mistakes might get your resume tossed.
At the very top of your resume, a summary section should provide an overview of your skills and achievements and clarify what you’re looking for. Whatever you do, don’t settle for a bland, generic objective statement in this prime resume real estate.
For most job seekers, it’s best to avoid an Objective statement completely and focus on a summary of your selling points. The exceptions to this rule are new grads and career changers.
In your situation, you may need to give some indication of the type of role you’re looking for (especially if your desired career path isn’t obvious from your major and/or previous work experience). However, you can combine your objective with a description of the valuable qualities you would bring to the role in a Professional Summary.
Be sure to get specific if you want to grab your reader’s attention. Generic terms like “self starter” do have their place, but this is your introduction, your opportunity to make a great first impression.
A common mistake when you’re not yet job-search savvy is to write this section once and include it each time you send out your resume. A proper resume is one that has been fine-tuned to match the requirements sought out in the job posting.
If your primary selling point is your education (as it often is for new grads), then it makes sense to lead your document with your educational achievements, even if you have an unrelated work history to include.
Including courses completed can give your reader a greater sense of the value of your education. Include your GPA if it’s high, as this adds even more value to this section. You may also want to list relevant school activities and organizations. Later, as you gain more relevant, valuable career experience, including this type of information will become less important.
Be prepared to speak in your interview about why you chose the school that you attended, your favorite and least favorite classes, and your top achievements (academic and extracurricular).
This section trips up some recent grads with only one or two jobs under their belts. Internships are more than acceptable in this area, and should of course be included. This has the added bonus of illustrating to the potential interviewer your ability to multi-task, your propensity for leadership, and your capacity for a heavy workload.
In some cases, major school projects and significant extracurricular roles can also be included (a study-abroad experience, a group project, leading a major fundraising initiative for your club). As a recent grad, it’s understandable that your transferable skills may have been obtained in settings that were more social than professional.
On another note, related experience doesn’t have to be paid experience. It doesn’t matter if you were paid for your services. What matters is that you gained the applied skills. The hiring manager will be interested to learn how your efforts and contributions benefited those you worked for, and how the skills gained through these experiences can now benefit future and potential employers. For example, if you’re a finance major and held the position of Treasurer for a campus organization, that’s a related experience – even if it’s an unpaid experience – where you certainly learned relevant skills.
This section is meant for such accomplishments as high graduating honors, awards, and scholarships. Later in your career, you may lose this section due to space considerations, but at this point it can be an impressive to potential interviewers. While keeping it succinct and easy to read, don’t be afraid to include as many important milestones as you can.
In the case of a resume that’s on the light side, some sections can be included to further illustrate qualifications and potential:
“Highlights of Additional Coursework” – This section can be used to explain certain in-class projects that are relevant to the job posting. For example, an advertising major may have written a campaign for a big company. Even if it is obviously not a real campaign, high marks for an innovative idea can be seen as especially impressive.
“Skills” – Sometimes used in more detailed resumes, here you can list knowledge of software programs or foreign languages.
“Interests” – If space allows, it can be useful to include some hobbies and interests (especially those that show desirable qualities such as perseverance, leadership, team orientation). This section can also prompt some nice, rapport-building small talk during the interview.
Following this simple resume map can take you past the road of application, through to the interview, and onto the destination of successfully landing a job.