By Patrick Cole
It can be intimidating preparing your resume after college, particularly if you’ve solely focused on going to school and don’t have a great deal of work experience. What the heck are you supposed to put on your resume? How can you make yourself look like somebody that people will actually want to hire?
You’ll be glad to hear, it is actually possible. How do you do that? Read on.
You only need a page and a goal
The first thing to realize is that you only need to fill one page. The best resumes don’t go past this. This means that it can often be easier to make a good, cohesive and interesting resume when you’re fresh out of college than when you’ve been working for a while.
Just make sure that it’s precise. Don’t put vague comments about wanting ‘a well-paying entry level position’. Everybody wants that and putting it in is, therefore, wasting valuable seconds you’ve got to impress your audience, and as you only get a few, that’s not a good idea.
There are two forms of resumes
The more traditional graduate format is to have the objective at the top and then to follow it with your educational background and the relevant coursework that you’ve done. Yes, that’s right, it’s perfectly alright to include course work on your resume. It might not be the same as hands-on experience, but it is still relevant information for an employer to know.
From there you go on to your experience and your skills.
The other way that you can design your resume is to start with your training and your skills at the top, as these are the most relevant in many ways for many employers, which is followed by education, experience and finally your employment history (if you’ve got any).
List your school, your degree, the year you completed it and honors
What about your GPA? You only want to include that if it’s high. If it isn’t particularly splendid, you should probably leave it out. Sure, some HR people will read between the lines that your GPA wasn’t particularly splendid, but then that’s better than having all of them read it, don’t you think?
So how high should it be before you can include it? There is some disagreement about that. Some say that you can already put it in at a 3.0. Others disagree and think you should only include it if it is 3.8 or higher. And when there is disagreement, you’re going to have with your gut. Here is some more information about how long your GPA should be on your resume for.
Make sure that the courses you include on your resume are relevant to the position you’re applying for!
Cast what work experience you have in the best light
Worked as a burger flipper one summer? That can still be a useful thing to include on your resume, particularly if you can cast it the right way. Maybe you get promoted quickly, maybe you learned some very valuable life skills, or maybe it’s that you really appreciated how a large team can work together.
If you can recast your simple job in this light and make it clear that you learned things that are relevant to what you were doing, or if you can get the attention of the HR person so that they sit up and take note, then it can be useful to include. Sure, it might not add that much weight on its own, but it’s the whole picture that matters and a well-described menial job can add real color to your story.
Don’t neglect your extra-curricular activities
Again, these might not be enough on their own to convince anybody to have you over for an interview, but that’s not the point. The point is that it becomes part of the marketing package that is your resume. If you were part of the chess club, learned to program, or acted in the theater, that can be worth including for some jobs, as just because you didn’t get paid, doesn’t mean you didn’t learn anything.
Similarly, if you volunteered, counseled or did social outreach, including those can make it clear to employers that you’ve actually got some of the soft skills that they are often looking for in new graduates.
Don’t overload your resume
‘Great’, some of you are now thinking, ‘I’m going to throw everything and the kitchen sink onto that page now!’ Don’t do that. It is important to realize that you don’t just need words on your resume. You also need white space.
For that reason, make certain that your resume is easy to read, has bullet points, is correctly laid out and has clearly defined sections so that people can easily find what they’re looking for. In that way, your audience will find it easier to digest, which will make them more favorably disposed towards you.
Don’t neglect the little things
When you’ve written up your resume go over it and go over it again. An extra space, a strange line jump, or a grammar mistake can cost you an interview. That sounds harsh, but it’s true. You have to remember that most HR people are going through hundreds of resumes for positions.
For that reason, many will use any excuse to whittle down a pile. A sloppy layout and poor grammar is exactly that kind of an excuse.
Yes, that sounds like a lot to digest. Don’t worry, though, there are many people out there to help you. You can keep reading these kinds of posts, or consider using a service. There are numbers expert websites out there to give you a helping hand and make certain your resume sticks out head and shoulder above the competition.
After that, you’ll just have to kill it at the interview. But that’s another story.
About the author: Patrick Cole is a passionate writer and contributor to several websites. Loves to write about education and self-realization. You can connect with him via Twitter