How to Write a College Resume: A Guide for Recent Grads
The objective of any resume is to demonstrate your skills, experience, and value to potential employers. This can be a challenge for college students who don’t have much (or any) workforce experience. But don’t worry! Employers don’t expect recent grads to have a lot of work experience, and college resumes are meant to look different than the resumes of seasoned professionals.
In this article we’ve provided suggestions for what to include on your college resume, resume writing tips, and advice from our community of recruiters, hiring managers, and job coaches.
What to Include on Your College Resume
College resumes differ from traditional resumes in that they lean heavily upon coursework, internships, and other college-level achievements to demonstrate a candidate’s value. Here are some suggestions for what to include on your recent graduate resume. Not all items are necessary, but any additions that can be leveraged to demonstrate your value as a candidate should be.
Headline and Summary Statement
A resume headline is an excellent opportunity to grab a hiring manager’s attention. You can think of your headline as the title of your resume. It helps frame what’s to come and gives hiring managers an idea of who you are at a glance. When possible, include the job title or other hard skill keywords in your headline.
Similarly, resume summary statements can be used to display your unique offering in one condensed block of text. While summary statements are not required, they provide an opportunity to further curate your skills and experience.
While coursework will eventually fall off your resume, it’s perfectly acceptable for recent college graduates to include relevant classes and skills learned on their resumes. Tailor the courses you include to the job, highlighting only relevant coursework and skills learned. Include hard skills keywords where possible.
College students and recent grads already know that internships are one of the best ways to gain experience and get a foot in the door. If you’ve worked an internship, highlight your contributions with concrete details, backed by numerical statistics wherever possible.
GPA, Awards, and Accolades
If your GPA is impressive, including it could help demonstrate your commitment to your work and other soft skills hiring managers are looking for. Same goes for any awards or accolades; they’re great supporting evidence of your potential as an employee. These things, however, are not required and can be left off your resume at your discretion.
Including volunteer work on your resume is a good way to show hiring managers that you know how to follow through on your commitments and are generous with your time. It’s also a great way to display unique skills learned through your volunteer experiences.
Activities, Projects, Associations, and Clubs
Recruiters and hiring managers are often looking for evidence that a candidate is passionate about their industry—or passionate about anything at all. Several of the recruiters we interviewed (see below) communicated that, at the end of the day, they want to make a person-to-person connection when reading a resume. Including extracurricular activities and passion projects, whether in association with your college or not, are great ways to tell your story and bolster a hiring manager’s confidence in your soft skill abilities.
Delivering pizza or stocking the shelves of your university bookstore may not be relevant to the position you’re applying to, but any job experience can illustrate your commitment to a company and your ability to multitask. Where possible, highlight transferable skills such as client communications, team management, and creative ideation. Be sure to include any promotions.
3 Jobscan Tips for Writing Your College Resume
Ditch the ‘objective’ section.
Including an objective on your resume is a dated tradition that still lingers about, especially among entry-level candidates. While having a clear idea of what you’re looking for in a position is important to your job search, career objectives put the emphasis on your needs rather than the company’s. They don’t say much about how you can contribute, and as we noted above, the purpose of your resume is to illustrate the value you can bring to an organization.
Create multiple master resumes.
As a recent college grad, you may not know exactly which field or industry to target at the beginning of your job search. This is especially common for graduates with more general degrees like Business Administration or English. While you’ve no doubt acquired many new skills during your college career, they may not be specific enough to pave a solid path toward any one job.
In these cases, you can create master resumes for multiple career paths. For example, a Communications major could have a Journalism master resume and a Digital Marketing master resume that looks completely different.
When possible, include keywords from the job posting.
Resume keywords are primarily hard skills that recruiters, hiring managers, and applicant tracking systems are looking for when they initially screen resumes. You’ll find position-specific keywords in the job posting. Look for opportunities to include these keywords in the context of your coursework and/or relevant internships. You can also look for places to include keywords in your resume headline, summary section, and skills section.
Use Jobscan to optimize your resume keywords.
5 Pieces of College Resume Writing Advice from Our Community of Recruiters, Hiring Managers, and Job Coaches
We asked recruiters, hiring managers, and job coaches about what impresses them on a college resume. Here’s what they told us.
1. Focus on your education and academic achievements in lieu of job experience.
“If you have no work experience whatsoever, then you should show more detail in your ‘Education’ section. Your academic experience is your professional experience in this case. If you led a project, led a meeting, participated in a club or organization, gave a presentation, or anything else like that, it may be worth mentioning to fill out your resume and show employers what you can do.”
Biron Clark, Former Recruiter and Founder of CareerSidekick
2. Be relevant.
“If you are a recent graduate applying to a marketing position, it would be ideal to include any relevant and pertinent courses taken on your resume. In addition, updating your resume to include marketing-related work or activities done, whether via an internship, a volunteer opportunity, or any club associations, will help you to stand out and be seen as a more qualified candidate.”
Robert Moses, Founder of The Corporate Con/noisseur
3. Put a spotlight on your volunteer experience.
“If I see that a candidate volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, and the task was to build a house, I know this person has no qualms about picking up a tool and learning how to use it to build something useful to others.”
Dawn D. Boyer, Ph.D., CEO at D. Boyer Consulting
4. Get personal.
“My one recommendation is to include something personal on your resume: hobbies, interests, background, etc. I understand the need to take a professional approach to a resume, but often what stands out is a little personality. At the end of the day, it’s people hiring people. This type of stuff stands out as we look for people who are as much as a culture fit as a technical fit.”
George Kuhn, President at Drive Research
5. Highlight your creativity and passion projects.
“I’m obsessive about looking for personal projects that an applicant includes on a resume. I find these examples illustrative of an individual’s creativity, attention to detail, and also self-motivation in many cases. I’m less ‘wowed’ by a project that was obviously part of a school curriculum requirement than one that was created through an applicant’s personal interest in a subject. I believe examples of an applicant’s approach to such projects provides an invaluable insight into how they handle professional tasks in the future.”
Zack West, Hiring Manager at Novomotus