For those in college or recently graduated, landing that first job can be a daunting experience. Many may be discouraged by their lack of experience, while others worry about problems in their academic record. If your greatest selling point is your education, how can you compete with other applicants?
Here are five must-know resume tips for college students and recent graduates about to enter the job market.
1. Lead with education.
As you move up in your career, the work experience section of your resume will become more important and should be placed at the top. At this stage in your life, your educational experiences are your greatest strength. By placing them at the top, you can help make up for your limited work experience.
Keep in mind a few things though. Consider leaving out your GPA if it’s below 3.4. It’s not a requirement to include it. Also, because you are a college student with limited work experience, consider including more than just the name of your college and graduation date. Things like relevant coursework, group projects, and even clubs and organizations should all be considered.
2. Include relevant experience instead of work experience.
Work does not necessarily have to be paid in order to have value. With this in mind, don’t think just because you have no paid work experience that this means there’s nothing for you to mention on your resume. The trick here is to think of the work experience section more as a practical experience section.
This can involve much more than unpaid internships. Volunteer work can also be included to show the skills and experience you’ve accumulated. Think of opportunities where you had to take on important responsibilities. Were you an officer in those student organizations you joined? What projects did you work on? What events did you help facilitate?
3. Write a custom cover letter for each job.
As important as resumes are, they alone will not get you an interview offer. Resumes work best when coupled with a cover letter customized to each job you apply for. While it may not seem worth the effort after spending so much time on your resume, one study by a nation-wide resume company, ResumeGo, illustrates that not including a cover letter can be a big mistake.
The results of that study found that applicants with cover letters carefully tailored to each job yielded just over 50% more interviews than those without. Interestingly, applications with generic, cookie-cutter cover letters fared only slightly better than applications with no cover letter.
4. Take advantage of resume builders
The rookie mistake college students make is starting their resume writing process off with a blank Word document. Instead, there are resume builders online such as Kickresume and Resume Genius that can really make writing your resume a lot easier while also providing various prebuilt resume templates to work with and pick from.
5. Take advantage of your career counselors.
The career center exists…please, take advantage of what they have to offer! Career counselors are specially trained to help college students strengthen their resumes and prepare them for career success.
Even if you might not have a strong connection with your assigned counselor, they will likely provide a far more extensive critique of your resume and job documents than any average Joe Smoe online or resume service. While getting advice online isn’t always the worst idea, know that as a student, you have access to far more reliable resources – so use them!
Even though the job application process can be intimidating, having a good resume is always the solid first step! These tips are sure to get your resume to stand out among the pack.