Résumé Writing for New Grads

Posted June 23, 2014 by
Laura Brown, PhD

Laura Brown, PhD

You’re graduating — congratulations on your achievement! If you’re like most new grads these days, though, you’re probably not spending a lot of time resting on your laurels — you’re on to the next big challenge in life: finding your first full-time permanent job. Your résumé is the centerpiece of your job application. Although many new grads worry their résumés are too brief to tell a good story about them, don’t worry — no one expects you to show 20 years of work experience on your résumé. Even if you have little or no relevant work experience, you can still create an impressive résumé that will catch the eye of recruiters and hiring managers.

Brainstorming is the key to creating good content for your résumé. Naturally you’ll want to showcase your paid work experience and your internships. But you have a lot more to offer than that. Sit down and make lists of your experiences and achievements, even if they don’t seem immediately relevant to the job you’re applying for. What volunteer experiences have you had (even those that were not formally arranged)? What foreign language skills do you have? Special computer skills? Other skills that set you apart? Talk with your parents and friends to get ideas; they might remember things you don’t.

Don’t overlook academics. If you’ve taken any classes that make you an especially good applicant for this job, consider creating a “Relevant Coursework” section on your résumé. Describe independent study projects or your senior project. If your GPA is 3.0 or higher, mention it. Include any academic honors you’ve received. You see — you’ve done more than you thought!

Once you have your content in place, it’s time to craft the résumé itself. These dos and don’ts can help:


  • Begin your résumé with an “Objective” section. Your work experience doesn’t show a career trajectory yet; putting an objective on your résumé can help people understand where you see your career headed.
  • Put the “Education” section immediately below your objective. Once you have more work experience, education will drop lower on the résumé.
  • Use keywords. Many companies use résumé-scanning software to search for the keywords from the job description. If your résumé doesn’t have them, it will probably never be seen by a human. The “Objective” section can be a good place to put keywords if they don’t fit naturally into other parts of the résumé.
  • Use strong action verbs to describe your activities. Try beginning each bullet point with an action verb. Make sure your bullets are grammatically parallel.
  • Use a professional format for your résumé, and keep it clean and consistent. Use at least a one-inch margin all around. People scan résumés before they read them — make sure yours is easy on the eyes.
  • Be sure all your contact information is accurate and professional. Use an e-mail address that contains your name. Be sure the message on your voicemail is businesslike.
  • Proofread carefully for errors in grammar and punctuation, for typos, and for consistency in formatting. Give your draft to at least one other person and ask them to proofread it carefully. Errors on résumés create a very bad impression, so be sure yours is completely free from them.


  • Don’t embellish or fudge on your résumé. Tell the truth. Compromising your integrity is a poor way to start a new job, and it’s very easy to get caught.
  • Don’t go over one page in length.
  • Don’t clutter your résumé with lots of different fonts and crazy formatting. Your résumé should attract attention because of its content, not because of weird formatting.
  • Don’t put your references on the résumé. Wait to provide them till you’ve been asked.

While you’re polishing your résumé, don’t neglect the cover letters you’ll write to accompany it. Customize your cover letter for each job application. Use it to highlight your interest in the company or industry and to point the reader to especially relevant sections of your résumé. Many companies will treat your cover letter as a writing sample, so make sure it’s well written.

There’s a lot in the news these days about how tough the job market is, and the job search can be challenging and stressful. But there are lots of companies that are looking for smart, accomplished young people just like you. Take the time to create a résumé that shows you at your best, and you’ll be putting yourself ahead of the competition and on track to connect with a job that really suits you.

© 2014 Laura Brown, author of How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide

Author Bio
Laura Brown, PhD, author of How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide, has taught writing to just about everyone — from corporate executives to high school students. Her expertise encompasses instructor-led training, individual coaching, classroom teaching, and e-learning development. She has more than twenty-five years’ experience providing training and coaching in business writing, and she has also taught composition and literature at Columbia University. She lives in New York.

For more information please visit http://www.howtowriteanything.com, and follow the authors on Facebook and Twitter

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted in Career Advice for Job Seekers | Tagged Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,