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9 No-Fail Resume Writing Tips for the College Grad

Jul 14, 2017 | Harrison College

9 No-Fail Resume Writing Tips for the College Grad

So, you just graduated ... or you’re about to. Either way, the anxiety, excitement, and uncertainty of life after college is looming, and you’re probably freaking out.

First off, congratulations! Take some time to soak up the years of incredible memories you just made, be proud of this huge accomplishment, and enjoy every bit of your Sundays no longer spent writing papers. While it may seem scary and a bit unfathomable, life after college can be even more amazing than college — but it’s up to you to be proactive about taking those next steps (which is probably why you’re here, so kudos to you).

Let’s start with your resume. If you ask around, everyone — from your college’s career services counselor to good ol’ mom and dad — will have different opinions on what should and shouldn’t be included these days. While we’re not saying to ignore their advice, make sure to follow these tried-and-true tips for creating a solid, job-ready resume.

List Everything, Refine Later.

Begin by making an informal list. Jot down everything you were involved in these last four years — studies, extracurriculars, awards and honors, job experience, internships, work study, volunteer efforts. Now, dive deeper into each item on your list and make notes on your role, what you did and what you accomplished (either individually or as an organization). Now re-read through your list. Edit, refine and cross out items that seem insignificant now that you have a greater perspective, like...

Kiss High School Goodbye.

The majority of the world will say to omit anything from high school on your resume. Employers want to see mature experience, accomplishments and skills they know you can apply to the workplace. There might be a few exceptions, like if you continued to work at the same place during college as in high school, or if you held a large role or volunteer position that is 100% applicable to the job you are applying for. But for most of us, say sayonara to high school.

Be Objective and Actionable.

Stay away from listing fluffy, subjective experience, accomplishment, or traits like “team player” or “extremely creative.” Employers will ignore these 99% of the time unless you prove it. You know the old saying, “show, don’t tell”? Instead of stating you’re a team player, try something like “Collaborated with 10 planning committee members to achieve [x].” Also, start your descriptions with strong action verbs that prove your initiative. Here’s a great list of powerful verbs that will make your resume more awesome.

Use Numbers and Results.

Compare the following: “Organized a large philanthropic event” or “Organized a large philanthropic event for 5,000 attendees which raised $100,000.” Here’s another one: “Improved student dining hall satisfaction” or “Improved student dining hall satisfaction by 25%.” Which set sounds more impressive? Whenever you can, quantify your accomplishments and experiences. Numbers and results are eye-catching for employers because this is what they look for from their own team, and they’re a great way to set yourself apart from the competition.

Don’t Include These Items.

Free up precious space and keep your resume from coming off as outdated, naive, or arrogant by leaving these items off:

  • An objective - They take up extra room on your resume. Plus, your objective is most likely implied (or even covered in the cover letter), so it’s just redundant.
  • Short-term jobs - Could raise a flag that you were fired or had trouble getting along with others. An exception here would be a summer or semester-long internship, for example.
  • Expected salary - Just don’t list it.

Make It One Page.

Employers spend anywhere from 6-20 seconds looking at initial applications, so extra or double-sided pages will be ignored (and probably chuckled at). If you find yourself going over in length, comb back through, cut down on wordiness and remove unnecessary items.  

Proofread (More Than Once).

Nothing can hurt your credibility or ensure your resume immediately gets tossed in the trash more than misspelling and punctuation/grammar mistakes. Resume errors scream lack of attention to detail and carelessness. Make sure to proof it multiple times throughout the process — and even read it out loud to yourself. Reading out loud helps you identify words or phrases that might sound awkward.

Seek Feedback.

Always have a second or third pair of eyes review your resume. Many times, they might catch or think of something you haven’t before. Even more helpful? Ask for resume feedback from a former grad with a job similar to the one you’re applying for, run it by someone you know who is involved in their company’s interview process or ask for help from the career services department at your campus. Their advice will be applicable, invaluable, and appreciated.

Use Your Resources Wisely

Consult the resources and people around you. If you’re still on campus, make an appointment with your career services center. Or go online, browse LinkedIn, and find examples of stellar resumes to use as a guide. Even just reading through some examples might help spark past experience or projects you had forgotten about.

And there you have it. Getting started is the hardest part (we promise) so go ahead and jump that hurdle now. Before you know it, those “resume scaries” will be a thing of the past.

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