Resume Tips for New Graduates / Entry-Level Workers

by Kimberly Sarmiento

New Graduates

Whether or not a student was highly active in college, many soon-to-be graduates find it difficult to determine which of their experiences have value on a resume. One of the first recommendations college graduates need to follow is to limit their resume to one page. This article is designed to highlight the different areas of experience that might be relevant to a hiring manager, but if you find your resume exceeding one page, you should limit yourself to the most important information and leave off the rest. Most hiring managers don’t expect anyone with less than five years of professional experience to have a resume exceeding one page.

Please consider the following areas for inspiration on content, but remember to prioritize the most important information and remove material that is less relevant. 

If you are in the category of acquiring a degree with a substantial amount of work history that is relevant to your career, I would recommend putting your education at the bottom of your resume without a date. I only add the year of graduation to a client’s resume to explain why they have less than 10 years of work experience. Even if you completed your degree recently, there is no reason for you to structure your resume like a new graduate if you have the work history to back up your aspirations.

Education

If you are a new graduate with limited work experience, highlighting your academic training will be imperative. Once you have completed even an associate’s level degree, it is standard practice to remove references to high school education or activities. Similarly, once you have a few years of work experience to list on your resume, you will start to minimize how much space you allow for your education. However, for now, consider including the following:

  • Degree name (including major/minor)
  • Name of your university
  • Grade point average (if you have a 3.5 or higher) and any references to being named on the Dean’s list or graduating with honors (cum laude, summa cum laude, magna cum laude)
  • List of key courses (specifically courses that qualify you for the job you are pursuing)
  • Thesis title or other published papers
  • Class related projects that demonstrate key skills
  • List of technical skills that are required for your professional pursuits (SPSS, AutoCAD, etc.)

Internships

Whether your internship was paid or unpaid, any work you did over the course of your studies that specifically relates to your professional pursuits should be listed under “Professional Experience” on your resume. 

When listing intern positions, you should treat them the same as any other professional entry. Include the name of the company, your title, and the year(s) of your experience. You should list several bullets describing your daily duties and responsibilities and any specific achievements you want to highlight from your experience. Consider the following:

Company Name, New York, NY
Summer Intern, Investments, Internal Audit (2013)

  • Recognized as the top ranking Intern of Internal Audit Division as scored on final intern assessments.
  • Assisted senior management in all phases of internal audits by composing lead sheets and annotating essential documentation to assess risk levels and controls.
  • Completed internal audit and compliance training for new hire on-boarding and risk management.

Employment

While internships or employment in your related field will be the most important employment experience you can include, it could be of value to list other jobs if you have space for them. A retail or waitressing job can still convey value to an employer by demonstrating that you possess important transferable skills. The same can be said of time spent working in a family business. 

As a result, you might want to highlight a certain amount of work history on your resume, even if it stretches back to when you were in high school. Important transferable skills to demonstrate include:

  • Cash handling/cash register skills
  • Customer service
  • Inventory and stocking
  • Sales and merchandising
  • Order processing
  • Opening or closing processes
  • Computer skills
Experience in the US military is also important to list on your resume, particularly if you qualify for veteran’s hiring preferences. Therefore, if you served in the military and attended college on the GI Bill or were a member of the reserves while earning your degree, be sure to include that in the employment section of your resume.

Organizations and Activities

At this point in your academic and professional career, it is time to remove references to high school activities or sports from your resume. While leadership roles and certain activities from high school might demonstrate valuable skills, a hiring manager will expect you to focus on your collegiate activities instead. 

For many students, their course load and working a part-time job is enough on their plate. However, other students become involved in campus activities at varying degrees. In fact, you may have been involved in an area of interest without realizing it. Consider the following which may have value on your resume:

  • Memberships in professional organizations (many national-level associations have a collegiate level branch of their organization; if you are a member, list it on your resume).
  • Memberships in fraternities, honors organizations, student bodies, and other campus groups (if you held a leadership role in any of these, list your title and years of service as well).
  • Participation in sports and related achievements.
  • Working as a teaching or research assistant (this should be listed in your experience section, but many students won’t think of it as a “job”).
  • Serving as a resident assistant or other jobs related to dorm life (again, this should be listed as professional experience, but students might not think of it in the same vein as other “jobs”).

Volunteer Activities

If you have not yet filled up your one-page resume with the other areas of experience discussed in this article, volunteer work can be useful to convey certain skills to an employer. However, as I consult my professional clients, try to include volunteer activities that have little “downside” and specifically relate to the career you want to pursue.

Some volunteer activities need to be carefully weighed in terms of potential benefit vs. potential risk. No matter how young and idealistic you are, students still must realize that not everyone will share their political and policy views. You should remember that the more controversial an issue is, the less gain there is from including related activities on your resume. Consider the following:

  • Since no one can legally ask you questions about your race, religion, or even age, there is no reason to include information on your resume that reveals those facts about yourself.
  • There are many varying opinions on religion – particularly in the US. Including information that reveals your religious leanings cannot help but color the opinion of the decision-maker reading your resume. Since we cannot know ahead of time if that information will create a positive or negative opinion, most resume writers will advise leaving this data out.
  • Most hiring managers will not care if you are a Republican or Democrat, or who the last political candidate you backed is. However, unless you are pursuing a career in a political field, there is little to be gained by highlighting your support of a candidate that a hiring manager might have opposed. Weigh the significance of the work done on a campaign against the risk of not getting called in for an interview when deciding whether to include this information on your resume.

The more controversial an issue, the greater the risk of a hiring manager not calling you in for an interview if they disagree with your stance on a matter. As a result, serving soup to the homeless or tutoring children in reading are far safer volunteer activities to mention than working at Planned Parenthood. No matter what your ideals are, you should consider the opportunities you could lose if a decision-maker does not share your values.

If the advice in this section seems unfair, please try to remember that hiring managers read through stacks of resumes for any one job opening. The process by which they decide whom to call and whom to skip over is extremely quick – many hiring managers report making this decision in mere seconds of scanning the resume. As a result, it is unlikely they are directly eliminating any candidate because of anything mentioned in the section above. Resume writers simply want to avoid giving a hiring manager a subconscious reason to put you in the “don’t call” pile. 

Final Thoughts

The organization of your resume will depend on which skills or accomplishments you want to highlight the most. You can also include a “Summary of Qualifications” section that highlights the things you most want a decision maker to know about you.

Be sure to also include a professional sounding email address in your contact information and a phone number that you will either answer directly or one where you can trust thorough messages will be taken for you.

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