As a college student, it’s essential to build your resume in preparation for job applications, especially if you’re about to graduate. If you’re a college student looking for tips to craft a winning resume, you’ve come to the right place.
The average employer spends 7 seconds reading over a resume. Thus, your resume needs to capture their attention, showcase your work experience, and compel them to give you a callback. Put simply, your resume needs to stand out from the crowd.
The first step in creating a great resume? Start with an outline.
A resume outline provides the framework to adequately summarize your work experience and present yourself in a way that will impress prospective employers in a short amount of time.
This article will guide you through creating a college student resume outline, dos and don’ts, details to include, and examples for reference.
As you start to build your outline, consider the following dos and don’ts of a resume. These guidelines apply to all resumes, no matter what job you’re applying for.
As a college student, you may not have a ton of work experience, but you do have qualities that can significantly benefit an organization.
If you’ve been the president of a fraternity/sorority or have managed a group project, you have leadership skills. If you’ve been published in your school’s paper, you have communication skills. If you’ve contributed to multiple organizations, you have solid project management experience that many companies value.
Just because you don’t have years of work experience in your field doesn’t mean you have to sell yourself short on your resume. Brainstorm a list of experiences, whether work or extracurricular activities, and think about the skills you developed that are transferable to your career. Highlight these skills on your resume.
According to research done by HireRight, 85% of people lie on their resumes.
You might be thinking, If everyone else does it, then why shouldn’t I?
Imagine that you get hired for a job, and your boss asks you to do something that you lied about on your resume. Maybe you thought the qualification wouldn’t actually be a requirement for the job, but now that you’re assigned the task, what will you do? What happens when your boss finds out you’re not qualified?
Getting caught in a lie will anger your employer and earn you the reputation of an untrustworthy employee.
Long story short: don’t lie on your resume. Be honest about your experience and qualifications. If you aren’t skilled in a specific area, that’s okay. Take the time to research or learn about it on your own. Employers value honesty and the willingness to learn.
Do be specific
As mentioned above, you may only have 7 seconds to wow a prospective employer. However, this doesn’t mean they won’t scan your resume to find the most interesting highlights.
When the recruiter comes across something relevant (that perhaps every candidate doesn’t have), they will stop and read more about it. Specificity matters—HR wants to know as much as they can about your experience and qualifications.
Let’s go back to the example of leading a project. If it were a significant experience you’d like to include on your resume, be sure to share as many details as possible. What was the project and what was your role? What were the key challenges and how did you overcome them? What was the final result?
Any specifics you provide on your resume should give the recruiter a better idea of who you are as an individual and how you contribute in a work environment.
Do a grammar check
Before you submit your resume to an employer, make sure you have proofread it for any grammar and spelling mistakes. Simple mistakes like these make you look unprofessional.
By running a simple grammar check with a tool like Grammarly, you can ensure your resume looks clean and professional.
Or maybe you decide to spend a few extra minutes reading through and fixing any mistakes. If grammar and spelling aren’t your strong suit, find a friend who can help you proofread—they’re likely to catch mistakes you missed.
Do make it the right length
According to an analysis by Zety, the median length of a resume is 369 words, or about one page. Most people believe that adhering to this one-page rule is essential.
If you don’t think your skills and experience will amount to two pages, don’t try to add fluff. Keep it concise and showcase yourself to the best of your ability.
Details to include on your resume
Your resume should include four main sections: personal information, education, skills, and experience. If you have hobbies that are relevant to the position that you’re applying for, then you can include them as well.
Below, we’ll cover each of the four sections in more detail. Plus, we’ll show you how to use hobbies and other miscellaneous information to your advantage.
Your personal information is usually found at the top of the resume. Here you’ll include your name, email address, phone number, and potentially your mailing address. If not your full address, you should at least include the city and state where you’re located.
For instance, if you’ve taken self-improvement courses with Khan Academy or courses with Udemy to learn a new skill, include them in the education section as well. When possible, list the courses or certifications that are relevant to the position. This shows that you’re willing to go the extra mile to educate and improve yourself.
For instance, a hard skill is something that you’ve directly studied and can prove you’ve acquired. If you’re a computer science major, then one of your skills might be software development in the various languages that you’ve learned.
A soft skill is something that isn’t as tangible. Again, if you’re a computer science major, then you’ve taken a lot of math classes. One soft skill that you’ve acquired in taking math classes is problem-solving.
You have the ability to think logically, use deductive reasoning, and work through a problem to find a solution.
For this section, think through all of your experiences and create a list of skills that you’ve developed. Chances are you’ve developed skills that you haven’t considered like public communication, organization, leadership, etc. Place this list in the skills section of your resume. You can even organize it by hard skills and soft skills. Just make sure, once again, that they’re relevant to the position.
As a college student, you may wonder if you have many experiences worth putting on a resume—but you absolutely do.
Think about all of the summer jobs or part-time jobs you’ve worked while in school. Think about the clubs and organizations that you’ve participated in, the sports teams that you’ve captained, or the papers that you’ve published. Even if the experiences you have aren’t work-related, they have helped you grow as a person and develop crucial skills that you can use for the rest of your life.
While some of your experiences may not be directly related to the position, your initiative and overall personal development will speak volumes.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t include work experience. In fact, this is what employers are primarily looking for in this section. Before you list any other extracurricular experience, you’ll want to list your most recent and relevant work experience. Internships are valuable to include as well.
List your most recent work experience at the top. You should include your job title, the name of the company, and the dates you worked there. Below all of this information, list your job responsibilities and any achievements that highlight your qualifications. Each bullet should start with an action verb, present tense if you still hold this position and past tense if you do not.
This section is where you can put any awards or hobbies that you might have. Some people even choose to list their extracurricular experiences here.
For instance, maybe you’re a black belt in karate, an all-state softball player, or the valedictorian of your high school class. Maybe you’ve volunteered for a local organization for several years or have been the president of a club.
This is the place to list any achievements of which you’re especially proud.
Your experience section should be the most extensive and detailed. We recommend that you only reserve a few lines for your miscellaneous section.
Keep in mind that this section is optional and doesn’t have to be included in your resume.
Now that you know the basics of what to include in your resume, you may be wondering how to put it all together. Below are three resume examples to help you understand what a good resume looks like and what you should avoid. Use these templates as a reference for building your own resume.
“About Me” could be changed to “Skills” or you could highlight your most relevant skills with a high-level overview in this section.
This resume has a clean and minimalist format. The contact information is readily available at the top followed by the “About Me” snapshot. Right below that is the experience section, and the template wraps up the resume with key details of the person’s education—their university, major, plus any awards, honors, or extracurriculars.
Note: If you have relevant experience, adding this before your education makes the most sense because real-world application is highly valued in the workplace. However, if you’re a brand new graduate with very little work history, you can swap these sections until you have more experience. TLDR:Lead with your best credentials/what makes you most qualified.