Tips for showcasing your unique qualifications as an entry-level candidate.
As a recent graduate, being a student has essentially been your full-time job for the past few years. This does not mean you have “no experience.” Internships, volunteer roles, major class projects, and other unpaid efforts all contribute to your experience and knowledge and can be a great benefit to your next employer. In addition to your degree, what you have accomplished along the way deserves space on your resume and will help you stand out among your peers with (seemingly) the exact same qualifications.
These general resume strategies for new graduates won’t apply to everyone. All job seekers, even if at the same level of experience, are different. Find what applies to you in the list below to piece together strong resume:
- Summary and Key Skills. Even as an entry-level candidate, a strong summary and appropriate key skills section will work for you. Your summary may not be more than 2 or 3 sentences long, but can still encompass your enthusiasm, areas of interest, and special skills gained during your education. Using a modified objective statement within your summary works as well if your prospective positions require skills you may not have yet. For example, “Recent graduate eager to continue advancing project management, scheduling, and quality control skills.”
- Education – Expanded. Your education section belongs within the top half of your resume. As a new graduate, the details tied to your degree are appropriate to include: graduation year, GPA, honors, scholarships, activities, thesis/research focus, select courses, etc. If you have a lot to show here, consider creating a separate section to highlight special projects and activities.
- Internships and Unpaid Work. Not being paid for a position doesn’t mean it can’t be included on the resume. Provide details on your duties/responsibilities and any major achievements. If you are going to include unpaid positions, be sure to title that section of your resume appropriately: “Internships & Volunteerism,” not “Professional Experience.”
- “Other” Experience. Suppose you recently graduated with a degree in environmental science and spent the summers tutoring children in your community. You don’t wish to land a job as a tutor, however the skills gained in your summer job – leadership, training, motivation, time management, attention to detail – may likely be attractive to hiring managers in multiple industries. Weigh your “other experience” against your current objective to determine if these roles warrant space on your resume and which details will work in your favor.
- Play up the positives. You can’t change your age or years of experience. Entry-level job seekers do however have attractive attributes to hiring managers: enthusiasm, high energy level, eagerness to learn, trainability, flexibility, a fresh perspective. Sprinkle these qualities throughout your resume, and even better, back them up with real-world examples of how you turned around a failing project, encouraged a coworker to succeed, taught yourself a new software program, or found a better way to accomplish a task.