Tips for the Recent Graduate

Resume Tips for the Recent Grad

How can a new job seeker emphasize a solid education over a short work history? What is the best resume format for a recent graduate? Find out how to focus on your knowledge and skills when you haven't had a lot of jobs.

Does your background have more schoolwork than paid work? Recent grads often have more skills than job experience. If you're wondering if your education and experience are enough to land that dream job, relax. The right resume can help.

Choosing the Right Resume Format

If your employment history is on the short side, you'll need to use a resume format that highlights your education and training. Kathryn Troutman is a leading expert in resume writing and the author of Ten Steps to a Federal Job for Young Professionals. She recommends the following resume format:

  • Name, address, phone, e-mail
  • Objective
  • Summary of skills (use the ones most relevant to your objective)
  • Writing, editing, public speaking, research, computer skills, organizational skills, teamwork
  • Education (most recent college first)
  • College, degree, major, date
  • Activities
  • Honors you have received
  • Major, courses, projects, papers (describe these)
  • Work experience
  • Internships
  • Volunteer experience
  • Publications, speaking, languages, international travel

Susan Ireland is the owner of a California resume service and the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Resume. Her website,, also suggests these possible headings: Exhibitions, Research, Lectures, Licenses, and Certifications. If you have any experience in these areas, include them.

How to Emphasize Education and Training

The new job seeker should organize a resume so that education and training appear before work experience.

"The organization of the recent graduate's resume with education before employment history always emphasizes education, courses, honors, activities and experiences," says Troutman.

Troutman gives an example: "If a recent graduate has worked as a waitress or in retail, the skills that can be highlighted at the top can be: experienced in public relations and customer services; works well under pressure and with multiple assignments."

Ireland says that job seekers can also add internships, other relevant experience, coursework and school activities, such as leadership in athletics or extracurricular participation, to the work history section. Just don't use the heading Employment History since Experience would be more appropriate.

Does Volunteer Work Count?

Ireland says that if your volunteer work is relevant to the position you're applying for, go ahead and include it as part of your work history.

Troutman agrees. "Additionally, if the recent grad has been involved in volunteer experiences, these experiences can be written up like a 'real job.' They can write their volunteer job title, name of the agency, hours per week and the duties. They can write about what they learned and the skills they gained.

"The recent grad who has given their time to young people, seniors, other nonprofit organizations shows they have empathy for people and [they] share their time and skills with others. This is a bonus! And these skills may be used in the next career!"

How Schoolwork Fits Into the Resume

Many of the skills you learn in school are skills potential employers are looking for. That's why you shouldn't hesitate to include relevant schoolwork as part of your work history.

Ireland suggests that if a graduate was working full time, then went back to school and is now in the job market again, it works well to include the time in school as a line in Work History.

"The recent graduate who has taken classes that will support their next career should elaborate on the courses, projects, papers (include the title) and the way the project was managed," says Troutman.

"If the student did independent research, original interviews with experts, created a 10-page [presentation] with graphics, charts and photographs, led a team of five students, or presented a collaborative 10-minute presentation and got an A, that's good information for the recruiter."

Provide details to emphasize the skills you learned. "Describe the course; include the title of a major project or presentation; describe any research, writing and teamwork done on the project; be sure to write if you were the team leader and if you gave a class presentation on the topic," says Troutman.

The Latest and Greatest

Being fresh out of school without much work experience isn't always a disadvantage in the job market. The recent graduate has some advantages, with or without a strong employment history. In many fields, employers must have employees with current knowledge.

Ireland says a recent degree tells an employer that the applicant's knowledge is the latest information. She says that this is especially true in technology and in any medical field. She believes that a potential employer looks at a recent graduate as someone who is not set in their ways and who will be able to grow with the company.

In addition, she says that those hiring employees directly out of school are apt to think, "Here is someone who will likely be able to adapt to our corporate culture. We can train this person to work in our style."

Implement these tips on focusing your resume on your education and training and you'll see just how far those years of study can take you.


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