Resume Tips for Recent Grads and Job Seekers

resume writing tips

So, you’ve gone to your college’s career center for resume tips.

You asked your department advisor, your parents, and even the guy who works at 7-11 for tips for writing a resume.

But you’re still struggling to write your resume (we have a full guide on “How to Write Your Resume“).

Add to that the fact that you’re a recent college graduate and likely can’t afford to hire a certified career coach or resume writer to write your resume for you.

Or maybe you wrote one, but you have yet to secure a job and believe that may be at least partly because your resume isn’t polished enough.

We understand how frustrating resume can be and the complexities in writing one that stands out from other job applicants. We were all there once seeking out resume writing tips to create our first résumés.

Here’s the problem:

Even with all the samples available online, many of which are poorly designed, it’s difficult to know what resume tips are truly effective.

That’s why we’ve compiled here a list of tips that certified career coaches and professional resume writers use when creating resume for both new college graduates and seasoned professionals.

When reviewing resume designs online or elsewhere, use these resume writing tips, and you’ll see what makes a resume truly shine.


1. Clean up your digital footprint

Before even addressing your résumé, do a Google search for yourself and see what images and posts appear.

Is there anything that comes up that you wouldn’t want your parents or grandparents to see? Guess what? Employers will likely not be thrilled with such posts either.

And a lot of employers will be looking at your digital footprint.

Go on your social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and delete inappropriate posts if possible. Also, limit access as to who can view your posts. Remember too that a friend sharing one of your posts may nullify any access restrictions you implemented.

Delete what you can and then post events and accomplishments on your social media platforms to bury or help you overcome any embarrassing posts. Moving forward, always be careful about your online posts!

Why is this listed amongst tips for writing a résumé?

Because if an employer checks your digital footprint before reviewing your résumé, your résumé is likely useless if inappropriate posts exist.

Also, if you have a LinkedIn profile, be sure that any experience and education you have listed there matches your résumé. You don’t want to be eliminated from contention for a job because it looks like you’re not accurately representing yourself.

Got it?

Okay, now let’s jump into some basic resume mechanics.

2. Use an easy-to-read font for your résumé

We understand the pressure to stand out with your résumé. But fancy fonts aren’t the way to do that. The content is where standing out truly makes a difference.

Forget cursive or other creative fonts! Stick with Times Roman (12-point size) or similar fonts. For example, Calibri 11-pt is fine.

As for the color?

Stick with black.

Other colors can be extremely hard to read. You may think it’s boring, but hiring managers and hiring committees are often frustrated when having to read fonts that are yellow, purple, red, green, or some form of metallic.

Our “Resume Samples and Templates” article features samples for multiple types of jobs and industries.

With that advice, we’re ready to turn to the content of your resume.

3. Use a basic heading with your name in a larger font size

This is all you need in your heading, typically in this order:

Name, address, phone number, and email address.

All of these should be in the same font and size, though you can increase the font size for your name to help it stand out.

Increasingly we’re seeing candidates also include a URL for a LinkedIn profile or personal website, which is fine. But if it’s a personal website, just be certain it’s related to the job you’re applying to.

4. List just one phone number

List the number you have the most access to. Don’t list multiple numbers; that can be annoying for hiring managers to have to call multiple numbers.

5. Use an appropriate Email address

Make certain your email username is appropriate. Usernames such as “Ilovecorgis” or “Foodie2018” are highly inappropriate and will likely get your résumé shredded.

6. Ditch the Job Objective

If you’re dead set on including an Objective statement on your résumé, keep it simple. And connect it to the job you’re applying for, such as:

To become a sales associate for Rockwell Jewelers.

Having said this, hiring managers rarely give much weight to or spend time reading job objectives. As space is limited on résumés, we recommend skipping them and saving the space for listing relevant experience, education, and other qualifications instead.

7. List your college education and relevant certifications only

Your high school diploma is unnecessary once you start college. Employers will assume that you completed high school as a requirement to attend college.

In addition to your college degree(s) in reverse chronological order, list certifications or certificates you attained that relate to your career path. Such specialized training can give you a huge edge over other applicants.

8. Include a “Summary of Qualifications” section after listing education

Here’s the deal:

Hiring managers often spend less than 20 seconds reviewing submitted résumés.

So a summary near the beginning of a résumé can help a reader quickly recognize your fit for the position, thereby warranting a fuller read of your résumé.

Such a summary is a great way to highlight relevant (advanced) coursework you completed at college which relates to the position you’re applying to.

Additionally, it’s wise (and effective) to use a Summary of Qualifications to list specific experiences you have that are listed as required or preferred qualifications in the job description for the position applied to.

It’s important to use key phrases and terms from the job ad as many employers use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) which may filter out applications or résumés missing key terms and phrases per the job description.

9. List accomplishments instead of just duties

Speaking of qualifications, here’s one of the most important tips for writing a résumé:

List unique accomplishments from your previous positions. Include statistics where possible for that extra wow factor, e.g.:

Developed a social media marketing campaign that increased company’s website visitation by 35%.

For new graduates with no relevant internship or job experience to their major, listing accomplishments made with regard to “soft” skills can still make an incredible impact, e.g.:

Aptitude for addressing customer complaints and quickly mediating customer and client disputes.

The Importance of Resume Action Verbs” will show you how to utilize action verbs to create unique and professional accomplishments.

10. Include dates during which you worked at a company

More and more members of hiring committees are being picky about the month and year a job applicant started and ended work at a given company.

So to avoid any questions, do this:

January 2013 to October 2015, or 1/2013 to 10/2015

Instead of this:

2013 to 2015

Hiring committees may think you’re trying to hide the full range of time you worked at a company otherwise. And you don’t want to make an impression that you’re dishonest.

11. Don’t include a “References” section on your résumé

Years ago, it was considered a best practice to include a “References” section under which was written, “Available upon request.”

This is no longer considered good form.

Why?

It’s a waste of space better suited to listing more work experience, accomplishments, and education/training.

Are there any exceptions to the rule?

Yes. When you have enough training and experience to warrant your resume going to a second page, but not enough to fill a full second page.  Only in this case, consider including a “References” section where you list names, titles, place of employment, and contact information for two to three references.

Aside from this case, don’t include references on your résumé. Which means that most new college grads should omit references.

12. Stick with one page

While not as hard a rule as it once was considered, it’s usually best to stick with one page for your résumé’s length.

Remember:

Hiring managers spend little time reviewing submitted applicant résumés.

Consequently, adding a second page is often overkill and likely unnecessary. A lot of early employment or volunteer experiences listed on résumés fail to help an applicant’s chances of landing an interview.

13. Email your résumé to multiple friends and colleagues and through multiple programs

Remember the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) discussed earlier?

Such software can mess with the way your résumé prints out for a hiring manager.

For this reason, we recommend you send out your résumé to multiple friends through email, Facebook, and as attachments via other online systems. Doing so could help you determine if any formatting you utilized will wreck your résumé after submission.

14. Have someone else proofread your résumé

Look:

No matter how good of a writer you are, you will likely have typos.

Getting someone else to review what you wrote will significantly increase the likelihood of weeding out any typos or other mishaps. Some hiring managers and/or members of hiring committees get overly concerned about typos, which could lead to a candidate being dismissed from further consideration for an interview.

Even accomplished novelists and editors have other individuals proofread their work. So swallow your pride, and have someone else (preferably a strong writer in your field) proofread your résumé.

15. Use résumé-weight paper in white, ivory, or similar shade

And now for the final step: printing!

Résumés should be printed on 24-lb weight paper. Likewise, you should avoid paper colors that are overly bright as hiring managers may have difficulty reading text on bright colored paper.

We understand the need to “stand out from the crowd,” but using bright or even dark paper with light print usually comes off as unprofessional. That’s not the first impression you want to make.

Finally: Take a moment to hold your resume fresh out of the printer and celebrate that you’re one step closer to your new job.

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