Resume Tips for College Students

As a college student, you may be a little intimidated at the thought of having to put together a resume for an entry-level job. You might not have a lot of work experience to list besides possibly an internship, or you may be an adult learner with some relevant work experience. So, what should you highlight instead? Spectacular grades? Those four semesters working on the student newspaper?

The answer is a combination of them. Here are some resume tips for college students who are hoping to land their dream job right after graduation.

What Is a Resume?

A resume showcases a summary of your work experience, education, and skills. While also including your name and contact information, a resume may or may not include references, too.

Even though a resume is similar to what’s called a curriculum vitae (CV), it is also different. A CV lists your entire career, education, and skills without any limits to its length. A resume, on the other hand, typically contains up to the previous 10 years of your work experience and is one or two pages in length total.

There are three types of resumes: chronological, which is perhaps most common; functional; and combination. The type of resume you may use largely depends on your background. For college students who have little to no relevant job experience, a functional or combination resume may be more beneficial as they either focus on your qualities and attributes or highlight your work experience or skills without promoting one over the other. For adult learners, a chronological resume may be more preferable so that you can highlight your relevant employment some more.

Should I Showcase My Education or Work Experience?

As a college student, you may not have a nice list of relevant work experience to feature on your resume. If you do have some, you can place this information before listing your education; this is also ideal if your degree isn’t related to the job you’re applying to. But what happens if it’s the opposite for you and you have minimal work experience?

You should still include any previous jobs you had, but if they’re irrelevant, keep their descriptions to a minimum. According to job posting website, “if you waited tables to help pay for college but your goal is software engineering, you don’t need to provide a description of your day-to-day responsibilities taking orders and clearing tables.” Instead, you should detail any leadership skills or display your determination by fixating on the important parts of your previous work and any projects you contributed to.

If you do have relevant work experience and it extends past one page of the resume but is still within the past 10 years, you can include all of it. However, if you have any gaps in employment, you should address them in either your resume or cover letter, and include transferable skills you learned. If you’re wondering how to address them, you can consult a career services expert for some ideas, such as the one available to you through Shawnee State University Online Campus.

Employers don’t expect you to have a ton of work experience at the beginning of your career, but they want to know what you can bring to the company and how you can be successful. In this case, you should showcase your skills, educational background, and any volunteer work or extracurricular activities. The best way to find out what a company wants is to read the job description — and then show them that you have those exact skills.

There are two types of skills you should include on your resume: soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills include your personality traits, such as your communication or time-management skills. If you’re unsure about your traits, ask your friends or relatives to describe you. Hard skills, on the other hand, are technical skills, such as programming languages or foreign languages. If you notice in a job description that the employer is seeking specific hard skills, list them prominently on your resume and include your proficiency with them. Have advanced knowledge in Adobe Illustrator? Put it on there.

Also, if your education includes coursework that is related to the job, you can mention it on your resume, along with any academic achievements. You should also include your GPA, too — but only if it’s at least a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. If your overall GPA is lower than your major GPA, use your major GPA instead.

Including your extracurricular activities and any volunteer experience can show the employer that you have real-world experience and will add context to your value as an employee. Did you serve in the military? Were you a member of a sorority, fraternity, sports team, or club? Add those also as they demonstrate that you are both community-minded and committed. Don’t forget to mention any skills you learned through them. However, if you have any volunteer or service experience that shows political or religious affiliations, you may want to exclude details as listing may result in inadvertent discrimination by potential employers.

Standing Out In the Pile of Resumes

Many employers, recruiters, and job listing websites use applicant tracking software to screen resumes they receive. This software searches resumes for keywords that match a job description.

To stand out, pay attention to what’s listed in the job description for specific skills, especially in the job responsibilities, key qualifications, and minimum requirements sections. Jot down those phrases and think about how your abilities and skills best fit with those keywords and place those on your resume. Your resume should showcase how you would successfully fulfill the job’s required tasks and the traits the employer is seeking.

Other Resume Tips for College Students

When crafting your resume, try to avoid words that are often overused, such as “hard working,” in order to avoid any miscommunication about your skills. Instead, use verbs that demonstrate what you have accomplished, such as “influenced” or “improved.” If you consider yourself as hard working, include the numbers to support it. You can say something along the lines of, “Increased sales revenue by 150 percent within nine months.”

You should also include an objective on your resume. Also called a resume summary or objective statement, the objective is placed at the top of your resume to help capture the employer’s attention. No more than one or two sentences, the objective should list the most important skills you will bring to the position, using the keywords you found in the job description. Mention your relevant experience and any credentials you may have.

Finally, one of the most important resume tips for college students is to edit your resume. However, don’t begin editing when you’re still putting your resume together — wait until about 24 hours after you’ve finished writing it. This helps give you a fresh set of eyes so that you’re more likely to catch any spelling or grammatical errors. Ensure that all proper nouns, such as company names, are capitalized correctly, and that contact information for references is current.

To help catch any glaring errors, try reading your resume backward so that you can focus on each word. You can also have a friend or family member read your resume. They may be able to catch details you missed and provide suggestions for what you should (or should not) include.

Incorporating these tips into your resume can help give you an advantage over the competition and lead you toward a profession in your field. Properly highlighting your skills, education, and any relevant experience will allow you to stand out among the position’s other applicants.