Applying for your first job out of college can be a tricky task. While you may feel like your industry experience is minimal, with some strategic thinking, you can show potential employers that you are an asset to any company. Below, we give you six college resume tips to try.
Once you’ve graduated from college, it’s time to start thinking about the potential career opportunities that interest you. But, as many people can attest, landing your first job out of college is no easy feat. One solution? A college resume that sells you as a burgeoning expert in your field. Yes, it’s possible.
As with any job application, there are specific characteristics that recruiters look for—even in recent graduates. Since your professional experience is limited, it’s important to think outside the box and highlight your educational accomplishments, relevant industry experience, leadership qualities, and transferable skills.
Read on for more tips about incorporating these skills into your resume.
01. Highlight your academic accomplishments
In the first example above, Mathieu Hervouet has created a digital resume that clearly displays his education history by using bold font and white space. In the second example, Roland Martial has also used a timeline to clearly display his previous education at the top of his resume.
When applying for your first job outside of college it’s important to outline your academic journey thus far—especially if the job is linked to a graduate program.
While there’s no need to go all the way back to elementary school, it’s worth including the college you studied at, and the degree you completed. This shows the recruiter the theoretical knowledge you have.
By doing this, you also show the recruiter that you have the discipline required to complete assignments and pass examinations.
Secondly, it’s important to include your academic achievements. Whether it’s the awards you’ve received, high marks, or glistening references from your teachers, these academic achievements serve as a strong character reference.
02. Focus on your transferable skills
If you want to highlight your transferable skills, add a Skills section to the top of your resume, like the one in Julian Ma's design.
Many will tell you that while you may not have specific industry-relevant experience, that doesn’t mean you lack the skills required for the role you are applying for. In fact, all of your personal and professional skills have taught you something about working for an organization. These are known as transferable skills.
Transferable skills can be defined as, “the skills and abilities that are relevant and helpful across different areas of life: Socially, professionally and at school.”
Whether it’s delegation, people management, or efficiency, when thinking about the transferable skills that you possess, start by brainstorming all the previous accomplishments you’ve had, from job promotions to leadership opportunities at school.
Next, assess the skills that you learned from each. For example, if you were a School Prefect, this shows the skill of leadership. When adding your prior experiences into your resume, make sure to clearly communicate the transferable skills you gained within the explanation section. This will help the recruiter more accurately assess whether you are a good fit for the role.
For a clean resume template that allows you to clearly display your transferable skills, try the Black Orange Modern Photo College Resume template, or the Navy Blue Orange Simple College Resume template.
03. Place emphasis on internships
As we can see in Clémentine Stora’s resume design, she has created a color-coded timeline for all of her experience so far. This is an effective visual trick that allows the reader to quickly assess how long she has spent at each company.
If you’ve been working hard to pass your degree, it’s likely that you’ve had limited full-time, industry experience. By highlighting relevant extracurricular activities and internships that you have previously participated in, you are showing potential employers that you are able to thrive in a team environment and that you have strong social skills. When adding these experiences to your resume, describe the tasks you performed and the skills you learned.
If you’re listing internships that you’ve completed, ask your supervisor if they are able to provide a reference for you.
04. Include leadership experience
You can add specializations or particular strengths to your resume, like in the example above.
While you may not be applying for a managerial position just yet, recruiters often look for the potential of career growth within the company. And this is where previous leadership experience can show your potential.
Getting promoted in your part-time job, being part of a student representative council, or establishing new ways of doing things at your internship all show that you have the potential to grow and be taught within a company.
05. Employ language tricks
Like with an essay, the language you use in your resume matters. Of course, there are the more obvious requirements like proper grammar and correct spelling, but there are also specific language tricks you can use to make a strong first impression on the recruiter:
- Use action verbs. One easy trick to highlight your accomplishments is to use action verbs. Action verbs express physical or mental action. For a resume, words like operated, executed, coordinated, and produced provide a clear picture of your previous experience.
- Mirror the job description. With so many resumes to read, mirroring the language used in the job description makes it easier for the recruiter to find the direct links between your previous experience and the advertised job.
- Quantify when possible. When possible, include numbers to quantify your achievements. For example, you might say that you increased the social media reach of your college newspaper by 15,000 followers on Instagram, or that you helped an average of 60 customers per day at your previous retail job.
06. Use design principles to help sell your skills
For those who work in creative industries, a black background, like the one used in Andy William’s design above, is a smart design trick that allows your resume to stand out from the rest of the white resumes in a pile.
Research has shown that recruiters spend as little as six seconds reading your resume. One way to grab their attention is with your resume design.
While it can be tempting to add as much information as possible, in a previous Canva article, Andrew Morris, the director of recruitment agency Robert Half Australia, pointed out that it’s important to make your resume easily scannable through the use of white space, and a simple font. Here are some extra design tips to consider:
- When planning out your resume, it’s best to edit your academic and professional experience to be the most recent and most relevant. This means that when you go to design your resume, you have all of your text prepared.
- Use a pre-designed template (or design one from scratch) that is most appropriate for the industry you are applying for. If you’re going for an office job in the corporate sphere, it’s best to choose a resume that uses traditional formatting and muted hues. However, if you’re applying for jobs in the creative sector, you can opt for more unique templates that incorporate unique layouts and bold colors.
- Ensure that there is enough white space on the page. A cluttered resume can distract and overwhelm the recruiter. White space allows your resume to become easily scannable.