It’s a tough job market right now, and even harder for recent grads as, typically, your work experience tends to be brief.
So, with little experience under your belt, what on earth are you supposed to put on a resume? Below we’ve gathered some of our best tips for writing a strong entry-level resume that can help you stand out without widening the margins on your document or adding unneeded fluff. Also, be sure to download Scouted’s resume template to get started.
Don’t add a professional summary
To be honest, here at Scouted, we’re not huge fans of professional summaries or objective sections. They take up valuable space and are mostly redundant information as resumes are already a summary of your work experience. They can, however, be useful for people who are looking to change careers in order to help brand yourself and position your skills accordingly. or recent grads who are looking for their first “real” job, they tend to be unnecessary.
If you are considering adding a summary, it’s important to ask yourself 1). if the information you’re providing is something the reader doesn’t know already from looking at your resume and 2). if the information makes you unique versus being a skill that most people have.
Do briefly summarize why you’d be a great employee and what your goals are
As we said, summary or objective sections are often about summarizing your work experience to make the reason you’re applying obvious to the hiring manager. In the case of new grads, feel free to use this section to mention a couple of unique traits that make you stand out from the rest. Did you hold down a job throughout college, or start a business or found any new clubs or initiatives?
While those accomplishments might not be the same “work experience” you’re now looking for, they can say a lot about your character and why you’d make a great choice for the job. As we’d tell anyone, put what will make you stand out in this section and, above all, keep it brief.
Here are two examples of entry-level summaries:
Good – this example is specific and unique to the individual at hand.
First-generation college graduate with exceptional work ethic and time management skills; worked a minimum of 30 hours a week throughout university while maintaining a rigorous academic course load. Extensive experience in customer-facing positions, sensitive to diverse cultures and personalities, willing to do whatever it takes to achieve goals.
Not good – this example is generic, anyone could include this on their resume so it does not help you stand out.
- Excellent verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills
- Recognizes the importance of punctuality, organization, and safety guidelines
- Sensitive to diverse cultures and personalities through experiences in the workplace
- Advanced computer skills in Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, HTML, and WordPress
- Self-motivated and able to work well in a team and independently
Don’t get overly creative with your resume
Unless you’re looking for a creative role in graphic design or branding, your resume shouldn’t stand out simply because of its color palette. This can be distracting and also difficult for ATS (applicant tracking systems) to properly analyze. For example, most ATS are not able to efficiently scan resumes formatted with two columns. Additionally, be sure to leave any photos off your resume.
Do stick to a template (like this one) and keep it clean and easy to read
In just a few seconds of reading your resume, a hiring manager should be able to have some idea of the career you’re trying to pursue and the reason you want to work with the company. Passion and excitement are a big deal when it comes to hiring manager’s assessment of candidates, so understanding why you want a particular job is important.
Do keep your resume to one page
This is advice we tell all our candidates: If you have less than ten years full-time work experience, keep your resume to one page. No exceptions. Hiring managers understand that young talent (especially recent graduates) will not have much by way of corporate experience to add to their resume, so listing the 100 extracurricular activities in which they participated in college really doesn’t do anyone any favors.
If you do have a hard time fitting your resume to one page, list only your most recent or most relevant internship experiences and play around with the formatting so everything fits cleanly on one page. And, remember, the amount of real-estate that any one experience takes up on your resume should be directly proportionate to the amount of time you spend doing it and how relevant it is to the job you want.
Pro tip: Always save your resume as a PDF to avoid various operating systems from reformatting your resume.
Don’t overuse industry buzz words
When anyone has a lack of experience, it can be tempting to try to fill the void with industry buzz words or “fluff” that makes it seem like there’s more experience there than what’s reality. While doing your homework on a company and industry is extremely important, do your best to make sure you can explain everything on your resume and be honest about the experience under your belt.
Do mirror the wording in job descriptions that interest you
Take a look at the job descriptions for the roles you want and pick out phrases that the hiring manager will look for on your resume (of course, if they’re applicable to you). This will help you not only see what’s important to the hiring manager but also what key aspects you should focus on when writing your resume.
One of the important points to note here is to look at your experience and skills and see what skills are transferable to the roles you’re applying for. Once you know this, set your resume up so that a hiring manager can see this too. For example, if your job title in a past retail role was “Crew Member,” this doesn’t tell a hiring manager how you learned skills that will transfer to your next job. Rather, adding the title “Sales Associate” to your resume is not only a better descriptor of your experience, but also tells hiring managers that you have experience in sales and in customer-facing roles.
Do demonstrate what you have accomplished
How does one do this? 1) by quantifying your experience, and 2) by using as many action words as possible. Use numbers to establish the impact you had in your past experiences, to illustrate your scope of responsibility, and to show off how you were most effective. For example, rather than saying “Meet or exceed established store and individual sales and performance goals daily,” instead say, “Critical member of five-person team responsible for bringing home a minimum of $5000 of revenue daily.”
Pro tip: If you get a full-time offer from a summer internship but declined it, put “full-time offer received” next to the role title on your resume. This way companies don’t automatically assume that you didn’t get the offer.
A few more Dos:
- Do list volunteer experience.
- Do list internship experience.
- Do list extracurriculars & leadership experience.
- Do have a friend or family member read over your resume.
- Do list skills that come with a certificate.
- Do list 1-2 hobbies or interests at the bottom of your resume. It helps humanize your resume.
- Do use a professional email address.
- Do include short descriptions of the companies you’ve worked for, especially if they are not household names.
- Do mention any honors or awards.
A few more Don’ts:
- Don’t list basic computer skills like Microsoft Office. You want to showcase skills that not everyone has. If you can code in HTML it is implicit that you can use Microsoft Word, so don’t undermine your unique skills by listing the obvious ones.
- Don’t include high school accomplishments, focus on what you’ve done most recently.