How to Write your First Resume (Graduate Resume)?

Are you just out of school and trying to figure out where to start, in writing your post-graduation resume? Here are some tips to understand the strategy you can apply to make your resume more compelling.

The big idea: focus on what your reader is looking for!

As a recent graduate, you won’t have tons of work experience, but that doesn’t mean you should add filler — it will only weigh down your resume. You’re not looking for big words, you need substance. So don’t worry about having a short resume. It’s expected, in your case. Here’s how it will differ from a typical resume (for instance, if you’re using a template.)

And be mindful of your readers’ limited time to look at your resume. They’ll most likely start by quickly scanning your resume (for 10-15 seconds, as has been repeatedly demonstrated). The key information must be very easy to spot! In the future, your resume will be designed to highlight many accomplishments. But for now, you don’t you probably don’t have a lot of accomplishments and results to build on, so focus on quick impact. Think of your resume as a movie trailer. Packed with good stuff. Leaves you craving for more!

So hold back from putting too much. Aim for one page.

How do you structure your resume?

The various sections are as follows:

  • Contact Information
  • Objective Statement
  • Education
  • Experience
  • Technical/Computer Skills
  • (Other)

After opening with your name and contact info, follow with an objective statement. That will also be different when you have more experience, later on. (It’s gonna be replaced by a summary). But for now, a crisp objective statement will give a quick glimpse to the reader.

Your objective statement is made of 3 parts: 1. Quality, 2. Training/education, 3. Job you want to do.

Examples of objective statements for recent grads

  • Dynamic business analyst looking for an entry position in a Fortune 500 company.
  • Freshly graduated computer engineer who wants to do web development for one of those crazy startups.

As the second bullet illustrates, this short sentence might be the only spot on your resume where you can have a natural tone without upsetting convention. Of course, adapt your style to the company that will be reading this! A startup is a place where people work in flip flops and t-shirts. They won’t roll their eyes if they read a casual sentence or two. But don’t try this with a pharmaceutical company or a bank. If you get the tone right, you’ll create a good first impression.

Some resume writers now go for a personal branding statement or a mission statement. It’s fairly similar in approach, but it often has a “first person” perspective to it (“Through my energy and natural confidence, I create…”, or “I inspire teams and companies to overcome…”). I think it can work well, but you just have to be careful not to sound arrogant or out of touch, by overstating how efficient, inspiring and innovative you are.    

After the objective statement comes your Education section. Obviously, the school, diplomas, etc. A good GPA can be shown in there, and you can also put relevant coursework. Scholarships, awards or internships (any way to show academic success) are very good – they show you went above the basic requirements. It demonstrates you have initiative and professionalism, which adds a lot to your resume.

If you feel like your resume lacks some punch, you can always get a reference letter from a professor, and include a quote (2-3 sentences) from that reference letter on your cover letter. It would be a bold move to put it directly on your resume (under a subtitle such as “Endorsement”), but it might work with less traditional employers.

Then comes the Experience section. Later on in your career (maybe 3-4 years from now), you’ll have to move it up before the Education section. It will be more substantial then. However, the 3 Laws of resume writing already apply: if you can put accomplishments in there right now, instead of just roles and responsibilities, that will help you score more points. Additionally, don’t add too much which doesn’t pertain to the job you’re applying for. In other words, your lifeguard position or similar “summer jobs” need to be presented concisely.  

Finally, a Technical Skills section is a great way to complete your resume with the most relevant skills for the job you’re looking for. If you don’t have much, computer skills are often expected, even if you feel it goes without saying (Windows, MS Word, Powerpoint…). So include them; don’t give recruiters (or automated systems) a silly reason to throw out your resume! In some cases, another section might be valuable, especially for volunteering, special projects (an event you’ve organized, a video game you’ve worked on) or team sports (shows a capacity for teamwork or even leadership, if you were captain).