How to Write a College Student Resume That Will Advance Your Career in 2018

What you need for an impactful College Student resume:

As a college student or recent graduate, your resume needs to be versatile. Not only can it be used for job applications, grant applications, and extracurricular activities, but it is used as your connection to the working world post-graduation. When it comes to your resume, here are some tips you should consider:

  • Recruiters often value your attitude over your expertise when getting called for an interview, so don’t shy away from showing who you are
  • Demonstrate how you handle new situations and how you can adapt to the ever-changing working landscape
  • Know your audience - research the company you’re applying to, keep the recruiter in mind, and try have someone from the organisation or field review your resume
  • The rule of thumb is one page per 10 years of experience, so aim for a one page resume
  • A lack of experience in one area doesn’t automatically disqualify you from being considered
  • There are hundreds of creative resumes out there, but the key is staying true to who you are as both a person and professional

A misconception about college student resumes is you need to have absolutely everything in it. A successful college student resume is one that breaks the ice with the recruiter and generates intrigue enough that they call you for an interview. No matter if you’re finding your first job, applying to college, or looking for your first post-graduate position, brevity is your best tool. Keeping things concise and highlight specific achievements will do more for you than giving a long list of every possible activity you’ve undertaken in your time at university.
The best way to learn how to do this is to see others who’ve used this approach and succeeded. That’s why we’ve collaborated with students who have secured jobs at Tesla, AIESEC, Enhancv, the University of York, and others to learn more about what made their resumes successful.

Best College Student resume examples by users who got hired

How to write an College Student resume

Write with purpose

Before you sit down to quickly churn out your resume, think about its purpose. Despite what you may think, that purpose isn’t getting a job. The purpose of your resume is almost always to get called for an interview. Once you’ve got your end goal in sight, you can easily specify your resume to obtain that goal.
It’s also important to throw out convention. Especially within university, students are often told resumes “must” follow a specific format, must look a certain way, and must have particular sections. While this can be true for some areas, you’re going to want to go beyond your textbook on “how to write a resume”. Some key pointers to remember:

  • Whether it’s a reverse-chronological resume, hybrid resume, or another, the order your sections appear should be decided upon by the value of each section to the recruiter.
  • There is often no need to include your full address in your resume header.

Resumes should be specific

Many people believe quantity subsumes quality when it comes to resumes. There’s some logic to that thinking; you want a job, so you should send you resumes to as many people as possible, right? Well, not quite. Building an overly generic resume that isn’t tailored to one position can do you more harm than good. The best strategy when building your college student resume is to read the job specification, research business needs, and see what recruiters are looking for. Then, use your resume to answer all of these questions.

Packaging is key

Having no experience is one of the key concerns of any job applicant, and a particular concern for college students. The reality is, if you’ve lived life, you have some form of experience. The key to success is in how you package the experience you do have, and how you account for the experience you have yet to have. Volunteering activities are incredibly influential on a resume. Perhaps you spent some time in a college club or society, were you on student council? Any of these things are relevant to your position once you highlight the skills you developed that apply to the job you hope to get.
Dean emphasised his volunteer work with mental health organisations to highlight his content writing skills and public speaking when applying to Enhancv.

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Refer to your audience

Recruiters are among the most overworked employees in any organisation. They have a few seconds, maybe a full minute if you’re lucky, to decide if your resume is relevant. With this, it’s best to keep your resume as readable as possible. This means sleek and specific titles, dedicated sections, and an easy flow between those sections. The idea here isn’t to guarantee getting called for an interview in those six seconds, the goal is to not end up in the “No pile” from that initial screening.
Make this scan as easy for them as possible - have a clear resume header, pick an appropriate resume length, and utilise resume buzzwords to pass Automated Tracking Systems (ATS).

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Quantify, quantify, quantify (where possible)

We can all list responsibilities we’ve had in the past. Sure, you may have been involved in student council and have been the Events Manager for Water Polo, but were you any good at it? Including some form of metric (i.e., a number or percentage) with things you have done in the past allow the recruiter to see your impact on their organisation. It’s all about proving you are capable of applying your skills in real-life contexts, not solely in a theoretical sense.

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What 10 sections do you need in your college student resume to make an impact on recruiters and hiring managers?

Keep the purpose of your resume in mind: getting an interview. To get an interview as a college student and graduate, there are some considerations the recruiter will make. Namely, what experience do you have, what have you learned, are you willing to learn more, and what has been your impact thus far? To answer these questions, you can make use of the following resume section. Keep in mind, each position is unique in its own right and what may work for one, may not be suitable for another. So pick and choose as appropriate.

1. Header
2. Experience
3. Education
4. Technologies
5. Courses
6. Skills
7. Most Proud Of
8. Languages
9. Volunteering
10. Favorite Books

1. Resume Header

This section is hard to mess up but also hard to do perfectly. Not only can you use your header to provide contact details (e.g., email and phone number) but it also allows you to link to personal websites or external resources so the recruiter can learn more about you. The obvious choice for this is including your LinkedIn page, but you can link to a resume website too. Especially if you’ve majored in a tech-related field, linking to external pages can set you apart from other students and graduates. Remember, keep your email professional. You should also take the time to update your voicemail on the phone number you leave as your contact (remember, some people still leave voicemails).

2. Previous Experience

Whether you’re still in college or just graduated, the recruiter isn’t expecting you to have decades of experience under your belt. The key here isn’t showing how many companies you’ve worked at or how many times you’ve increased sales, it’s about showing the impact you’ve had in the experience you’ve had. For example, if your experience is working in College Clubs, include that. But tailor your achievements in the club to the role you’re applying for. If you’ve only worked in one or two jobs before this one, even if they’re not directly related to the position you’re applying for now, you can still include these. Remember, it’s all about packaging.

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3. Education

As a student or graduate, you’ve dedicated much of your time to obtaining your degree: so tell the recruiter about it. Not only should you mention your degree title and your GPA, but you can mention relevant classes you’ve taken that relate to your potential position. Even if you haven’t completed your education, you can include the number of credits you have achieved.

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4. Technologies

With most businesses have some technological presence (whether social media, using technology for commercial use or otherwise), detailing the technologies you have experience with can do wonders for getting called for an interview. Brainstorm the software programs you’ve become familiar with throughout your time in college. Have you taken an excel course? Did you use photoshop for an assignment? Have you any experience with statistical packages? All of these can help the recruiter in their decision to put you in the Yes pile compared to the No pile. This is particularly important if an Automated Tracking Systems (ATS) will review your resume first.
Jamie used technologies in his intern resume when getting hired as a video curator after graduating with a Bachelor’s in Photography.

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5. Courses

20% of recruiters agree external courses add value to your resume. Including additional courses adds value as it shows your dedication to personal development, and it indicates your ability to acknowledge skills gaps and make efforts to overcome them. Ensure to read the job description of the position you’re applying for to spot any specific skills the recruiter is looking for - especially preferred skills. This can guide you in the direction of the type of courses recruiters will look favorably on.

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6. Skills Section

One of the most influential parts of any applicants’ resume is their skills section. There are many ways you can present your skills in your resume. For some, it’s best to detail the skills you acquired within your previous experience. However, many recruiters use Automated Tracking Systems (ATS). These scan your resume for specific resume buzzwords and sections. Dedicating a singular section to your most developed and relevant skills can catch the recruiters’ attention in the six seconds they take to initially screen everything and make identifying your skills easier for ATS.
Hannah used this approach when developing her server resume.
As college students and graduates, there are a plethora of skills you have developed. Teamwork, human relations, conflict resolution, you name it.

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7. Most Proud Of

A Most Proud Of section allows your to bridge your achievements and personal interests in one place. The most effective way of doing this is describing a milestone in your career that took skill and meant a lot to you. This can aid you in cutting down on resume length and in demonstrating your ability to synthesise information in a succinct way. You can go one step further and tailor your Most Proud Of mentions to have greater impact. For example, Eric used his Most Proud Of section in his marketing resume to discuss working for Disney. Having a powerhouse of a name on his resume showed his ability to handle high-pressure jobs and to represent a brand; two skills very much needed for his role as Marketing Executive.
As a college student or graduate, this could be a major project you worked on during one of your classes, or extracurricular activities.

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8. Languages

Not only does your language ability allow you to communicate with a greater variety of people, including fellow workers and management, but language ability is linked to your cognitive skill. A language is a skill with infinite possibilities. If you’re bilingual, trilingual, or polylingual, do make sure to include this on your resume. Demand for job applicants who speak more than one language is dramatically increasing. Just remember, there’s no benefit in lying about language ability just to land an interview.

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9. Volunteering

More than 70% of recruiter agree that volunteering makes an applicant more appealing. The opportunities within university to volunteer are innumerable. To include volunteering experience, you don’t necessarily have to call it volunteering. You shouldn’t be anxious about including volunteering that was only for a few weeks or even less, the impact of volunteering shows the recruiter you’re willing to dedicate time you have spare to projects you care about. This sentiment is shared no matter how quantitatively large your dedication to volunteering has been. It plays into culture fit.

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10. Favorite Books

Including your favourite books lets the recruiter see where your ideas and motivations come from, and they’re a great conversation starter in the interview. They allow recruiters to spot applicants with strong moral values and motivations. As a college student or graduate, you can highlight influential textbooks, or books that have shaped your work ethic. Jamie gave insight into the books that shape his creative inspiration as a photographer.

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How to get a referral on LinkedIn for the sales role you want

Relying on nothing but your resume can leave you with less than a 2% chance of getting an interview. As you can see, it’s important to give yourself the best shot possible at getting hired. This includes leveraging personal connections to get referred to a job. Especially as a college student or graduate, you’re competing with a large pool of applicants with many having the same level of experience or qualification as you.
So before you start applying for a new IT role, check your 1st and 2nd degree contacts in both LinkedIn and in any other relevant groups you may belong to. If you don’t have strong connections in the industry you’re looking to establish yourself in, start making them now!
Check out our complete guide to getting job referrals for more actionable tips.

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