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5 Essential Resume Tips for New Graduates

By Brenda Bernstein

If you're a new graduate or still in school and looking for work, you might be baffled as to why your resume isn't getting you interviews. Your skills and experience are perfect of the job—so why are the companies not calling? You might feel like your resume is going down a black hole.

Here are some tips to help your resume stand out to both humans and computers so that you start getting called for the interviews you want:

1. Don’t be afraid to say where you’re going.

Here’s a sample headline from an award-winning resume: “Candidate for B.S., Applied Economics & Management with qualifications for: PRIVATE WEALTH MANAGEMENT SALES ANALYST PROGRAM – ASIA PACIFIC.” With this header, the candidate does not need an officially-labeled “Objective” statement. And by shouting out that she is poised to step into the position at hand, she exudes confidence and competence.

 Any student can write a headline in this style. Another example, from a student who was extremely successful in his job search, reads “MARKETING & SALES: Entry-level marketing and sales professional from Michigan State University.” By claiming who you are becoming, and not just who you are now, you gain traction with your future employer.

2. Show some personality.

Resumes don’t have to be dull or “all business.” The above-mentioned resume states, “No project is too big or too complex.” That conversational statement says worlds about the student’s drive and initiative. Clearly she will welcome any challenge thrown her way.

 Taking a risk to say something unique makes this student stand out. Does anything on your resume do that for you? If not, think about what makes you who you are, what motivates you, and envision your “tagline." Make it specific to you—something your classmates could not have written-and you will set yourself apart.

Your resume format can also distinguish you. Consider putting a little bit of color or shading into the resume, without going overboard. You might grab someone’s attention visually before they even read a word. Of course, you also need compelling copy to match.

3. You are a professional, not just a student.

Sure, you learned a lot of what you learned through your classes; but why be explicit about that? You have skills and knowledge, so claim them! List them as skills and knowledge. You don’t necessarily have to identify how you acquired those areas of expertise. If you want to be a professional, write your resume as if you already are one.

 Emphasize the leadership roles you played. Perhaps you made a significant contribution through an extracurricular activity, or in your classroom group projects. Highlight these aspects of who you are, and consider creating section headers like “Major Projects” or “Leadership Experience”.

4. Key your resume to the job description.

Your Career Services Office might be helpful in some ways in crafting your resume, but they often do not have the resources to look specifically at each job description to make sure your resume addresses the specific requirements. That’s your job—and it takes some attention to detail.

 If you're sending out your resume and not getting responses, the issue might be that you haven't tailored it to the keywords in the job description. Another award-winning resume contained words and phrases that made it clear exactly how the candidate’s experience matched what the company was looking for. She went from getting no interviews to getting calls from Burger King, HSBC, Coors and Capital One, and she is now a management trainee.

**IMPORTANT: If you're submitting your resume through an online system, your keywords will only work to your benefit if your resume is formatted properly for the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Use a program such as Preptel ( to ensure that computer programs can read your resume.

5. Use testimonials.

It's becoming more common for resumes to include a testimonial. Here’s a quote from a professor that appeared on the award-winning resume: “Karen exhibits extraordinary organizational and leadership skills. She is a driven, creative young woman with desire and discipline who differentiates herself from other students.”

 Another new graduate resume contains the following recommendation: “Aaron is simply one of the best assistants I’ve ever had. He was bright, innovative, completely dependable and always professional. I would recommend him for any position requiring these qualities.”

These quotes say more than the students ever could have explained themselves—and there is no bragging on the students’ part since their recommenders are doing it for them. Wouldn’t you want to hire one of these students based on how highly others speak of them?

Now, take a look at your resume. Does it clearly state where you're headed? Do you display something unique about yourself through both your words and format? Do you come across as a professional or as “just” a student? Have you matched your resume keywords to your job descriptions? Do you utilize testimonials from others?

If you implement the suggestions above, you will be well on your way to getting that phone to ring, and ultimately to your first full-time job as a professional in the workforce!

Brenda Bernstein, Certified Advanced Resume Writer and accomplished editor and LinkedIn trainer, believes that resume writing does NOT have to be a drag! Her effective resumes have not only led to jobs for hundreds of executives and other job seekers, but they have also been nominated for three prestigious TORI resume-writing awards. Brenda authored the Amazon Best-Selling e-book, "How to Write a KILLER LinkedIn Profile," to provide affordable, easy-to-follow advice to professionals on getting results from well-crafted LinkedIn profiles. With an English degree from Yale, a J.D. from NYU, and over 15 years as Owner and Senior Editor at The Essay Expert, Brenda has coached hundreds of professionals and companies who need to look great on paper. Her clients reliably obtain sought-after job interviews, admission to top schools, and measurable business success.


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