5 Tips for Writing Your First Resume

Searching for your first post-college job can be both exhilarating and intimidating. One key to getting your foot in the door is to understand what it takes to compose an effective resume. Most resumes follow a set structure and include information such as an objective, level of education, and work experience. The challenge comes when deciphering how to organize this information and understanding how much detail to include.

Before hitting the job market, ensure your resume sets you up for success. Here are tips for writing your first resume:

Tips for the resume objective

The objective section of a resume is an introduction that briefly explains who you are and what position you’re seeking. It appears at the top of your resume, below your name and contact information.

Your objective should reflect your goals for the specific job you’re pursuing. For example:

  • “To obtain employment as assistant to the CEO at [company name], leveraging my strong organizational skills and my education in the field of business management.”

Keep your objective brief and make sure it says something valuable. An objective that’s too generic won’t set you apart from other applicants. Try to use words that reflect the company’s job posting whenever possible.

An alternative is to include a summary section, which is an elevator pitch of sorts—a similar statement that sums up what you offer as a job candidate.

[RELATED: 4 Tactics for Landing Your Dream Job]

Tips for the resume education section

In this section, it’s important to be honest and straightforward. If you have multiple degrees, list the most recent or advanced first. You don’t need to list your high school diploma if you have completed a college degree. Include the following information:

  • School name and location

  • Years attended, including the month and year of graduation

  • Your degree

Aside from the basics, you can include your college GPA if you finished in good academic standing (generally a 3.0 or higher), and if you deem it relevant information for a potential employer to know. Some fields will be interested in this number, while others may not be. Research your particular career and look at the job posting to see if GPA is applicable.

Tips for the resume work history section

One common mistake is thinking you need to include every job you’ve ever had on your resume. As a recent college graduate, you may have some positions in your work history that are more relevant than others. You may have been a lifeguard for three summers in high school, for example, but that experience is likely less important than the summer you spent as an intern in your desired field. Use your space wisely and highlight only your relevant experience.

For each position, list the employer and the dates you worked there, followed by a few brief points summarizing your most important achievements in that role. Focus on areas where you accomplished something measurable; this will give the hiring manager a better idea of what you can contribute. Also, list these points in order of what may be most applicable to the job you’re applying to. For instance, if you’re sending in your resume for a social media manager position, list tasks relevant to that first in your bulleted list and all others after.

[RELATED: How to Continue Learning After College]

Tips for the resume skills summary

This is where you can highlight skills that set you apart—whether they are hard skills, such as computer programming, or soft skills, like strong leadership or communication. Be as specific as possible, but don’t oversell or exaggerate. You can include technical skills, such as knowledge of specific software or equipment, and also list experience with foreign languages. However, this is not a place for purely personal hobbies or interests, unless they directly relate to the position you’re seeking.

Tips for awards, honors, and other relevant resume information

This last section is optional to include in your resume. If you’ve received awards or honors during college that are relevant to your field, include the name of the award and the year received. Additionally, you may choose to include relevant coursework you completed in college. Limit this, though, to just a few courses that specifically illustrate why you possess the background for this job listing. You may also consider mentioning a capstone or senior project if it’s relevant to the job. Lastly, if you held leadership roles while in school that are applicable to this position, you may include the titles and years as well.

[RELATED: 4 Lessons Recent Graduates Should Carry From College]

When putting together your post-college resume, don’t forget to proofread. Also, research resumes in your particular field, in case there’s any other information specific to your profession that must be included. Limit your resume to one page, focusing only on important information that will help you stand out from other applicants.

Any topics you want to know more about? Let us know! The Varsity Tutors Blog editors love hearing your feedback and opinions. Feel free to email us at blog@varsitytutors.com.