What’s the best way to show a hiring manager that your one to three years of work experience, relevant internship, and skills make you a better candidate than anyone else?

Your resume. And, technically, your cover letter, too. But we’ll leave that for another time. Right now, you need to know how to make your first resume the best it can be! Read on for a step-by-step look into crafting an effective resume.

The format

Start with a design in mind. Knowing what your resume will look like in the end will help you when strategizing which information to prioritize – because you shouldn’t include every single piece of information. You want to be selective with the information most relevant to the position.

The top of your resume should include your contact/personal information, Start with your full name in first name last name format. This will be followed by your address, phone number, and email address. Depending on the nature of the job, you may want to include a link to a portfolio. Some applicants will also opt to include a link to their Handshake profile. It won’t hurt, and it saves the reader’s time when they inevitably investigate your online presence.

Your summary or objective

This is your window of opportunity. Your summary or objective is what hiring managers will use to determine the value you can bring to their company.

Whichever you use, either should be no more than one to three short sentences. Use an objective when you’re just starting out your career to describe what you seek in your first (or second) job. Use a summary to highlight your best skills and experiences when continuing your career, or if you happen to have a particularly great volunteer and/or internship experience. 

A summary may look like this:

Creative video game developer with four years of experience using Acuity and RealTime engines. Proficient in concept creation including character inception, story writing, and physics-based gameplay mechanics.

Note that it mentions the years of experience using relevant tools in the industry, which should parallel the position’s requirements. It also dives deeper into the areas the applicant might specialize in.

Conversely, an objective might look like this:

A graduate assistant position offering research involvement in current cardiomyopathy research trials, facilitating data collection and analysis.

When writing the objective, pretend you’re starting it with “I’m seeking”. It helps to set the formal tone. Also keep in mind that the objective is much more involved than the summary. You need to tweak it specifically to each job you’re applying to. 

Education

The education section of a resume is standard. The location isn’t. Emphasize your education at the top of your resume, right under your objective/summary, if you’ve just earned or will soon earn your bachelor’s degree.

This section should include:

  • The full name of your college or university
  • Your degree
  • Dates in school, including expected date of graduation
  • GPA (if 3.0 or higher)
  • Any academic honors, awards, or achievements

For example:

Florida State University

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Aug. 2015 – May 2019 or Aug. 2017 – May 2021

3.70 GPA, Cum Laude

President of the Sigma Tau Sigma Nursing Society

Work Experience

Once you’ve caught the reader’s attention with your opening, and ticked off all their education requirements, they’ll turn to this section to see whether your work experience is sufficient. To properly portray all your fantastic undertakings from previous volunteer and internship opportunities, keep your statements short, impactful, and actionable. 

List your past and present places of employment, your position at each, along with dates of employment and your tasks and accomplishments for each, like so:

DA Medical, Inc., July 2017 – June 2018

Data Analyst Intern

  • Tracked patient wait time data and increased satisfaction by 20%
  • Designed and implemented multi-table queries to identify major causes of late insurance disbursements
  • Implemented data mining models to identify unnecessary expenditures, saving DA Medical $50,000.

List your most recent experience first. Be honest and avoid stretching the truth. Keep the list somewhere between 3 and 4 accomplishments most relevant to the job you’re applying to. And, most importantly, make it exciting. Remember these tips and you’ll have a work experience section worthy of a hire!

Additional sections

If you haven’t filled up your one-page resume by now, you might use a skills and/or reference section to do so. 

Your skills section should include, you guessed it, your relevant skills. Be as specific as possible in listing the key skills the job position requires. If an expert understanding of Tableau is required, then list that. If you’re expected to speak German and Spanish fluently, list those too. 

When listing references, ask for permission first. Ideally, you want to list past supervisors or managers who have worked with you, not your professor from your 100-student lecture. Ask someone who knows you well and can vouch for your abilities. If they’re up for it, list them by name, along with their credentials, business address, and approved contact information (phone number and/or email provided).

A reference might look like this:

Dr. Andre Samuels, PsyD

Head Counselor

Counseling 4 All

1555 SW 34th Pass

North Florida, FL 33393

(xxx) xxx-xxxx

ASAM@C4A.org

Once you’ve got your resume set, make sure to upload it through Handshake. If your college has a career services center, you may have access to feedback for your resumes and cover letters, too!