Resumes and cover letters

The New Grad Resume Guide: Everything You Need to Get Started

How to approach a resume as a new graduate, with everything you need to get you started.

Ready to show your future employer what you can do?

There’s no better way to do it than with a neat, concise, strongly written resume that clearly lays out your accomplishments, accolades, and skills for competitive employment. As a recent grad looking for work, there are certain attributes you’ll want to prioritize on your resume, especially if applying to an entry level position that focuses heavily on educational requirements and graduation dates. 

What your resume needs

  • Personal information: This includes your full name, address, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile link (if you have one). Make sure the email you include is professional.
  • A strong objective.
  • An updated education section: You might have written a resume before for a part- or full-time job while in college. For those of you who have, this might be the first time you add that bachelor’s degree to your resume.
  • Relevant work experience.
  • Honors and achievements: Because you want to sell the best version of you that you can!

The format

Picture what you want your resume to look like. Having a format in mind will make it easier to organize your information in a concise, attractive way. You can find free resume templates everywhere from Google Drive to Microsoft Word, or you can create your own using Canva or with the Adobe Creative Suite. You can even buy unique resume and cover letter templates on Etsy!   

No matter which design you choose, your personal information should always go at the top in first name last name format. Your name should serve as the title, so to speak, and is generally bolded or in a larger font when compared to the rest of the text. Include the rest of your personal information below. Don’t forget to include any relevant portfolio links if you’re applying for a creative job.

The objective

A typical entry-level resume may include either an objective or summary. However, summaries are best saved for applicants who have more extensive work experience. Objectives are best suited for new grads and anyone starting their career.

Objectives are formal in tone, and should be written specifically for each employer. Use these one to three sentences, max, to convey what you are seeking in a professional role.

For example: 

Dedicated nurse in top 5% of graduating class seeking an opportunity to work at Allies’ Pediatric Nursing Unit, fostering healthy and stable recovery utilizing advanced knowledge of human growth and development.

Notice how much weight a strong objective can pull. It should describe your value, attributes, educational accolades, and desire to work at the particular company you’re working for. When applying to several jobs, you must remember to tweak this every time.

Your education

The education section of a resume is standard. But, if you’re a recent grad, you’ll want to pay closer attention to this section to include your academic achievements. Note that you should place it right below your objective, listing your bachelor’s degree and any other relevant certificates. Do not include your high school information.

This section should include:

  • The full name of your college or university
  • Your degree
  • Dates in school, including the date of graduation
  • GPA (if 3.0 or higher)

For example:

Nebraska BSN University

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Aug. 2010 – May 2015

3.81 GPA

Honors and achievements

It’s worthwhile to note where your honors and achievements should go. 

If you have one or two great achievements you want to list, it may be best to include it within your education section. But if you have several achievements, especially if they can help you get the job, keep it as a separate section to avoid convoluting the education section.

No special formatting is required. Feel free to include any of the following:

  • Any societies you were a member of
  • Any honors you earned upon graduation (e.g. Cum Laude)
  • Any leadership activities you participated in

Your work experience

Intern, volunteer, full-time employee… whichever it may be, include as many relevant experiences as possible. Relevance is the key, though. You might be tempted to fill this space with whichever experience you have just to add to your resume. 

But if you don’t have any relevant experience… It’s okay. Analyze which transferable skills can apply to the job. For example; if you volunteered at a hospital that required data entry and you familiarized yourself with Microsoft Excel, include that. 

Be precise in how you articulate your experiences, too. Keep your statements about your experiences and skills short, impactful, and actionable. When listing them, include the place of employment, your title/position, dates employed, and accomplishments for each, in descending order.

Here is an example for someone with transferable skills applying to a nursing position:

ADDT Homeless Shelter and Clinic, Feb. 2017 – Jan. 2019

Soup Kitchen Volunteer

  • Helped serve thousands of patients, with dietary restrictions, food suited for their needs and recommended by their doctor
  • Participated in biweekly outreach to promote free medical services
  • Ideated the transition from soup kitchen to restaurant to improve patient mood when dining on site

As you can see, this applicant is highlighting their customer service, health, initiative, and leadership knowledge and skills in an exciting way. Include about three to four experiences that yield results (e.g., an idea coming into fruition or how many times you helped a company succeed), and you’ll have a strong work experience section on your resume!

Additional sections

If you haven’t filled up your one-page resume by now, consider adding these sections:

  • Skills: Does the job ask for your expertise in Adobe Creative Suite or Microsoft Office? Articulate your skills with these programs by listing them in a skills section. You can also include soft skills such as communication, time management, problem-solving, etc. You can also include any additional languages you speak.
  • References: Do you have a great recommendation from your internship supervisor? List them as a reference! Though, don’t feel compelled to write a reference section if you’re straight out of school.

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!