7 Steps to an Effective Resume for College Students and Recent Grads

1. Show them what you learned on the job.

Most college seniorsand recent graduates haven't had very glamorous jobs. That's OK — everyone has to start somewhere. If you've done internships or other kinds of entry-level jobs, focus on what you observed or learned about the industry or profession rather than on what you did. "Observed the inner workings of a high-paced PR firm" sounds more interesting than "answered phones and updated calendar."

2. Show off your activities.

Some students gain more meaningful management and leadership experience through their extracurricular activities than through their paying jobs. Employers will be far more interested to learn that you increased your student organization's revenues by 350% than that you are the world's best book-filer or ID-checker.

3. Let them know you worked your way through school.

Employers have a lot of respect for people who can keep up their grades while working more than 10 hours a week, so make sure to add a bullet letting them know that you worked X hours per week to finance your education. And if your grades aren't so hot, all the more reason to signal to employers that you had to work your way through school.

4. Explain the significance.

College students list all kinds of awards and honors that mean nothing to someone outside the school. Make sure to explain the significance or criteria for your various accolades.

5. Everything is fair game.

Anything you list on your resume is fair game for employers to ask about. If you list an interest in World War II history, better have an answer ready if someone asks you about your favorite books on the subject. It's not enough to say you watch the History Channel.

6. Personalize your resume.

Include a personal section at the end. Do include things like hobbies, languages, and any time spent living abroad for more than three months. Those personal touches make great ice-breakers in interviews. (One of the things interviewers will be asking themselves is, "Is this the kind of person I want to spend ungodly hours with while we're cooped up in a windowless conference room for the tenth night in a row?").

Make sure to run your list by a trusted friend or career services professional, though, to make sure that the activities or hobbies you list aren't too risky for the kinds of jobs you're targeting. (Mountain biking is fine, but World of Warcraft might rub some people the wrong way. That will also depend on the kind of job you are applying for.)


7. Clean up your email address and voicemail greeting.

People routinely submit resumes with cutesy, edgy, or silly email addresses. FSUslave4U, HaloManiac, and ImTheBomb24 make the wrong impression. Similarly, when you list your phone number on your resume, make sure your voicemail greeting sounds articulate and professional. If you insist on greeting your friends with "WASSSSSUPPP!!!" or your best Paris Hilton impersonation, use a service like YouMail to record separate greetings for personal and professional callers.