Perfect Resume career blog

Use These 6 Awesome Tips to Help Your College Resume Stand Out

Applying for jobs after college graduation can be a stressful time. There are thousands and thousands of new job applicants all competing for the same jobs. In this article, I'm sharing my absolute favorite resume writing tips and tricks specifically for new college graduates.

We've been using these strategies and techniques at Perfect Resume for more than 10 years, and now you can use them too!

1. Don’t Try to Cram Everything on One Page


I tell people this almost every day. The one-page resume rule is the single biggest myth in all of resume writing — yes, even for college graduates! Now, it’s important to understand that I’m not saying your resume must be longer than one page. What I am saying is your resume doesn’t have to be only one-page long.

I see dozens and dozens of college graduates who try to cram all their information on one page. In most cases, this makes the resume harder to read. Additionally, when college graduates try to fit everything on one page, they leave out entire sections that are often critical to a resume’s success.

To create an unforgettable college graduate resume, don’t forget to include the key resume sections I’ve outlined below.

2. Use an Opening Paragraph to Summarize Your Skills


A resume’s opening paragraph is like an introduction and marketing message all rolled into one. It will instantly help the reader understand who you are, what you studied, what type of jobs or industries you are targeting, and what skills you have gained through your college education and internships that are relevant to the job for which you are applying.

Without this section, your college resume will look and feel generic — more importantly, it will make it difficult for the person reading it to understand all the value you bring to the table. When you craft a well-written opening paragraph for your resume, HR managers and hiring managers will be able to quickly and easily understand the main reasons you are a great fit for their jobs.

3. Use a ‘Core Competencies’ Section to Keyword Optimize Your Resume


By now you’ve probably heard that keywords are important for your resume. One of the easiest and most effective ways to help improve the keyword optimization of your resume is to include a “Core Competencies” section.

This allows you to quickly highlight skills you have that are important for your industry or target job. Ideally, the keywords you choose will be listed in the job listing requirements. A Core Competencies section is a great way to quickly showcase to hiring managers that you have the skills they’re looking for.

Below is an example of a Core Competencies section from one of our resumes at Perfect Resume. You’ll see that we like to include a list of nine keywords in this section, which runs right below the opening paragraph of the resume and above the education and work experience sections.


4. Leverage Internships (or Other Relevant Experience) by Providing More Content


One of the biggest mistakes I see on recent graduate resumes is that people often treat every section of their resume the same, devoting the same amount of space or the same number of bullets for each job description or internship section. Most people think that having a uniform resume makes it look professional.

But this isn’t the best strategy. Why? Because the person reading your resume won’t care as much about every section of your resume.

If you are a college graduate and you have completed one or two internships, this section should dominate a large portion of your resume. If you completed an internship that is relevant to the industry and career you are pursuing, don’t just list one or two bullets of information. Instead, try to list five to eight bullets and clearly describe what your responsibilities were, what tasks you performed, the job titles of people you worked with at the internship, what software systems and programs you used during the internship, and any other important skills you learned.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say a recent mechanical engineering graduate completed an internship in college. This person also worked as a server at a local restaurant. Usually, when I review resumes this person would list three bullets of information for the server job and then three bullets for the internship.

However, the person reading the resume cares much more about the internship than the server job, so it’s important to provide much more information about the internship.

But what do you do if you didn’t complete an internship in college?

5. Leverage Upper-Level College Courses to Establish Credibility


If you didn’t have an internship, don’t worry. You can still leverage your knowledge and skills by highlighting the upper-level classes you completed as part of your degree program. Doing this helps the reader of your resume understand all the great things you learned in school and, as an extra bonus, it helps to keyword optimize your resume as well.

At Perfect Resume, we like to list a “Relevant Coursework” section that includes five to eight upper-level courses that were completed as part of the degree program just below the degree. Here’s an example:


One extra pro tip about this section: Be sure not to include lower-level courses or any course that starts with the word “Introduction.” Remember: You want to highlight upper-level courses in this section.

6. Stand out by Including Key Accomplishments


One of the most valuable sections of any resume, including college graduate resumes, is the “Key Accomplishments” section. Key accomplishments are generally listed just beneath each job description section and include one to three things that a person accomplished on the job.

Key accomplishments are great because they are unique to each person. Listing key accomplishments helps you to stand out from all the other college graduates who are competing for the same job.


Ok, so there you have it. Those are my top resume tips for college graduates. Don’t worry about fitting everything onto one page; it’s totally OK to have a two-page resume. Begin your resume with an opening paragraph so the reader understands what types of jobs you are targeting, what your strengths are, and why you are a great fit for the job. Keyword optimize your resume by including a “Core Competencies” section. Leverage internships or other relevant work experience by providing more details and content about those positions. Leverage your education by highlighting five to eight upper-level courses you completed in the education section. Stand out from the crowd by listing key accomplishments throughout your resume.

If you’d like help with your college graduate resume, please email us at Mention this article, and college graduates will receive a free cover letter with the purchase of any resume.

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