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Resume tips for new grads

Elizabeth Weiss McGolerick is a freelance writer and editor who contributes regularly to SheKnows, MintLife, AOL, iVillage and other sites. In her articles, Elizabeth covers a variety of subjects including relationships, pregnancy, paren...

Starting your career off right

With college degree in hand, new graduates now have the challenge of making themselves look good on paper. These resume tips for new grads – from recruiters, human resources representatives and career counselors – offer wisdom about how to stand out amid a sea of competition.

How long is too long?

There is some debate about how long a new graduate's resume should be. While some experts say a two-to-three-page resume is perfectly acceptable, Sarikas says, "Your resume should never exceed one page at this stage of your career – employers won't read more than that. Focus on keeping only the most recent and relevant accomplishments." Better to be safe than annoying – keep things brief.

Focus on goals accomplished

To populate your resume with stand-out phrasing, Shawn Graham, author of Courting Your Career and career expert blogger for Fast Company, recommends focusing less on job duties and more on impact. "If all you do is rehash a standard job description in your resume, recruiters won't know whether you were a strong or marginal performer." Graham recommends asking yourself the following questions as you write your resume so you can differentiate yourself from other candidates:

  • Did you make recommendations? If so, to whom? Were they adopted?
  • Did you find a way to save the organization time or money? If so, how did you do it and approximately how much time or money did you save?
  • Did you improve customer service? If so, how do you know? Are there any measures associated with the change that you can highlight?

"Remember that the resume is a marketing piece to get you in the door; not to get you the job," says Trust. "The resume should answer the fundamental question for the organization: 'What can this person do for me?' not 'What can this organization do for me?'"

Objective or no objective?

Many experts encourage job applicants to drop the outdated objective statement from the resume. "A summary of qualifications should capsulate your target job, and what you offer, in three lines or less," says Lewis. Instead of talking about what you want, talk about what skills and qualifications make you a great candidate. Hurwitz suggests doing this through a list of three to five bullets titled "selected accomplishments" and by focusing on problem-solving and leadership.

"The candidate should list things of which she is especially proud, things that will differentiate her from other candidates," says Hurwitz.

Making up for lack of job history

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Yes, I'm young. I've never had a real job before. But look at what I have succeeded in doing while being a student. Just imagine what I'll be able to do for you!

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Make the most of what you've got. Everyone has to start somewhere. Make up for that lack of "real world" job history by highlighting your experience with these tips from Sarikas:

  • Focus on accomplishments that are transferrable, valuable and relevant to an employer (not what you liked best); wherever possible, quantify (e.g., number of sales made, etc.).
  • Avoid starting bullet points with "responsible for"; always start with an action verb (e.g., managed, led, organized, etc.).
  • Do not embellish or overstate accomplishments or responsibilities. Honesty is the only policy.

Also, don't be so specific that the interviewer won't know what you're talking about, advises Salemi. "Instead of saying you worked on a system that is unique to a specific company, you can say you worked on, for instance, an annual conference-booking calendar system. Speak generically."


Proper spelling, grammar and punctuation count tremendously. It's too easy in today's text-message world to accidentally and carelessly use abbreviations and slang – which will make you stand out in a bad way to potential employers. "I automatically eliminate anyone who has typos in either their resume or cover letter," says Barrett. "If you can't be careful with something this important, why would I trust that your work would be any better?"

And finally, don't ever apply to a job by sending your resume only, says Sarikas. "Your resume should always be accompanied by a customized cover letter which focuses specifically on the position posted. This gives you an opportunity to relate your experience and relevant skills to the specific position."

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