Resume Writing: Guidelines for New Grads

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When you are writing your resume, it is important to keep in mind the purpose of the resume. The resume is meant to spark interest in you as a candidate. Your resume writing should be with the intent to get an interview, not a job offer. It is not meant to list every single course, skill or accomplishment you have. Remember, resumes get interviews, not jobs.

The resume should do the following:

  • Create a positive first impression: This is done by showcasing your communication skills and making the resume easy to read. The resume should be succinct and easy to follow.
  • Tell who you are: When you are writing your resume, you are telling the reader who you are and why they should consider you for a position.
  • Describe what you have learned: Especially for a new grad, your resume should highlight the courses and projects that are applicable to the job you hope to be hired for.
  • List your accomplishments: Your resume should highlight any special accomplishments you have achieved. If you made a 4.0 while working full time, were awarded a special scholarship, or received special recognition of some kind, it should be listed under your accomplishments.

In order to make your resume pleasant and easy to read, you will want to follow some resume format guidelines. The resume format is important because you want to make sure to keep the reader’s interest and, ultimately, be called for the interview. A poorly formatted resume, one that is hard to read, contains many errors, or doesn’t flow well, is not likely to accomplish your goal.

Resume Format – General Guidelines

The following guidelines follow the typical resume format and business letter writing standards. These a general resume format rules:

  • A font size of 10 or 12.
  • Perfectly typed with about a 1-inch margin (even if sending via email, since it will likely be printed out).
  • Use only one font. You may vary size for emphasis, if necessary.
  • Do not use different font styles. If you need to call attention to something, you can bold it, but use this sparingly.
  • Avoid all capital letters and italics as they are difficult to read.

Section Titles

  • Begin your resume with a heading which includes your name, address, phone number, and email address. This is usually centered at the top or left justified.
  • Omit personal information such as age, sex, or marital status.
  • The resume objective states the position type you are seeking. It looks very professional if you tailor the objective to the position you are applying for. Other than that, don't make this section too narrow.
  • Well organized technical skills or career skills section can be placed after the objective. This should include skills in which you are at least proficient.
  • The education section should identify your training by listing the university(s) attended with a degree(s) conferred, major, and grade point average.
  • The work experience section comes next and details the most recent positions or areas of expertise first and continues in reverse chronological order. Project experience can be listed here if you don't have any formal work experience. We also see many graduates add internships and their larger projects in this section.
  • The accomplishments section comes last and highlights specific areas in which you have excelled, including leadership activities, memberships, and honors or awards.

Before Writing Your Resume

Before you sit down to write your resume, it is helpful to think through a couple of points. The first is to think in keyword terms because employers will use them to search for resumes.

Some general keyword examples:

  • Ability to (delegate, supervise, etc.), analytical ability, detail-oriented, problem-solving, results-oriented, communication skills, team leader, lead.

Some technology industry examples:

  • Software, systems, UNIX, Linux, SQL, Oracle, Java, NET, Operating System, CAD, Mechanical systems, Design, OO Programming, SDLC, coded, programmed, administered, engineer, programmer, developer, network, Cisco, Microsoft.

Tips for Resume Design

The following tips for resume design will help ensure that your resume is easy to read and can be parsed to a resume database properly.

  • Keep the resume design simple. Using a standard resume template will help with this.
  • Use standard font styles (Times New Roman and Arial are standard.
  • Use a font size from 10 to 14. Font sizes of 10 and 12 are standard, with some titles and headings in a larger font.
  • Avoid 'fancy' styles (italics, underline, bold, fancy fonts etc.).
  • Do not use horizontal or vertical lines, graphics, charts, tables or boxes. They don't parse well to resume databases and they often print out looking funky.
  • Use bold fonts for section headings.
  • Use common names for section headings (i.e., Education, Experience, Technical Sills, etc.).
  • Put your name at the beginning of the resume, with contact information on separate lines, immediately following the name. It's frustrating to have to read through the entire resume to find an email or phone number.
  • Avoid abbreviations, except for popular acronyms.
  • Be concise in your descriptions of projects and work experience. Longer is not necessarily better.

After the Resume

After the resume is written, make sure to proofread. Print the resume out, to see how it looks for a manager that might prefer hard copies. Adjust any spacing as necessary. Take printed resume copies to take with you to job fairs and interviews.