A well-written resume will stand-out and demonstrate your ability to communicate, one of the top skills required in nearly all jobs.  

Resume Writing: Guidance for College Graduates
If you are a college graduate and preparing to enter the job market, then crafting a resume will be an essential step in your career search process.

Before you anxiously dive into writing a draft, vision the purpose of this document.  A resume should communicate your achievements and skills that will be relevant in bringing value to the prospective employer.  

What does this mean?
You do not need to include any information that isn’t pertinent to the job you are applying for.  If you pursue a social media specialist position but the context of the resume highlights your customer service or finance degree, then an employer isn’t going to correlate the fit.

Don’t expect the employer to connect the dots.

Choosing the right formatting is the first step in resume creation.   College graduates should choose a chronological formatting, with your most recent or current experience listed first.  

(Functional is another option, but this is more appropriate for someone making a career path switch or a tenured professional condensing their experience.)

I highly suggest keeping the resume to one page, especially as a college graduate.  Choose only the pertinent content.  I have seen professionals with 15-20 years of experience who have been able to achieve one page resumes.  

When selecting a font, opt for a mainstream font . San-serifs tend to be modern and contemporary. Think legible and easy to read, and keep it consistent through the resume. 

Do not use bold or italics unless using titles or sections.  

Although some countries advocate to include a photo on the resume, I would not advocate to use a photo if you are applying to a position in the United States.  The reason for not including a photo is because an employer can inflict bias (age, gender, ethnicity) and may impose issues towards labor laws.

The order of the resume for a college graduate should be:
Personal information

Certifications/Projects (if not worked into other sections)
The creative and marketing fields lend the forgiveness (or opportunity) to build a visually appealing format other than just a single column with text.   I have seen infographics, charts, cartoons, and colors.  Just remember to be thinking of the employer and that you are balancing aesthetic with content.  A crowded resume is overwhelming for the reader.

If you choose to utilize an online resume builder, keep in mind that some software will not permit you to edit or save in a Word document.  The input is a template so the result may look similar to others, which may or may not be important to you.  The perks?  The tools are quick and easy. 

PDF or .doc?
Have both available.  If the company doesn’t specifically request a particular type, default to PDF (other’s won’t be able to make edits and the document will be consistent).

Some ATS systems aren’t able to parse the information from a PDF document, so I would advise to use a Word document when applying to larger companies if they are utilizing an online portal.

Contact Information
This is your identification and best source to contact you.
Email (professional)
Address.  You do not need to include your street address.  City and State are sufficient.  If you are targeting a different geographic location or are open to relocation, consider “willing to relocate to….”
LinkedIn URL (optional)
Online portfolio URL (optional) 

A summary statement is your targeted elevator pitch to the employer to highlight your value.  

First, ditch the “Objective” and use a summary.  Why?  Simply put, an employer won’t care about your goals.  The employer needs to understand how you will solve their pain-point. Even if you may not have years of experience. 

What Not to do: “Seeking a challenging position in marketing allowing me to use the skills I learned from my Bachelor of Art degree in journalism.”

Better: “Google-certified Marketing graduate with 4 months of experience as an Audience Development intern at a nationally recognized publication firm. Grew audience engagement on Facebook by 30% by developing social strategy and initiatives.”

Your skills and experience NEED to match the responsibilities of the job, while bringing your relevant achievement to the forefront.

How to jazz-up (not snoozefest) the summary:

Do you want to be considered for a Graphic Designer position? Include the targeted job title. 

2-5 sentences long

Incorporate keywords from the job description, soft and hard. (back these up with examples in the experience section).

Storytell! List your top achievement(s) relevant to the job, and metrics if possible.

Don’t duplicate summary details in the experience section.  Prove soft-skills in your summary in your experience section.

Recent graduates will want to follow the summary with the education section, and there is no need to include your high school experience if you received a higher-ed degree.  

List the name of the school, location, graduation date, and degree (majors and minors).

Add any honors, awards, and publications.  4.0 GPA or Cum Laude honors should be listed.  3.5 GPA or higher is optional.

If you are considering the details of coursework if your experience is light, make sure you include details that are relevant to the job.  A Geology course isn’t necessarily applicable for a Web Design job.  

Capstone projects or other academic projects can be added here as well. Ex: Created pro-bono ad campaign for Catalyte.

As a graduate entering into the workforce, you will be light on skills and experience.  Luckily, candidates vying for the same positions are all on an equal playing field.   

Beyond full or part-time work, other types of experience can include student groups or clubs, internships, non-profit, pro-bono work, sports, or any extra curricular activities.

When you are planning for the experience section, refer back to the job description to understand what hard and soft skills the employer is seeking.   

Your goal is to transfer any skills you earned or learned during “experiences” and apply them to the 


Examples of both:

Hard Skills:   Google Analytics,  Excel, SEO, Social Media

Soft Skills:  Communication, Adaptability, Organization, Leadership, Decision Making, Collaboration.

Hard skills can easily be developed in our current digital landscape, with the availability of online certifications. 

Soft-skills can be extracted from nearly every experience, and transferable skills are these abilities that you can take into any career path.

Review the job description or tasks from each experience and think about the soft skills that are necessary to complete those tasks. 

Did you tutor peers or students?   Communication, active listening, and teaching are a few soft skills.

Treasurer of the Student Government?   Organization, attention-to-detail, and analytical skills are typical with this responsibility.

Resident Assistance (RA)?  Leadership, patience, and management. 

Now that you identified your experiences with tasks, achievements, and skills, it’s time to organize the information into this section.

There are several options when titling this section.  “Experience” is all encompassing, or you can segregate into several sections such as “work experience”, “internships”, “volunteer”, or “activities.”   Think about the ease of reading the information.

Think about customizing the details of the information of each experience with bullet-points that are pertinent to the job you are applying for.

Go back and pluck out the top keywords from the targeted job, but DO NOT add skills that you can’t back-up.  You will put yourself into a predicament if you stumble over the lack of that skill during an interview process.  

When you are writing the bullet points, focus on writing them to be achievement driven (rather than function).   Basically, this shouldn’t look like you copied and pasted your job description.   Describe the outcome and results from the task.

A simple formula to follow:

Verb + Responsibility = Results.  

What not to do:  Assisted with social media for multiple channels

Better example that is results-driven:  Increased social media engagement by increasing Facebook likes 200% and Twitter followers 80% in two months

Instead of “Have experience with Google Analytics”  

Try “Used Google Analytics to recommend changes to website and digital products.

If you can quantify or include specific metrics, then work those numbers into the bullet-points.  There are other ways to convey impact.

Use verbs like increase/decrease

Frequency like 2x a week, 50% of the time, hours per week

Years of experience

Team size led or mentored

For a list of action verbs, check out 

Consider adding this to list specific software, technical, or language skills that you are competent to use.

These can be divided into categories, such as “Certifications”, “Digital Marketing”, or “Programming.”

A separate section can be created to list awards, scholarships, certifications, or honors if you chose not to include them in the other sections.  Do limit to around  2-5 achievements.


Reference contact information should not be included in a resume.  I have seen resume database tools aggregate reference data as the actual applicant.  You want to take control of who and when a potential employer will be contacting your references, or else your point of references may be bombarded with unwanted calls.

“References available upon request” is redundant and is a waste of space on the resume. 

Don’t Keyword Stuff
Do not insert keywords that you can’t backup or that have no context.  When you show a keyword in your summary or skills, explain how you executed that skill.  Teamwork, communication, and problem-solving are very common (and important) soft skills to see, so translate:

Communication is broad–  Written, verbal, nonverbal?  Examples can include presentation, emotional intelligence, social media content.

Examples of teamwork may include being a player on a team sport during college, or member of a debate club or extracurricular activity.

Do you really need to tailor each resume specific to each job?  Unless all the positions you are applying to are the same title and skills, not necessarily.  However, if you want to stand out from the competition then I would highly suggest taking five minutes to make the edits.

Align skills/keywords with your experience.  I would advise keeping a running list in a document of most popular skills and your achievement/experience correlated.  Sub in and out, depending upon job.

Remove irrelevant experience
Consider working the title of the target job title into your resume, either in the summary or in your contact information

If you have space in the resume, consider adding personal interests or hobbies. This can be a conversation starter in an interview, and some personal interests can translate to the position (photography for creative role).

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give regarding your resume:  Pass-it off to a trusted colleague or friend to proofread.  

A grammatical or spelling error will be an immediate knock-out factor if an employer spots one on your resume.  Trust me, I have seen it happen numerous times over the years.   

A well-written resume will stand-out and demonstrate your ability to communicate, one of the top skills required in nearly all jobs.

About the author…

Kelli Hrivnak is the president of Knak Digital, a firm that specializes in executive recruitment for technology, digital marketing, and creative talent for companies serving the Mid Atlantic region.