10 Top Resume Tips for College Students

resume, tips and tricks, college students, recent grads

We all know how important a resume is as an essential marketing tool for your job or internship search. But did you know there are entire books, websites and videos on the topic?  Here we share a list of top 10 tips specifically for college students

10 Top Resume Tips for College Students

College Help

Look for resume workshops at your college or university. The professionals at your Career Services department have great expertise with resumes and cover letters. Ask for industry samples from your school.  Your counselor will give you feedback for changes and improvements too.

Customize and Personalize

Create a master resume that you can use to customize into unique versions for each specific opportunity. You want the employer to feel like you are EXACTLY who they are looking for. You do this with personalization, customization and the use of the right keywords and industry language. Tony Denhart from GE:  “Every resume and cover letter should be customized and personalized to each job.”

Consider the order of items on your resume.  Career Coach Kevin Grubb advises: “Reading eyes naturally gravitate to the upper left of a page, so put your most significant experiences higher up on the page. For example, decide if your work or leadership experience is most meaningful for that particular opportunity.”

Decide if you need an objective or summary based on each opportunity. Kevin Grubb, offers this advice: “A personalized and focused objective or summary statement can be very effective if it serves a purpose for a particular resume. If it’s generic and adds no value, consider removing it.”

Style and Format

List your jobs or experience in reverse chronological order. Include company, title, location, dates of employment and key accomplishments. Most recruiters want to see a short resume with conservative font. Dia Harris, Senior University Relations Specialist from Johnson & Johnson advises: “Never use a 2 page resume as a college student. You need to be able to distill your capabilities onto one page.”

Avoid special characters or graphics to make your resume more scanner-friendly. Use clean consistent spacing, font and bullet points. White space is good. Name your document with your name ( Stephen Jones Resume) and not resume.doc or resume.pdf.

Jeff Fernandez, CEO of Grovo, says: “When it comes to resumes, I am a freak for format. Show me that you gave proper attention to the details. For example, I want to see consistency of spacing and punctuation. PDF it with your name as the title. Everything matters.”

Content that matters

Use strong action words to describe your top three or four achievements related to each position. Examples: Taught. Sold. Created. Managed. Built. Developed. Organized. There are hundreds of action verbs so make sure you are using them!

Try to use metrics and quantifiable results wherever possible. “Expanded Twitter followers by 350%” is better than “Improved social media presence.” “Sold 23% over assigned quota” is better than “Exceeded sales targets.”

Avoid all Landmines

Everything should be accurate and factual at all times.  Highlight the positive but do not over exaggerate or take undue credit.

Make sure your contact information is correct and professional. Use a polished sounding voice mail /answering machine message  and email address ( not “hotdish@yahoo.com  or “ Leave a message, I am out getting more beer”)

Use exact dates as you describe work experiences. You may use expected graduation date for your college or university.

Check spelling and grammar. Again. Proofread everything before you save and send.

Do Not Include

Sometimes including too much can be a negative. Don’t include extra documents or materials unless specifically requested by the employer.

Unlike a LinkedIn profile, a resume should never include a photo. Personal information should not be offered or included unless it directly relates to the position. Generally high school achievements are not included unless nationally significant.

Include your GPA if it is over 3.0 (or required by the employer). You may also include the GPA for your major if it is better than your overall GPA. This applies to students and new graduates only. Some companies have GPA cutoffs and some do not.

When describing skills, there is no need to include “email” or “typing” as those skills are assumed. There is no need to say anything about providing references at this early stage, and it is also assumed you can produce a reference list.

Seek Feedback

Write your resume and then ask your school career counselor to review and give feedback.  Also have a trusted mentor from your industry review it;  They should tell you if it’s unclear or confusing. Be relentless about spelling, grammar and format because one small error can get you eliminated immediately.

Follow Instructions

Be aware of timing and follow instructions. Your additional portfolio or writing samples can be made available from a link on your resume or mentioned in a follow-up note. Kevin Grubb, Career Coach and Social Media Consultant advises: “Try to use timing to your advantage and not overwhelm the employer with everything you have ever written or produced.. Provide what is required per the specific instructions for each application. During an interview, you may find the opportunity to elevate the employer’s interest by offering additional work samples you have compiled in a physical or online portfolio.”

Be Able to Sell Yourself

Make sure that you can easily discuss all aspects of your resume. It is your document and you need to be extremely comfortable with it.  Dia Harris, Senior University Relations Specialist from Johnson &  Johnson advises:  “Know your resume.  Maybe someone helped to polish your resume, but you need to be able to speak to it with great detail.  Be prepared to articulate your resume skills and experience very clearly.”

Get Referred

A resume will always stand out is if it comes with a referral, recommendation, endorsement, or connection.  You are in a very competitive situation if your resume is submitted along with 250 others through an online system. Advises Kevin Grubb, Career Coach and Social Media Consultant: “Your resume will stand out if someone delivers it to the hiring manager or recruiter.”

Your best bet is to be applying to positions that you have already established a relationship with an employee at the company or mutual friend. Your college relationships are extremely valuable ( alumni and Career Services) so leverage whatever you can in a professional manner. Applying completely cold online with no connections will typically have the lowest probability for success.

What other additional resume tips can you share?

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Sandra Long

Sandra Long is the author of the bestselling book LinkedIn For Personal Branding: The Ultimate Guide. She is also the managing partner of Post Road Consulting LLC. Sandra and her team work with corporations, universities, and individuals to drive successful sales, career, and talent acquisition results.

Reader Interactions


  1. april says

    This is good advice and it really helps to all job seekers especially those fresh graduates. Beside from writing a resume, it’s also good to create a cv videos that following this post advice because most recruiters preferred this nowadays. Here is an app that I know My Job Pitch (https://www.myjobpitch.com) where most job seekers promote themselves through their cv videos and recruiters just view them.



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