How to Write an Entry-Level Resume
02.09.17 | Job Search & Career | Chelsey Canavan, Marketing Manager at Treeline, Incorporated
12 Tips to Wow a Hiring Manager
Writing a strong and compelling resume is never easy. Truthfully, writing your first entry-level resume may be the hardest resume you’ll ever write.
As you graduate college and prepare to enter the workforce, you are now competing with thousands of other graduates to land your first job in an entry-level position. On a single sheet of paper you are expected to capture who you are as a professional and a person with the hope a hiring manager will pull your resume from the stack and choose you as the ideal candidate.
Hope isn’t a strategy. As a college graduate you need to position yourself as a top candidate for the job you’re applying to.
Here are 12 tips to maximize your resume and wow the hiring manager.
- Include a Header with Contact Information
This may seem obvious, but make sure your resume clearly states your contact information.
You should include:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Email address
- City and state
- LinkedIn profile URL
If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, I recommend creating one and it should mirror your resume.
*Make sure your email address is a personal and professionally appropriate email address. If you do not have one, I recommend creating one.
- Include an Objective or Summary
If you know what type of job you are looking for, add an Objective Section at the top of the resume. Make sure this is targeted and specific. Are you looking for an internship? When do you want to start? Is your search industry specific? Give the hiring manager a precise snapshot of what you are looking for. Don’t waste this space.
If you are less certain what you are looking for, I recommend a Summary Section. In a few sentences highlight your experience, strengths, and the type of position you are considering. I recommend using strong keywords that are relevant to your job search and would be applicable to the job you are applying to. Avoid “fluffy” and generic words to characterize who you are.
- Include an Education Section
As with a majority of recent college graduates, your most relevant experience will be your education. As a rule of thumb, if you have not had any real and relevant work experience that would rank higher than your educational accomplishments, your education should be listed first.
In this section you should list:
- The college or university you attended
- Your major and degree
- The month and year you graduated
- Your GPA, if it is 3.0 or above
- Any honors you graduated with (such as Summa Cum Laude)
- Any academic awards or scholarship you received
- College athletics and accomplishments
- Any study abroad programs (list the school, country, and semester)
- Extracurricular activities
Additionally, include any other relevant educational experience. For instance, you can choose to use this space to highlight specific coursework that would pertain to the role you are applying to. Only include a class or specific project that involves skills that would correlate to a set of skills the job would require. Are you applying to a job that involves coding, and you have built your own website? Put that on your resume. Are you interested in design and have worked on a project that maybe your university or a company now uses like a logo or pamphlet? Make sure you list that. The point is you want to highlight and leverage your educational experience.
You can also include any relevant on-campus activities you participated in. For instance, were you involved in athletics? Were you a member of a Sorority or Fraternity? Did you participate in any community service or mentorship programs? Did you start or co-found a new on-campus organization?
* You can choose to organize this kind of information under this section or a different header like Community Service, Honors & Leadership Activities, or under Relevant Work Experience. It is your choice and depends on the requirements of the job you are applying to.
- Include Relevant Work Experience
Use this section to highlight any relevant work experience that corresponds to the type of jobs you are applying to. Highlight your internships or any other jobs you have held that entailed specific responsibilities or transferrable skills. For instance, if you are looking for a sales job and held a summer sales support internship role, you want to list that under this section.
You want to include:
- The company name
- Your job title
- Dates of employment
- Your responsibilities
- Any accomplishments
* This is not the section where you want to list all of your work experience. That will be addressed in a different section on your resume.
- Provide a Brief Company Description for Each Job
To help the hiring manager who is reading your resume, provide a 1-2 sentence overview on the company you worked or interned at. Put your experience into context. Save the already busy hiring manager time from trying to figure out the company you worked for and what they do.
For example, you can include the name of the company, the industry they are in, the audience they serve, and the products or services they provide.
- Bullet Point Your Responsibilities with Action Verbs
Keep your resume organized and easy-to-read. Use bullet points to break down your responsibilities.
You want to describe your role within the company with proactive action verbs. Take ownership of what you did. Try to avoid words like “helped” or “assisted.” Instead highlight your tasks and accomplishments. Did you build contact lists? Did you make cold calls? Did you work on a major company project? Did you write blogs and manage social media sites? If so, include that. Example: “Wrote 10 blogs for the marketing department.”
Don’t forget to mention any outcomes produced by your work. Did you manage part of the event planning for a big corporate event that resulted in 10,000 professionals attending? Include that.
I recommend tailoring your title and responsibilities to the job(s) you are applying to. For each job you are applying to, understand what and who they are looking for. Read each company’s job description. Customize your resume to hit on those key criteria they are looking for in a candidate.
- Include Additional Work Experience
This is the section where you want to cover other jobs you have held. List any jobs you have had over the summer or during the school year. Have you worked as a tutor, teaching assistant, or campus tour guide? Did you work in the alumni office or library? Have you worked as a server in a restaurant, a retail associate, a summer camp counselor, a landscaper, or golf caddy? Show that you have work experience outside of the classroom.
Once again, you want to highlight the company, your title, and responsibilities with bullet points. Remember to highlight any intangibles the role entailed such as communication skills, leadership, team-focused approach, analytical problem-solving, time-management, etc. Don’t forget to mention any promotions you received.
If you had similar jobs at different companies each summer, try to organize it and save space. For example:
- Put your title that you held across different companies (such as Retail Associate)
- State the time you worked (like Summers 2013-2016)
- List the companies (such as ABC Company, QRS Company, XYZ Company)
- List your overall responsibilities with bullet points
- List Skills
Make sure you mention any particular skills or certifications you may have. Do you know how to use a CRM system? Do you know how to use certain software to edit videos? Can you speak another language? Have you taken a public speaking class? Do you know how to use a specific financial software?
Use this section to highlight skills that are relevant to the jobs you are applying to. Some of these skills may fall under different sections, depending on how you want to format your resume.
- Highlight Volunteer Service, Community Service, and Leadership
If you did not mention any of these activities or accomplishments under different sections of you resume, here is where you want to include them. Show the hiring manager how you utilize your time and what you care about.
- Do Not Include References Available Upon Request
I don’t recommend including references or the statement “References Available Upon Request.” It should be understood that if an employer asks for references in final stages of an interview that you will be able to provide them.
However, it is good idea to know or be thinking of who you would ask to be a reference. Once the company you are interviewing with asks you for references, you should be able to provide them at that time. Make sure you have a conversation with previous employers and ask for permission to list them as a reference. It is important to let your references know who you are interviewing with and who they should expect to receive a phone call from.
- Use Spell Check
Don’t forget to review your resume and use spell check. I cannot emphasize this enough. Don’t let a spelling or grammatical mistake cost you an interview. Make sure you have more than one person read and edit your resume before sending it to any companies
- Use Legible Font and Format
As an entry-level candidate, your resume will most likely be on one page. Make sure you use a legible font and font size. Organize your resume so that a busy hiring manager can read and understand your experience. However, don’t try to cram everything on a single page by using small font. It is okay if you need to use two pages, just make sure you are emphasizing your most relevant experience.
Your resume is your own and you can design it how you like. Personally, I recommend keeping it simple. It should look appealing and professional.
As you create your entry-level resume, keep in mind that this is a formal first impression to hiring managers. You want to put your best foot forward. You have more transferrable experience than you think. Make sure you are highlighting relevant experience and taking the time to tailor it to each company and position you are applying to. It may seem tedious, but the more effort you put upfront into creating customized resumes, the easier it will be to apply to positions you are interested in.
Keep in mind entry-level is entry-level, and that this will be your first step in building your career. My advice is to be realistic when applying to positions. Understand that you will have to work your way up through an organization. Join a company that will invest in you, enabling you to grow within and across the company.