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How to Write a Winning Resume for College Grads

by Rosemary Reigle, studioD

A winning resume for college grads is a one-page document designed to showcase the graduate’s academic and work-related experience. According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab, the objective of any resume is to get an interview, so it should highlight characteristics and skills that will make a potential employer notice you. Using the conventional resume layout will emphasize specific aspects of your experience and education.

Getting Started

For recent college grads, the challenge is determining what should be included on the resume. Many new graduates lack comprehensive experience, so brainstorming is essential to filling out the various sections. Sections on a conventional resume include contact information, career objective, summary of qualifications, education including any coursework that directly relates to the position, related experience, other experience and extracurricular involvement. You want to make a positive impression by using action verbs and putting this information in an order that is concise and easy to read.

Contact Information

Include your name and all necessary contact information. This might include a cell phone number, home phone number, email address, street address and the URL to your personal website. Do not include contact information for phone numbers or email addresses if you do not check those messages frequently: If a prospective employer contacts you, you want to know quickly so that you are able to respond promptly.

Career Objective

According to the College Grad website, “The two most pertinent parts of a successful resume are the objective and the summary.” A winning resume for college grads includes an objective designed to sell the employer on the idea that you are a good fit for his organization. Only list a career objective if you are sure what it is. For instance, “Licensed Practical Nurse for a regional medical center” provides a specific idea of what type of job you are looking for while “looking for a nursing position within a medical setting” is too general and may hurt your chances for further consideration.

Summary of Qualifications

An effective resume for college grads requires a strong and convincing summary of qualifications. Your opening sentence should describe your profession or degree. Then, describe and summarize specific job-related skills. Conclude with a list of a few personal qualities that emphasize those characteristics that will make you a good fit for the job offered -- such as ethical, persistent, adaptive or analytical. Brainstorm on what your strengths are by asking yourself questions like “What would my professors or current employer consider my strengths?" and "What accomplishments am I most proud of?” This is the section most potential employers focus on first, so it is worth investing some time in getting it right.


Your education is a critical aspect of the resume because it helps the potential employer determine whether you are qualified for the job. This requires information such as school, major, degree earned, year of graduation and any academic honors. Including your GPA is a personal choice. The Literacy Education Online website also recommends including advanced coursework if it is relevant to the job and if it would distinguish you from other applicants with similar degrees. For instance, if you majored in accounting and you want to work at an accounting firm, you could include a table of supplementary accounting courses you took, like tax accounting, generally accepted accounting principles and public accounting.

Related Experience

According to the Villanova University Career Center, employment experience can be broken down into “related experience” and “other experience,” allowing you the opportunity to list your employment strengths together. Use reverse chronological order, which is your most recent position first. Include the name and address of the employer, your title and dates of employment. Give specific details of your responsibilities and not a general listing of duties. If possible, quantify accomplishments, for example, “Department sales increased by 25 percent during the first three months of my employment.”

Other Experience

If you are short of related experience, revisit any unrelated jobs and show how these positions helped you to develop skills such as time management and critical thinking. Winning resumes for college grads include any soft skills that you possess. Internships and volunteer work help you develop interpersonal and intrapersonal skills and teamwork. Potential employers value soft skills because they are important indicators of job performance.

Extracurricular Involvement

Analyze your extracurricular activities, special skills and certifications. Include such items as participation on committees such as the student government, multicultural involvement, memberships in professional organizations like your university’s alumni foundation and any certifications. Extracurricular involvement gives you hands-on experience and -- on a resume -- offers a snapshot of your work ethic.

About the Author

Rosemary Reigle holds a doctorate in education from Argosy University. She has worked as a professor of composition and literature at several U.S. colleges and universities.

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