By | June 24, 2020

Assembling the perfect job application as a recent graduate isn’t easy. It’s a tough job market in 2020, and if you’re fresh out of college you probably don’t have much work experience.
To help you build a competitive application, we provide a variety of resume and cover letter writing guides, examples, and templates for new college graduates. No matter how much work experience you have, there’s something here to help you improve your chances of landing work:

What should be on a recent college graduate resume?

Having an outstanding resume is essential for recent graduates entering the job market.

Your recent college graduate resume needs to:

  • communicate your strengths,
  • downplay your lack of experience,
  • demonstrate the specific skills you have that are applicable to the position you want.

Here are the basic details you need to include on your new college graduate resume:

Accurate contact information

Your contact information and name should be the very first thing hiring managers see when they glance at your resume. To help your information stand out, put it in your resume header at the top of the page, and type your first and last name in a large font to make it memorable.
At a minimum, your resume should include your:

  • First and last name
  • Current job title
  • Email
  • Phone number

Before sending out your application, double-check that all your contact information is correct. No matter how strong of a candidate you are, it won’t matter if employers can’t reach you.

Convincing resume introduction

Knowing how to start a resume is a critical job-hunting skill. The goal of your resume is to catch the hiring manager’s attention and convince them to invite you for an interview. Your introduction can help you achieve this by quickly highlighting your most impressive accomplishments and skills.
There are four types of resume introductions.  Each has its own strengths and weaknesses:

  1. Resume objective
  2. Summary of qualifications
  3. Resume profile
  4. Resume summary

While all these introduction styles are good options, the resume summary is ideally suited for recent graduates. That’s because a summary allows you to highlight your key attributes and resume skills without relying heavily on formal work experience.

Detailed education history

Having a thorough education section is essential for any recent college graduate’s resume.
To make your education stand out, here’s what you should include in your education section:

  • The name of your university or community college
  • Location of the school (city, state)
  • Graduation date (month and year)
  • Degree(s) (including any minors)
  • GPA (only include your GPA if it’s above 3.0, and use this format: GPA: 3.5/4.0)
  • Awards or honors (such as magna cum laude)

If you have little or no professional experience (like many recent graduates), include as much detail about your education as possible. However, if you already have a lot of professional experience, it’s best to keep your education section short and omit any academic awards, as well as your GPA.

Relevant experience section

Your experience section is the core of your resume. As a college graduate, this is where you elaborate on your past jobs relevant to the position you want to fill.
Additionally, your experience section is where you should highlight any important accomplishments on your resume.
If you have a short (or nonexistent) work history, you can change the name of this section from “Work Experience” to “Relevant Experience” to make it more general. Then, include any of the following experiences (as long as you can connect it to the position you’re applying for):

  • Full time or part time jobs
  • Internships
  • Volunteer work
  • Coursework (should be highly relevant)
  • Extracurriculars

Ultimately, the goal of your experience section is to show employers that you have valuable skills in addition to your degree.

Diverse mix of skills

As a recent graduate, you don’t need formal work experience to have a strong resume skills section. Just through your coursework and extracurricular activities, you’ve likely accumulated an array of marketable skills like:

Hard Skills:
  • Microsoft Office
  • Google Drive Suite
  • Photoshop
  • Writing & Editing
Soft Skills:
  • Time Management
  • Collaboration
  • Research
  • Team Leadership
Start by listing any technical skills, and any hard or soft skills you possess that are relevant to the position. Soft skills in particular are valuable, as they are usable for nearly any job.

3 recent college graduate job application tips

Now that you know what to include on your resume, it’s time to learn how to write it effectively.
Here are three expert tips for assembling the perfect job application as a recent college graduate:

1. Highlight your experience as a student

As a new graduate, your college education is your biggest asset entering the job market.
Employers understand that earning a degree requires a variety of marketable skills. However, it’s your responsibility to demonstrate what those skills are and why they’re valuable.
To do this, include a detailed education section on your resume. Mention your GPA (if it’s above 3.5), honors or awards, and your major/s and minor/s.
Additionally, you should highlight extracurriculars or relevant coursework on your resume as entries in your experience section. These experiences help fill in the gaps on your resume if you lack formal work experience, and demonstrate the valuable professional skills you’ve picked up through your academic career.

2. Emphasize your soft skills

Soft skills, such as communication, team management, or interpersonal skills, are always in high demand from employers. For many entry level positions, hiring managers consider them to be even more valuable than hard skills, because soft skills are notoriously difficult to teach.
To strengthen your resume, list three or four soft skills in your resume skills section. Additionally, showcase them in your experience section by describing instances of how they helped you achieve success as a student.
For example, if you have outstanding leadership skills, include an example about how you took the lead on an important class project.

3. Write a convincing cover letter

Knowing how to write a strong cover letter to pair with your resume is essential for recent college graduates. Your cover letter sets you apart from other applicants by supplementing your resume experience section, and showing the hiring manager that you’re passionate about the position.
To maximize the impact of your cover letter, make sure it’s customized for the position. This is your opportunity to make a pitch for why you’re the best candidate for the job — the last thing you want is to look like every other applicant.
To help yourself stand out, start your cover letter off with a strong introduction. A good recent college graduate cover letter introduction should include:

  • enthusiasm for the company,
  • an overview of your background,
  • and a brief introduction to your accomplishments (either educational or professional).

Employers love sincerely enthusiastic candidates, so don’t be afraid to use your recent graduate cover letter to show your excitement for the position.

College graduate resume template

Here’s a recent college graduate resume template that you can paste into Microsoft Word or Google Docs and fill out. It includes an outline for each resume section you should include, and what information you should list to best emphasize your strengths.

1. Resume Heading
Email: [email protected] | Phone: 895 555 555 | Address: 4397 Aaron Smith Drive Harrisburg, PA 17101 | Linkedin:

2. Resume Introduction
Recent college graduate with a degree in [degree name]. Seeking to leverage my competence in [job-specific hard skills] to fill the [position name] position at [company name]. A [positive personality trait] worker aiming to contribute to [company name]’s goals and take on more responsibility as quickly as possible as the newest member of your team.

3. Education
Degree Name / Major
University, Location | Start Date – End Date
Relevant Coursework: You can list your relevant areas of study, either in paragraph or bullet format
Honors: If you graduated with honors (i.e. summa cum laude), list it here

4. Relevant Experience
Most Recent Job Title or Project Name
Employer or School Name / Location / Start Date – End Date

  • Include a bulleted list of your accomplishments (this can include coursework)
  • Make sure you quantify (add numbers to) these bullet points

Earlier Job Title or Project Name
Employer or School Name / Location / Start Date – End Date

  • List key accomplishments from an earlier position, internship, or project
  • Assuming you no longer actively perform this job or project, make sure you use past tense verbs to describe your experience

5. Skills
Highlight your relevant professional skills. If you don’t know what the hiring manager is looking for, try reading through the job requirements and pairing your own abilities with ones in the description.

6. Additional Resume Section
Here’s where you can add any other information relevant to your background.
This section could highlight publications, languages, volunteer experience, community service, professional associations you belong to, or any training or certifications.

College graduate resume examples

To help you construct the perfect new college graduate resume, here are two examples to take inspiration from.

Sample resume for recent college graduate (with no experience)

Here’s a resume example of a recent graduate with no work or internship experience:
A college graduate resume sample with no experience

Sample resume for college graduate with no experience (text version)

Recent college graduate with a degree in Political Science. Designed and led a state-wide polling project in New York to gauge public opinion on tort reform. Seeking to leverage 3.8 GPA and data analysis expertise to obtain the political research assistant position at Win Blue.
Bachelor of Arts in Political Science / GPA: 3.8
New York University, New York City, Graduated 2020
Relevant Coursework: International Politics, Economics, Public Polling, Data Analysis, Electoral Process
Honors: magna cum laude
Senior Seminar, NYU  /  October 2019 – May 2020

  •   Developed a thesis proposal for a statewide public opinion poll on tort reform.
  •   Awarded a $1,000 grant to expand and execute my polling research.
  •   Formulated a series of 10 questions designed to reduce bias.
  •   Polled over 1,000 New York residents, reaching the threshold for statistical significance.
  •   Organized the resulting data and presented my findings to the NYU Political Science department.

Tom Suozzi for Congress, New York, NY  /  May 2018 – November 2018

  •   Made and distributed campaign materials to supporters.
  •   Helped lead get out the vote efforts in local neighborhoods, knocking on over 800 doors.
  •   Wrote scripts for other campaign volunteers to follow when phone banking.
  •   Excelled in a fast-paced, demanding environment.

Problem Solving, Adaptability, Collaboration, Time Management, Critical Thinking, Interpersonal Skills, Leadership
Native: English
Fluent: Spanish
Proficient: Farsi
Dean’s List
NYU / Last 3 Semesters
Tau Sigma Honors Society
NYU / 2019

Sample resume for recent college graduate (internship)

If written about clearly and effectively, internship experience can be a huge boost to any recent college graduate’s resume.
To help you write about your internship experience, here’s the previous sample, but with an internship section instead to help you model your own resume:
Sample resume for college graduate with internship experience

Sample resume for recent college graduate for internship (text version)

Recent Political Science graduate with 7 months experience conducting public polling research while interning at Top Seat Strategies. Seeking to leverage my data analysis expertise to obtain the political research assistant position at Win Blue.
Problem Solving, Collaboration, Adaptability, Critical Thinking, Strong Work Ethic, Leadership, Time Management, Leadership, Handling Pressure, Collaboration, Problem Solving
Top Seat Strategies, New York, NY  /  October 2019 – May 2020

  • Produced reports and crosstabs to present recommendations for company data acquisition.
  • Assisted senior staff to clean and upload approximately 10 new datasets a month.
  • Streamlined our data analysis process, reducing polling data processing time by 4%.
  • Used SQL to parse data and produce reports.
  • Guided clients towards strategic decisions using political knowledge and data-driven insights.

Tom Suozzi for Congress, New York, NY  /  May 2018 – November 2018

  • Made and distributed campaign materials to supporters.
  • Helped lead get out the vote efforts in local neighborhoods, knocking on over 800 doors.
  • Wrote scripts for other campaign volunteers to follow when phone banking.
  • Excelled in a fast-paced, demanding environment.

B.A. / Political Science
NYU, New York, NY, Graduated 2020
Honors: magna cum laude

Writing a great resume as a new college graduate is easier than you think

Writing your first resume fresh out of university is intimidating.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be. Employers know that a college education teaches a variety of marketable skills and expertise. Your resume is an opportunity to demonstrate those skills, and show employers what you have to offer.
To best emphasize your talents as a recent college graduate, your resume should:

  • showcase your educational background,
  • highlight your coursework (if you lack formal work experience),
  • and demonstrate your most relevant professional skills.

By shifting focus onto your strengths, you’ll catch the attention of hiring managers and prove that your education makes you an ideal candidate for the role you’re applying for.

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