Did you know your resume has an average of six seconds to grab the attention of a hiring manager? Better make those six seconds count!
With so many candidates competing for the same position, you need to make a strong impression. Fast. This means putting your most relevant skills and experience first. As a recent college graduate applying for an entry-level position, I realized that even a modest work history was enough to help stand me out and land an interview. If you have any work experience at all, feature it prominently using the chronological resume format.
When you're creating your resume, there are three main formats from which you can choose. The chronological resume format is one of the most popular ways to organize a resume — and the one hiring managers are most used to seeing. By definition, the chronological resume displays your work history and experience in chronological order. Here's why you should use it:
- It's best for a recent college graduate who has a work history and internship experience.
- It allows you to highlight the skills you possess, and how you've demonstrated these skills.
There are three main areas you should focus on as you write your chronological resume for an entry-level position.
For any recent college graduate, the education piece is critical. As your career progresses, it may slide to the bottom; however, at this stage, it should receive top billing. A comprehensive education section for a recent grad includes details such as:
- Graduation date
- Awards you have earned
- Clubs, sports or extracurricular activities you've participated in
Depending on your background, you may also want to consider adding:
- Your GPA. While this is not mandatory, it may work to your advantage if you earned over a 3.0, especially in more rigorous academic programs.
- Relevant coursework or projects. Suppose you're applying to a research position, and you've participated in significant research projects. That coursework is an excellent way for you to demonstrate relevant experience.
2. Work history
Ideally, you've chosen the chronological resume format to highlight your work experience. As a recent college graduate, your work history allows you to stand out from other applicants. Maybe you had a job or internship that was unpaid or didn't seem relevant to the one for which you're applying. Include it anyway. Work experience of any kind indicates you're employable and demonstrates you likely have the soft skills employers look for, such as:
- Time management skills
- Ability to take direction
- Teamwork skills
When listing your work history, be sure to include job title, company name and location, and employment dates for each position. Avoid listing a string of job duties; instead, zero in on three to five duties or responsibilities that demonstrate you possess the qualities needed for the role. When possible, quantify the results you achieved for the company. Potential items include:
- Specific software you mastered during an internship
- Making improvements to processes that saved the company time (and therefore money)
- Customer service experience — especially if you're applying for a job in sales or recruiting
For example, if you volunteered as a social media specialist for a local organization in the summer, you may have quantifiable results like:
- Generated $10,000 to purchase of backpacks and school supplies for underprivileged children
- Increased the number of Twitter Followers by 25%
- Doubled the number of engagements per Facebook post
- Produced 5X more visits to targeted campaign landing pages than similar social media efforts
Study the job description and list skills you have that match the skills the employer is seeking. Be sure to use the exact wording as described in the job description to avoid losing out on a potential opportunity. Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to perform preliminary resume reviews. If your resume includes the correct wording, you'll have a better chance of making it past the ATS review and in front of a real human. You'll want to customize your resume for each role to ensure those keywords are included and you're focusing on your most relevant skills and experience.
Another reason you should compare your experience with the job description is to ensure you don't overlook or underestimate the valuable skills you possess. The skills section is your opportunity to demonstrate why you're qualified for the job, even if you haven't held a position in the industry before. While creating a skills section can seem daunting, chances are you picked up some essential skills throughout your college degree program.
Don't forget your technical skills. In today's digital work environment, computer skills are an absolute must. Be sure to list any software experience relevant to the job for which you're applying. For instance, if you are looking for a career in finance and are exceptionally skilled in Microsoft Excel, highlight this critical strength. If you're applying for a mechanical engineering job, include any experience you have with drafting software such as Revit, AutoCAD, and SolidWorks.
Choosing the right resume format will help you showcase your unique skills and experience. Take advantage of Live Career's extensive resume resources, which include details on the chronological resume format. For inspiration, look through examples of chronological resumes via our Resume Samples page.
Many new college graduates select the functional resume format, particularly if they have limited work experience. It focuses the hiring manager's attention on the skills you have built rather than the progression in work experience. It contains the same five sections as any resume format (header, summary, skills, experience, and education.) Where it differs from the chronological resume format is by dedicating the majority of the resume space to discussing the variety of ways you've built the skills and your demonstrated results, bucketing them into categories.
Ready to get started on your chronological resume? Our Resume Builder will guide you through the entire process. And don't forget, your cover letter is the other critical piece to a complete application package. Check out our Cover Letter Builder today. Both offer customizable templates and step-by-step guidance to help you translate your skills and experience compellingly.