Think your resume is flawless and ready to go? Before sending it off to that company of your dreams, you'll want to know what hiring managers look for, and what employers want from graduates when seeking potential prospects.
Arguably, the most important item on your new graduate resume is a completed degree. But what else do employers look for in recent graduates?
We asked three hiring managers for their feedback on the things employers look for when hiring recent graduates. They also share tips on how to build a resume that will catch their eye and get you in the door.
According to Michael Furlong, a Human Resource Director in the healthcare sector, an ideal resume doesn't just list your work history. It structures an engaging narrative that explains your accomplishments.
"How did you impact the companies you worked for? What discoveries or impacts did you make while interning or in school?" says Furlong. "A resume shouldn't be a duplication of your LinkedIn bio. This is your opportunity to tell them the story of you."
Education counts…but there's more to you than that
What if your work history doesn't tell much of a story?
That's okay, says Anne Marie Hagood, founder of Hagood Advisors, LLC, an HR consulting company.
"Employers don't expect recent grads to have a lot of professional on-the-job experience. However," she adds, "grads can and should highlight activities that show an understanding of the skills needed for the job market."
Beef up your resume's Experience section with skills employers want from college graduates:
- Include internships. Internships are incredibly valuable, especially if they're in the field to which you're applying. "Employers like to see applicants take the initiative to learn about the business," says Hagood. "Even if it's not a formal internship, time spent shadowing someone in a similar position or business is always a plus."
- Showcase specialized training. This training displays the skills employers want from college graduates. Be sure to include this experience in your cover letter (which you can create with our Cover Letter Builder).
"If a grad has specialized college coursework that is applicable to the position for which they are applying, they should list one or two relevant classes," says Hagood. "For example, an engineering candidate could and should note specialized coursework."
- Get specific. Employers want to see real-world applicability for what you've learned in school whenever possible. Here's an excellent example:
An integrated marketing major helped to plan and execute a fundraiser for an organization. It resulted in a 20 percent increase in contributions from the previous year. Both the achievement and the clear metric show the employer that this applicant will be an asset to their company.
Josh Shumaker, a corporate recruiter for The Knot Worldwide, agrees with Hagood. "I specifically look for any relevant internships or part-time jobs," he says. "Then, I look at campus involvement or extracurriculars."
Celebrate your accomplishments, but be concise
Entry-level candidates often struggle to sell themselves, especially when applying for more competitive jobs. Don't be afraid to give yourself a little pat on the back.
One of the things employers look for when hiring recent graduates is a brief objective that clearly and concisely defines your goals. Your resume's summary statement is the first place an employer is going to look when assessing you. This is an ideal spot to showcase your goals and achievements in a couple of brief and compelling sentences. Our resume samples can provide inspiration, and you can take a deeper dive into crafting your resume summary in this article.
Shumaker says, "If I see a generic or cookie-cutter objective/mission statement like, 'Pete is an outstanding person looking to get a foot in the door at XYZ industry,' I'm going to have a tough time taking the rest of the resume seriously."
In addition to being customized to your skills and tweaked to align with the position description, your summary statement should also clarify potential questions surrounding your work eligibility or relocation.
"If you're applying for a job in Ireland, but your resume shows you've worked and lived in the U.S. your whole life, I'd like to see your relocation plan," says Shumaker. "Most entry-level roles don't provide relocation assistance, so explain that you already have a plan to relocate to that city."
Add details strategically
New grads should always tailor their resumes to the position for which they are applying. "Study the job listing and try to use many of the keywords used in the position description," says Hagood. "A generic resume often gets passed over. And there's nothing worse than sending the wrong resume for the position."
Shumaker agrees. "If you're applying for a writing position, I want to see that you wrote for your school newspaper, have freelance experience or, at the very least, that you have a personal blog. If you're applying for a sales position, I'm going to look for customer service experience," he says. "It's imperative for candidates to show employers that even the most minimal experience provides transferable skills to the job they're applying for."
Edit heavily, format lightly
For HR managers, a resume's formatting and layout often indicates the candidate's organizational skills and attention to detail. Keep these editing and formatting issues in mind:
- Edit ruthlessly. Shumaker encourages entry-level candidates to be thorough in proofreading their resumes before sending them. Ask a friend or family member to review your resume or ask for help at your college career center.
- Don't over-format. "If your content is blocky with unnecessary spacing to try and fill space, it's going to be an issue. Try to fit everything on one page. If you have too much experience for one page, let it flow to a second page if necessary," Shumaker says.
- Let your words speak for themselves. Some grads create highly stylized resumes with charts, graphs, and multiple colors. These documents may be attention-grabbing, but they can be difficult to scan quickly (and very difficult for an to process, which is the last thing you want). Use a resume template to create a compelling resume that's easy to consume.
Remember, whatever you put on your resume is likely to come up during an interview. Be prepared to discuss everything you've stated in your resume and, most importantly, have a compelling narrative to go along with each of these accomplishments. Don't stretch the truth either – be honest and direct in all communications while on your job search.
A clean, concise, carefully crafted resume is the key to landing that first job after graduation. Need help perfecting and polishing your resume to ensure it includes all the skills employers want from college graduates? Put LiveCareer's Resume Builder to work. This powerful, straightforward tool will have you crafting a compelling resume that employers will want to read in just three simple steps.