How to Create a Student Resume That Wows Hiring Managers

In today’s competitive job market, creating a strong student resume is an invaluable tool for showcasing your skills and qualifications to potential employers. Whether you’re a recent grad or currently pursuing your degree, taking the time to create and optimize your resume can significantly boost your professional prospects and aid in your job search. Here’s what you need to know to build the best student profile possible. 

How to create a great student resume 

Pick an organized format 

When choosing a resume format, it’s important to consider factors like your level of experience, industry norms, and readability. Here are some tips to organize your resume effectively. 

1. Research industry standards: Different industries might have specific preferences for resume formats. Research what’s commonly accepted in your prospective field and try to align with those norms. Creative fields, like design or marketing, may require more visually appealing and unique formats that show you’ve customized your resume to showcase your individuality. 

2. Consider the ATS (Applicant Tracking System): Many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems to scan and filter resumes. Ensure that the format you choose is ATS-friendly, meaning it can be easily scanned and parsed by these systems. Common ATS-friendly formats include MS Word (.docx) or PDF (.pdf) files, avoiding complex designs and layouts.

3. Balance between professionalism and creativity: Consider the nature of the job and the company culture. Some companies value creativity and uniqueness, allowing for a more fun and unique format. In more conservative industries or for positions that require a more professional tone, it’s generally best to choose a clean and straightforward format.

4. Browse resume templates: Lots of online resources offer student resume templates that can help you create a visually appealing and well-structured resume. Choose a template that is easy to read, has clear section headings, and reflects your personal style.

5. Use white space effectively: A good resume format uses empty space effectively, making it easier for recruiters to skim through and locate key information. Avoid overcrowding your resume with excessive text or cluttered designs. Allow your content to breathe and make the important details stand out.

6. Test readability and compatibility: Make sure the font size, typeface, and formatting choices make readability and compatibility easy across different devices and operating systems. Stick to standard and widely accepted font choices like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman, as these are easier to read.

Remember, the purpose of your resume format is to create a visually appealing and easy-to-read document that effectively communicates your skills and experiences. Choose a format that aligns with your industry, focuses on relevancy, and showcases your qualifications in the best possible way.

Include your contact information at the top

Beyond communicating your skills and experience, the goal of a resume is to spark a follow-up conversation or job interview. Make it easy for recruiters and hiring managers to reach out to you by putting your contact information at the top of your resume, front and center, right beneath your name. Include a working email and phone number. 

To make sure an interview request doesn’t get lost in an old email account, include an account you check frequently. If you’re graduating from high school or college soon, consider using your personal email address instead of a .edu address. 

Sometimes, you’ll see physical addresses written on a resume. This is entirely optional. If you’re applying to jobs outside of your city or state, you might want to leave this information out. 

If you already live in the area where your prospective jobs are, a local address could signal to a hiring manager that you’re already in close proximity and might be able to start work sooner. Use your best judgment. And if it makes you uncomfortable to share your physical address, don’t feel pressured to do so.

Take stock of your current experience

Most professional resumes feature an “experience” section that highlights previous experience to showcase the applicant’s preparedness for a particular role. But as a student, you probably don’t have a ton of experience –– and that’s to be expected. 

If this is the case, it’s a good idea to prioritize relevant education over work experience. Create an education section and use it to showcase your academic achievements, coursework, and acquired skills. At this stage in your life, your education experience is likely the best way to prove you’re prepared for the role. 

That’s not to say there aren’t people who haven’t accumulated relevant experience by the time they’re in college. If your experience is more relevant to the position than your coursework, you may decide to prioritize that instead. 

For example, if you’ve held relevant internships, part-time jobs, work-study roles, or volunteer positions that showcase skills or experiences related to the job, this may be more appealing to the hiring manager.

But for most students, highlighting your education is the best way to demonstrate a commitment to growth, academic performance, and qualifications for the role. 

Include details like your degree or program, the name of the institution, your expected graduation date, your GPA, and any academic achievements (honors/awards) or relevant coursework/projects. If you’ve received a prestigious or merit-based scholarship, you might want to include that too.

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Add a “relevant skills” section 

On your resume, include a “skills” section that showcases both hard and soft skills. Depending on the type of industry you’re entering and the role you’re pursuing, these skills will vary. An easy distinction: hard skills are technical knowledge you’ve learned and soft skills are personal qualities that influence your work. 

For example…

  • If you’re applying for a mechanical engineering position, knowledge of a program like CAD is a hard skill, and the ability to work well on a team is a soft skill.
  • If you’re applying for a project management position, an understanding of budgeting would be a hard skill, and communication might be a soft skill to include on your resume.

While soft skills have more to do with your personality, they’re still skills that you can can improve upon, like teamwork, organization, and leadership.

Highlight an equal amount of appropriate hard and soft skills on your resume. Don’t go overboard in listing every possible skill. You’ll only want to include realistic skills you can speak to in an interview setting. 

Include your extracurricular activities 

As a student, the “extracurricular activity” section of your resume is another opportunity to showcase experience and skills outside of a traditional work context. Detail your level of commitment (i.e. how many years you’ve participated in this activity) and highlight any leadership positions you’ve held. 

Extracurriculars you may want to include are clubs, sports teams, volunteer positions, student government, academic societies, multicultural organizations, Greek life, etc. This is not an exhaustive list. Include any other type of extracurricular that might add another dimension to your resume and offer insight into your work ethic, commitment, and personality. 

This can also be a great way to showcase a passion or interest. When a recruiter is looking at your resume, a shared love for animals and a history of volunteering at the SPCA might become a natural point of connection and an easy talking point during the interview

Depending upon the format of your resume and how much content you have in other places on your resume, it might help to create an “extracurricular activities” section to keep things organized.

Use action verbs and bullet points 

Using action verbs and bullet points in your resume can make it more dynamic, engaging, and easy to read for employers. Here’s a breakdown of how to effectively use them. 

Action Verbs

Start your bullet points with strong action verbs to describe your achievements, responsibilities, and experiences. Action verbs add impact to your resume and make your accomplishments stand out. Here are some examples of action verbs you can use:

  • Led (e.g. a study group) 
  • Managed (e.g. an extracurricular club) 
  • Collaborated (e.g. on a group project) 
  • Organized (e.g. an on-campus shoe drive) 
  • Created
  • Implemented
  • Resolved
  • Analyzed
  • Developed
  • Achieved
  • Volunteered
  • Supervised

Choose verbs that are specific to your field and accurately convey your actions or accomplishments. Avoid using passive language or weak verbs like “assisted” or “helped.” Be confident and proactive in the way you present your experiences.

Bullet Points

Bullet points help to structure and organize information in your resume, making it easier to scan and understand quickly. Follow these guidelines when using bullets: 

  • Keep it concise: Aim for concise bullet points that are no longer than two lines. Brevity helps employers quickly grasp your key achievements and responsibilities.
  • Use quantifiable results: Whenever possible, include specific numbers, percentages, or other measurables to quantify your achievements. If your on-campus fundraiser generated $10,000 for a good cause, make sure you mention that.
  • Be specific: Avoid using vague language. Instead, provide concrete details about your accomplishments, responsibilities, and skills. For example, instead of saying “worked on a project,” say “managed a team of five to successfully complete a project under tight deadlines.”
  • Avoid excessive bullet points: While it’s crucial to highlight your experiences, skills, and achievements, it’s also important to avoid clutter. Aim for 3-5 bullets per work experience or accomplishment to help maintain readability and focus on the most important points.

Remember, the goal of using action verbs and bullet points is to make it easy for employers to quickly understand your qualifications and achievements. Use these guidelines to showcase your skills and streamline your resume for hiring managers.

Keep it short

A student resume should rarely be longer than one single page. Set yourself up for success by creating a resume that stands out for its content and not its lack of proper formatting or unwieldy length. A single page can offer a detailed snapshot of your work experience and qualifications without requiring too much time to read.  

If you’re struggling to keep your content to one page, go back through with an editor’s eye and find areas to trim – or ask a friend, parent, teacher, or counselor to look on your behalf. 

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Crafting a great resume is the first step to landing a full-time position or internship. Take the time to make sure you highlight your accomplishments, education, and your hard and soft skills (and don’t forget to inject a little personality).

Whether you’re applying for an internship or preparing to enter the workforce, Going Merry has resources for you. Find and win scholarships, maximize your financial aid, and learn little-known tactics for making college more affordable. Sign up for Going Merry today.

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