How to Make Your Resume Stand Out When You Don’t Have Job Experience

I remember the last and only time I showed up for an interview without a resume. After months of unsuccessful job hunting, I had come to the concrete conclusion that nobody actually reads your resume. It’s the easiest conclusion to come to when you spend hours agonizing over every word on your resume, press the send button, and wait for a response that will never come. Resumes don’t land jobs, networking does. I was right and wrong. Yes, 80% of positions are hired based on a personal connection, but no, the resume isn’t dead. I didn’t intentionally leave my resume at home that day. It just wasn’t on my Important Things Radar (like nail polish color, fresh breath, not sweating through my sweater, etc.) When I showed up, I started chatting with the woman who had helped me get the interview. We had spoken over the phone at length, and I could tell she was really gunning for me. “Do you have your resume?” she asked before I went in for my meeting with the big boss. “Shoot. I forgot to print one.” Her eyes went wide. “Not a problem. Do you have an electronic copy? Here’s my computer. Print one. Now.” Two minutes later, the CEO took my resume, skimmed it and put it on her desk. After I had been hired, my resume fairy godmother told me I would not have even been considered if I had walked into the CEO’s office without one. The resume is the necessary evil of job-hunting. The Time-You-Spend-Writing-It to the Time-Someone-Spends-Reading-It ratio is depressing, but you’ve got to have one. And to stand out from a pile of resumes on someone’s desk, you’ve got to have a freaking good one. Save yourself some agony. Here are some quick tips to creating a rockstar resume right out of college.  (Hint #1 don’t forget to bring it with you to your interview.)

Relevant work experience does not have to come from a previous job.

Resume writing can be tricky, especially if your job experience is lacking. Think very critically about what you’ve done over the last couple years and how those experiences could apply to the job you are applying to. Your volunteer work, your library desk work-study, the one-act play you built a set for – all of your experiences, paid or not, can translate into marketable skills. Ex. “Coordinated marketing efforts for a sorority fundraiser that resulted in a 20% increase in tickets sales from last year.”

Notice that number? Quantify everything.

Make sure that all of your experiences are matched with quantifiable descriptions. You didn’t just build a set. You maintained a budget of $3,000 and managed responsibilities for a crew of 15 student workers. It’s all in the numbers.

If you’re going to include an objective, live by it.

A lot of career coaches will recommend having an objective at the top of your resume. Ex. “Seeking entry-level marketing opportunities in online retail.” If you have a concrete objective, include it. If you’re not sure what you want to do after college, skip it. A vague objective impresses no one.

Skills. Got em? List em.

If you’ve picked up any useful skills, be sure to include them. These can include software programs you’re familiar with like Photoshop, InDesign, Powerpoint, or Excel. And it should go without saying, but don’t include skills you wouldn’t be comfortable using professionally. Having a Twitter handle does not make you a Social Media Ninja.

Less is more.

Your resume should never be longer than a page. Cater your content to the job you’re applying for and be short and sweet while doing so. Lead with strong action statements and follow with concise conclusions. Ex. “Advised a team of 7 reporters for the student-run newspaper and enforced weekly budgets and deadlines.” For easy guidance on putting together your next resume, download our handy resume checklist for recent grads infographic and tape it to your desk. file-1495809191

Michaela Gianotti serves as Koru's content specialist around job seeker and candidate experience advice. She attended Whitman College, where she spent the better part of four years convincing her family that English majors can get jobs too. She has since found awesome work (SEE!) at 826 Seattle, msnNOW, and Koru.

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