Fresh Out of College? 10 Resume Writing Hacks to Land an Interview

by / ⠀Career Advice / January 21, 2014


According to the recent study, for every job a new graduate applies for, they have to compete with up to 160 other applicants. You don’t need a Masters degree to know that the competition is stiff these days – so how do you stand out from a sea of equally (or even more) qualified people? These 10 resume writing hacks will help your resume get to the top of the pile and into the right hands in order to land the interview for your dream job.

1. Infographics

Unless you’ve been living under a rock that doesn’t offer Wi-Fi, you know infographics have become one of the most popular ways to convey tons of information quickly, clearly and easily. Infographics take reams of information and squeeze them down into single pane illustrations with text – essentially making a comic strip of the information you want to convey. If you’re applying for a job where creativity is just as important as getting the message across, infographics could easily make your resume on the HR managers pass on instead of pass over.

2. Don’t Rely on New Media Buzzwords

Plenty of new college graduates have sharpened their teeth learning all kinds of new media and social networking tricks that can help the company to which they are applying. Before you start throwing around phrases like “social graph” and “semantic web” or writing about your experience in microblogging, viral marketing or Ruby on Rails, remember that the person initially reading your resume may very well have no idea what you’re talking about. In many companies HR managers and other hiring teams will trawl through the influx of applicants before passing on likely candidates to the rest of the team. Keep the buzzwords in your back pocket until you’re in the interview – breaking them out on your resume could land you in the file pile.

3. Recruit a Friend for the 20 Second Test

The best way to see if you’ve managed to format a resume well is to see how much information someone can get by simply skimming your work. Grab a friend and watch and see how much they can learn about you from your resume in 20 seconds. If they can rattle off the key points you want to make with employers, your work is done. If not, play with the formatting, fonts and wording to help your best features stick out.

4. Know Who You Are Writing For

Although it’s unrealistic to try and make a customer resume for each and every position you apply for, tweaking it and giving it a bit of a boost for certain positions can help you stand out. When you find a position you feel passionately about, be sure to write your covering letter and resume to fit the job. If they’re looking for someone who can hit the ground running on social marketing, play up the work you did promoting local organizations or rallying fellow students for a campus activity.

5. Have the Online Presence to Back it Up

These days it’s no secret that potential employers will be looking for you online. Be sure your FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media accounts are on their best behavior. If you’re looking for a position within a specific industry, it never hurts to make sure your online persona backs up the image you want to portray. If you’re looking to work with a recycling agency or other environmental industry, try to ensure the items on your FaceBook wall are Earth friendly, or that your Pinterest boards focus on positive change. Using your social media outlets to bolster your candidacy shows you have passion for the work, even when you’re not getting paid.

6. Check Your Quadrants

No, it’s not some Sci-Fi Geekdom test. Splitting your resume into four quadrants will help you ensure your information is well balanced. After writing a draft, simply divide your resume into four boxes (two on top, two on the bottom) and check out how much information each quadrant provides. In a well balanced resume, each area should offer up an equal amount of text and white space. Since most people will initially focus on that first quadrant when they begin reading, be sure you have something attention-grabbing there.

7. Focus on Results

No matter what industry you’re hoping to work with, progress and success rest squarely on results. Play up any part you’ve played in successful projects or things you’ve done that have resulted in real world results for clients, companies, organizations or your own university. Were you able to boost sales with fresh website content that focused on the passive sell? Did your research on bat guano fertilization result in better yields on a university agriculture project? Outline these achievements and use them as talking points in your interview.

8. Promote Yourself Through Reviews

A business relies on the reviews of past customers to build relationships with new clients. You can do the same thing by peppering your resume with quotes lifted directly from performance evaluations or letters of recommendation. As you list your skills and attributes, use appropriate quotes to drive the point home. For example, simply listing time management skills and dependability are great, but if you have a letter of recommendation praising the same qualities, use a quote instead of just bullet pointing your best features.

9. Format Your Writing

Traditionally, resumes have been written in a chronological format. This format simply lists past employment beginning with the most recent job and goes back to cover the last several positions you’ve held. It’s a great way to showcase experience … if you have any. For new college graduates, however, the chronological format can make it look as though you have little to offer. Explore using targeted, functional and combination resumes in order to showcase your skills and highlight what you can bring to the table.

10. Don’t Stop with the Resume

Of course, when you send a resume in, you shouldn’t send it alone. Including a well-written  and fully customized – cover letter is the best way to get your foot in the door. Including a small portfolio of work can be an asset in certain positions as well, so take time to consider exactly what they’re looking for from a candidate and give them what they want. When submitting resumes online, be sure attachments are kept to less than 1MB each and under 5MB total. You may want to show off your skills with a million high res attachments, but save them for the interview.

Leslie Anglesey is an academic coach, an associate professor and a contributor to EssayTigers, a writing company providing assistance for the students.

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About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.