Resumes and Cover Letters for New Graduates

There are many different resources available to help you craft your resume, including books and websites. Although there are basic standards that you should adhere to, you will find that many resume resources provide differing opinions. Just remember, your resume is your personal presentation of your skills, talents and personality, and you have the ability to create your own stylistic interpretation to help an employer get to know you.

Entry Level Resume

As a new graduate, your resume is going to be vastly different from an experienced worker, mainly because you don’t yet have significant work experience to showcase. Here are some basic tips for your entry level resume:

One Page Rule

Be brief. As a new graduate, your entry level resume should not extend past one page. You only have a few seconds to grab your potential employer’s attention. If your resume is too long or overly detailed, it will probably get overlooked.

Objective Statement

It’s important to have a section at the top of your resume that briefly states your job goals, usually labeled “Objective” or “Summary.” If your objective mirrors the job description, it will quickly tell your potential employer that you are a good fit for the position.

Work Experience vs. Education

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If you have great work experience, such as an internship or a project completed related to your field of study, you should consider putting your work experience as the first section on your entry level resume (beneath your Objective statement). Generally speaking, if you have had a successful record in school, but have only held down unrelated jobs (like in a restaurant or summer camp), you would want to highlight your education first.

Awards, Skills and Memberships

If you have developed other skills, or actively participated in college groups, you should note those attributes that add value or positively reinforce you as a good candidate for the job. You can create sections for any specialty skills, college awards and professional or charitable related memberships. You do not need to describe each award you received, just list them. Most employers will only want you to focus on college related activities, so leave off any of your high school accomplishments. If the job description lists required skills, list them if you have them!

No Errors

Triple check your resume for errors. The quickest way to get your resume disqualified is to have spelling or grammar errors. Use the word / grammar check tools but don’t rely on them alone. After you have reviewed your resume, it’s a good idea to ask a professor, friend or family member to read it as well.

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Entry Level Cover Letter

Always include a cover letter when you send out your entry level resume, if you are able. A cover letter is another way for a potential employer to get to know you. Here are some basic tips for your entry level cover letter:

What to Highlight in a Cover Letter

Your cover letter should express your interest in the position and highlight what you believe makes you the best candidate for the job. Take the time to review the job requirements and discuss your skills as they relate to those requirements in your cover letter.


There are many resources in the library or on the web available to help you write your entry level cover letter. Here is a basic outline of an entry level cover letter:

  • Salutation – If a contact is listed on the job posting, always use his/her name in the salutation line. If no contact is listed, use “Sir or Madam”
  • Paragraph 1 – Describe where you found the job posting and your interest in the position.
  • Paragraph 2-3– The body of your cover letter should discuss your skills and experience as it relates to the position. You need to convince your potential employer that you would be a good potential fit for the job. Refer to the job description as you write this section.
  • Paragraph 4– This is where you plant the seed for the interview. Include potential next steps, your contact information and when you can be reached here.
  • Closing– Include a professional closing such as “Sincerely” and sign the cover letter.
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If you don’t know how to format a business letter, use a software program such as Microsoft Word that has templates or instructions.

No Errors

As you are writing and proofreading your cover letter, remember that you could be representing this company someday. Even if you are applying for a junior position, an entry level cover letter should look and sound professional. Have a professor, classmate or family member double check your work, and accept constructive criticism about your cover letter.