What should go on a recent college graduate's resume?
April 23, 2014 7:30 AM   Subscribe

I am helping someone put together a post college graduation resume and we are unsure how much high school and college work experience to include. How can we show that this person is hard-working and dependable without it just looking like a list of retail and food service jobs?

This person worked a number of jobs in high school and to help with expenses while in college, but it ends up looking like a big list of low-level jobs not at all related to current career goals. The list includes several retail and food service type jobs. Could these be lumped together under an addional experience type heading?

This person has had one professional job since college (although in a different field) and an internship while in college. How can we show on the resume that this person is hard-working and dependable without it just looking like a list of low-level teenage type jobs?
posted by tamitang to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can include some jobs without including all jobs. I'd ditch the HS stuff entirely and include whatever subset of the college jobs, if any, seem more 'adult.' Having an internship and a post-college job matters a lot here - there's no need to worry about including lots of teenager jobs if you have actual professional employment to put down.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:36 AM on April 23, 2014

If the person has had a professional job and an internship then those should be the primary things on the resume but I don't think there's much harm in putting the other stuff on the resume so long as it doesn't seem like you're trying to act like you think the experience is directly relevant.

Can the jobs be grouped together? Like:

Sales Associate
Gap Inc. 5/2010-2/2011
Giant Food Mart 1/2010-5/2010
Ye Olde Beachfronte Gift Shoppe 6/2009-9/2009


But only if there's plenty of room on the page. And feel free to drop the high school jobs and/or shortest-duration jobs.
posted by mskyle at 7:38 AM on April 23, 2014

It depends on whether you get to use this kind of application, but this is the kind of thing that would work well in a cover letter.

Sounds like you're working on a general resume that isn't specific to any particular job. The first thing you should keep in mind is if any of those jobs show a longish tenure. Even if the person ran the snack shack at the same pool every summer, that's a good sign to employers; it says this person is able to be trusted and they wanted to work with this person again. (Golf caddying is actually huge for this sort of thing.)

Then you need to make sure that each resume this person sends out is tailored to the job he or she wants. To that end, if some of the retail or food service jobs developed certain skills that will be useful in the prospective job, that's the time to pull that out.

So maybe you make a "barrel" document in which you have all sorts of properly worded language that treats these early jobs as valuable fodder for the future. You just don't put them on the all-things-to-all-people resume; you tell this person to wait and watch and then pull out the relevant stuff to put on specific resumes when it comes up.
posted by Madamina at 7:38 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't forget that volunteer experience and leadership activities in student organizations count as experience, if you think the page will look too bare without some of the earlier positions.

Also, I always recommend making at least one "full" resume with absolutely everything on it, formatted nicely, so that when creating targeted resumes later, you have a "menu" from which to easily select.

Specifics about coursework, travel, or research projects might be relevant as well.
posted by Schielisque at 8:15 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would rather see three positions with information about why they reflect well upon an applicant than ten positions that are just dates and titles:

Cashier, Dan's Grocery, March 2008-June 2010
- Maintained cash drawer of $X with Y% discrepancies, well below the standard of Z% discrepancies.
- Named Employee of the Month six times, out of 64 employees.
- Missed zero shifts.

That's more useful to me as a hiring manager than:

Stockbroker, Merrill Lynch, March 2008-June 2010
Analyst, McKinsey and Company, June 2010-October 2011
Speechwriter, Senator Balzac Re-election Campaign, October 2011-November 2012
posted by Etrigan at 8:50 AM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

When someone looks at a resume, they're looking for relevant experience to the job they are hiring for.

I would leave off all of the college jobs we all had, and focus on internships, projects, leadership roles in clubs or societies, volunteer work.

If this person worked on campus, go ahead and put that.

Researcher-Department of Records and Transcripts
Sept 2013-Present

Something like that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:50 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

And I agree 100% with Etrigan, be sure to quantify in what way the graduate worked the HELL out of that job.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:51 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

The professional job and the internship will be the crown jewels of the resume. No need to list every single server/retail job they've had, I'd pick one (or two, if there's space) of the low level jobs - whichever is most relevant to a professional field or can be altered to use language that would be viewed favorably on a resume - "multitasking", "customer/client-facing", "Trained new employees", etc.

The key will be creating several updated versions of this resume to use language/address points from the individual job descriptions that they are applying to (on preview, similar to what Etrigan wrote above).
posted by windbox at 8:52 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

My current resume only lists my current and previous jobs because under those titles, I listed the various tasks I was responsible for in those positions. I also have a separate bullet for a leadership position I have related to a professional organization. Between those items and my education, that's pretty much it for my resume though it covers the previous eight years of my career.

This is a resume, not an employment history. Think "greatest hits," not "complete works." Focus on the professional job and the internship and sprinkle in some of the previous jobs from college. Add any leadership positions held in college organizations, especially if they're relevant to the field, any awards won, and any classes that are specific to the job that the applicant took in college. Keep it to one page, use a font that a person can read without a magnifying glass and you're done.

Don't over-think this. I imagine that this person is applying for jobs that are basically entry level. When I want to hire someone entry level, I want to see that they have interned or volunteered somewhere on a regular basis where they had to show up on time and work. And I want to see a cover letter that demonstrates that the job applicant can write well and hopefully actually has an interest in the work my organization does. That's it.
posted by kat518 at 9:29 AM on April 23, 2014

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