The Best Resume Format for College Students

We know you're all still in the process of figuring out what to do with your lives, and we don't want to make it harder. So, here's a question: What is the best resume format for college students? 

If you answered "I have no idea," then this post is for you.

Learning how to land an internship or job is one of the most important skills college students and new graduates can develop. 

It’s estimated that the average GenZ will have 12-18 jobs over 6 careers in their lifetime.

So, where to start? Your resume. It’s a key component to landing an interview and securing that all-important internship or job. As such, it's essential to do everything possible in order for your document to stand out from others. 

Before we go through resume format, it’s important to explain that your resume serves two purposes:

  1. To get you through the initial screening process of Applicant Tracking Systems (bots) that companies use to screen and filter hundreds of applicants
  2. To get a recruiter excited to speak with you

Understanding Applicant Tracking Systems

In order to get hired by a company, applicants submit their resume and cover letter, more often than not, into an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), or what many applicants call "the black hole". This process can take up valuable time.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are used by many companies to reduce the time and expense associated with recruiting. These systems allow recruiters or hiring managers to search for potential candidates based on a number of criteria including education level, experience type (work history), industry knowledge/expertise in an area related to what they do at that company's business model. So, when you’re writing your resume, you need to take into account how the ATS will read and rank it.

  • Does your resume have the right keywords and skills required for the roles you’re applying to?  
  • Will the file format (PDF vs. Word) be readable by the system?
  • Are you adding things into your resume that might get your resume blocked from being properly read by the ATS?
  • Do you have tables or images that often throw off ATS?

For more information on how to optimize your resume for ATS, click here.

Formatting Your Resume

One of the trendy things to do these days is to use pre-made templates like the ones from Canva.  The issue with these templates is that they’re often not readable by ATS.

If you can’t get through the bots, you’re not going to get a human to view that pretty resume.  Stick to Word or PDF formats that don’t have tables or images.  These are far more easily ready by ATS.  

Key sections in your resume:

Education:

When applying for a job as a college student or recent grad, it’s important to include an education section on your resume (likely close to the top). This will allow employers to see how relevant you are and what type of training or degree programs you have completed. 

Experience: 

This is often the most important part of a resume, as it can make or break your chances at getting an interview. The goal here should be to show off all skills and experiences that are relevant to the opportunity you’re applying to. Don't simply list job titles; explain with relevant keywords and action verbs what kind of responsibilities were involved or even better, what contributions you made to help the employer. 

Skills: 

These are a resume's lifeblood. The more relevant skills you have, the better your chances will be of landing an interview and finding that perfect job. Take time to carefully consider what skills are important for the types of positions you are applying to and then add those that apply in this section.

Using Keywords on your Resume

Keywords are words that typically appear in the job postings you see for roles with which you're interested, and can help recruiters find qualified candidates more quickly than if they were just using their own methods of finding applicants who fit a role's requirements. These days it seems like every company is coming up with different names for jobs or positions themselves - so how do we know what these companies want? Well, there are ways! The best way would be through research; however not everyone has time nor patience to look at all those ads and pick out important information when looking into applying somewhere new. ATS systems are looking specifically for keywords, so DON'T miss this step!
With so many college students looking for their first internship or job, we want to make the process easier. That’s why PathMatch exists: to help you land your dream career! If you’re looking for more guidance on how to improve your resume, click on this link to learn how PathMatch can help you improve your resume and increase your interviews.

Wondering what you'll do after college? Download the Pathmatch app to discover companies that match your interests, strengths, and goals! Pathmatch can help find the perfect career fit for you!