Resume Insights for Entry-Level Candidates & Beyond

Resume Insights for Recent Graduates

Springing off the graduation stage and into real life can be both daunting and exhilarating. From apartments to jobs, it’s officially time to step into the marketplace. But your resumethe ticket to your first job—may currently feel as barren as your bank account.

So how can you ensure employers will give you a fair shot?

Here are five resume insights to enhance your job application and streamline your job search.

#1: Companies Want to Hire Entry-Level Candidates

When you have minimal professional experience, it can be difficult to determine what to include on the entry-level resume. But before you panic about your dearth of professional experience, remember that your resume distinguishes you from your peers, not from executives with 15 years of leadership experience and a 4-page publication list.

Companies want to hire junior employees with lots of energy and years ahead of them who are eager to prove themselves and easy to train. You are an ideal candidate for these roles.

Now, the resume provides an opportunity to differentiate you from the other graduates by revealing the value you bring to the company. That value includes your unique fingerprint of education, soft skills, technical prowess, and experience that separate you from other promising applicants.

To ensure that the employer understands your value, create a summary section on your resume that includes a “value proposition,” a quick statement that weaves together your internship hours, degree, years of work experience, industry, and soft skills. Here’s how an entry-level value proposition could look:

Cost-focused business analyst with a BBA from Emory University and 500 hours of internship experience in top finance firms. Collaborating across functions to provide data-driven insights that feed financial reporting. A devoted process optimizer, adept at modeling business operations to promote change management initiatives.

Generally, it’s recommended that you avoid cliches like “strong organizational skills” or “outstanding communication skills,” but for entry-level candidates, those soft skills can be acceptable. However, if you call yourself a “problem-solver,” just be sure to support that statement with details about how you actually solve problems.

#2: Your Education is an Asset

For entry-level positions, employers often require a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. If you have a sparkling new diploma in hand, you meet one of the basic requirements for employment. Congratulations! Now, spotlight that credential by posting your educational experiences at the top of your resume.

In the Education section, include your college, major, minor, graduation date, honors, GPA (if it’s impressive), and even your relevant coursework. Here’s an example of how an entry-level Education section should look:

EDUCATION

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | Bachelor of Arts, Communications & Marketing

Graduated: May 2023 cum laude (GPA: 3.89 / Dean’s List, 6 semesters)

Relevant Coursework: B2B Marketing, Data Analytics, Public Relations, Digital Media Strategy

As you move further along in your professional career, the details about your education will become less and less relevant. Professionals with several years of experience can move the Education to the bottom of the resume, remove coursework, cut the GPA, and even nix the date of graduation as ageism becomes a concern.

Note: If you’re still working on finishing your degree, you can list your Expected Graduation date to show employers and recruiters that it’s in progress. If you haven’t completed a degree, fear not! You can still include any relevant coursework, training, or certifications you’ve completed.

#3: Quantify Your Achievements

Insights for First Time Job Seekers

The Experience section of your resume offers space to describe any professional, internship, or volunteer experiences you’ve gained and how they relate to the prospective position. Many entry-level resumes use the bullets in this section to describe what they DID on the job. That’s a good first step.

Summarizing the bullet points from a job description can be a quick way to start writing. However, rehashing a job description doesn’t really explain what distinguishes you from other candidates. It just shows that you can copy/paste.

Instead, take these bullet points further by quantifying your achievements. What does that mean? Add numbers to describe your outputs (how much you produced), results (how much you contributed), or savings (how much time/money you saved).

Quantifying your achievements answers the unfortunate but understandable question on any manager’s mind: Is this person going to cost me more than they are worth?

Let’s take a deeper look at the difference between a generic job description and a quantified job accomplishment:

Job Description:

Receptionist | ANGLE SPORTS | Nashville, TN | 2022 – 2023

  • Responsible for greeting customers, answering the telephone, and responding to emails.

Job Accomplishment:

Receptionist | ANGLE SPORTS | Nashville, TN | 2022 – 2023

  • Answered ~50 calls and emails per day while providing excellent customer service, contributing to a 75% jump in customer satisfaction ratings within 6 months.

Notice that a couple of shifts took place in the language between those two bullets. For one, the second example began with an active verb rather than the nebulous and unnecessary phrase “responsible for.”

In addition, the second example gave the reader a clear picture of the scope and scale of their work by quantifying the number of calls, emails, and guests, as well as the timeframe of their impact.

What is more impressive, the writer discussed the result of their work: “a 75% jump in customer satisfaction.” The employer can extract from the bullet several soft skills: the candidate is dynamic, personable, and capable of thriving under high-pressure.

Imagine that your resume said you were “dynamic,” “personable” and “capable of thriving under high-pressure” without the descriptive and quantified bullet. In that case, the soft skills would feel canned and unproven. A detailed bullet provides evidence of your value.

#4: Add a Leadership Experience Section

Resume Insights for Job Seekers

Let’s say you don’t have much professional or internship experience but you’re a member of a bunch of clubs. Great! Or let’s say you have tons of professional and leadership experience. Double great.

You can add a Leadership section to your resume that outlines the roles and accomplishments you tracked within service organizations. As with the Experience section, be sure to list bullets with achievements rather than simply outlining your job responsibilities.

I’ll teach you a little trick for writing these bullets. A quick Action Context Result (ACR) formula will give you a winning bullet every time. Let’s see how that looks in an example:

LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE

Treasurer, Boys & Girls Club, Nashville, TN, 2023 – 2024

  • Owned budget for undergraduate club, allocating $25K in funds to provide youth development programs to 300 local children.

To break that down, the parts of the bullet are:

  • Action: Owned budget and allocated funds
  • Context: Undergraduate youth development club
  • Result: Served children.

Notice once again that the bullet is sprinkled with plenty of quantifiers that reveal the scope and scale of the work ($25K in funds, 300 children). The quantifiers, together with the ACR formula, provide the HR manager with a clear picture of your tasks and achievements on the job.

As you move forward in your career, you can drop the college leadership experiences from your resume but add any new board roles you accumulate going forward. These leadership positions demonstrate your eventual aptitude for managerial roles.

#5: Match Keywords from the Job Description

According to Forbes, over 90% of large companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to scan resumes. This list of resume insights would be incomplete without mentioning the great and mighty scanners that check resumes for alignment with a given job description.

The best way to ensure that your resume matches a job description is to swipe 6–8 keywords from the posting and pop them into a bank of keywords, known as a Skills section. The keywords can include a mix of technical and soft skills to help you beat the scan. Here’s an example:

SKILLS

Financial Analysis

Budgeting

Data Modeling

Data Analysis

Financial Reporting

Microsoft Excel

At this level in your career, be realistic about the skills that you include. If you promise that you’re proficient in Microsoft Excel but can’t run a SUM formula to save your granny, then leave the program off your resume. If you create false expectations, that could only work against you on day one of the job.

Likewise, including higher-level keywords on your resume like “Financial Management” could draw scrutiny if you have zero years of experience.

To maximize your chances for success, customize the resume each time you apply for a job by adapting the keywords to match each job you desire. As you move through the ranks throughout your career, adjust the keywords to reflect your level of experience and responsibility.

Resume Insights: Conclusion

When crafting your entry-level resume, be as specific and realistic as possible about the achievements you present. At the same time, you can select the accomplishments from your experience and education that put your work in the best possible light.

Use narrow keywords, examples, dollar figures, and other values to describe your positive impact. Including these details on your resume may feel like bragging, but the details provide evidence of the value you bring to your first full-time employer. Those details will also distinguish your resume from the other candidates who will most likely deliver vague and undeveloped descriptions.

If these resume insights seem daunting, the Certified Professional Resume Writers at Red Pen Wench can guide you through every step of the process. Our writers will collaborate with you to create a customized and well-quantified resume that accurately captures your value and achievements, all within an ATS-friendly format.

-Dena Marks, PhD, CPRW, Resume Writer at Red Pen Wench

Want more resume insights? Check out our video with 10 easy-to-implement resume tips proven to land more interviews.