Students’ Resume: What and How to Write?
A resume guide for interns and fresh graduates — sample and tips included!
I was helping my partner to write his resume for his internship application. He is near to graduation, but he is required to do 1 semester of internship. After I did so, I figured “Hey, we could have this as a part of a sharing session”. So this is it. This guide is written for mainly interns, and is applicable for fresh graduates too!
Before applying for any jobs, ask yourself these few questions:
What position am I interested to try?
What are the general key roles and responsibilities?
What companies are offering this position?
And of what background are they from?
Why am I interested in being a part of it?
You need to browse as many job listings available — DO.YOUR.HOMEWORK. Read the job descriptions for the positions you’re interested in, and what other jobs are related to the positions you’re aiming for. This also includes if you’re looking for a paying internship or not, etc.
TIP #1: If you’re interested in a job opening you see, simply search “word cloud generator” and copy-paste the job listing description to see what’s the most common keywords are being used. See if that matches up with what you’re looking for — this can also give you some sense of the position’s responsibilities.
Now, let’s proceed, assuming you know the desired position you are applying for. It can be any company but it’s best to have a top 3 or 5 (Psst…If you still don’t have any, keep reading anyway!)
The internship position is the most important part — this helps you determine how you would write your resume.
TIP #2: For this guide, I strongly recommend to use Microsoft Words or Google Docs
Your resume can be as plain or fancy as you want, but in the end, the content is the most important part (unless you’re in creative/design)
BUT WHY? This is because some companies have actively been using ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to manage candidates (like you!) in their hiring.
If you’re using something that leads to having unreadable text in its PDF form (e.g. Adobe PhotoShop or Illustrator), then… it’s going to read it as BLANK. However, it is also best to avoid icons, pictures, etc. in general whenever possible.
The two figures below is an example of an UNREADABLE text on PDF, and the other is a READABLE text on PDF.
HOW IS THIS IMPORTANT? To be frank, you’d never know which company would use, and which company wouldn’t. Even if they don’t; and you’re applying via, let’s say, indeed or jobstreet –they MAY use ATS to filter out applicants before sending it to the companies. Your application can be even listed as a spam, so consider this as a safety net.
Your resume should be 2 pages at most. It’s best if you can make it into 1 page; make the designs AFTER you’re done writing it (hence, just follow this guide and do the designs later)
Unlike a CV (Curriculum Vitae), resume is a summary; so be specific; tailor and write your past experiences towards the position you’re aiming for.
As a student applying for an internship, there should be about 10 parts in your resume in this following generic structure:
- Contact Info
- Employment History (if any)
- Volunteering Experiences (if any)
- Competitions (if any)
- Projects (if any)
- Relevant Skills
- Other Interests
If you don’t have the ‘if any’ parts, don’t worry! This is only a guide for you to write your own tailored resume. All of the contents written must be yours and related to the position you are applying for, soft-skills included.
You’re a student — they don’t expect you to have much experience, but they do expect you to have SOME skills developed. As an intern, they can only promise you some GROWTH from that.
If you’re applying for an internship position in design/languages (e.g. translation/transcription, etc.), just rearrange the structure to highlight your projects and languages. If you don’t know which to prioritise, ask a lecturer or even better, someone who’s working in the industry!
1. Contact Info:
- Your Name
BOLD your name, and make the font size 4–8px BIGGER than your ‘normal font’. Your normal font should be 11px (min)-14px (max).
- Your base location (e.g. ‘Selangor, Malaysia’)
It’s best to use <State>,<Country> format. However, you can always narrow it down to <City/Town>,<State>,<Country>.
TIP #3: If you live in a place where it has a ‘glamourous’ name, write that instead. This helps you to stand out a little bit better.
For example, you’re based in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
You can the options to write it as: Greater Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or Klang Valley, Malaysia. This increases your chance to be filtered (this works best to be found on Linkedin!)
TIP #4: If you live in a rather rural/remote location or far from the work location, let them know if you’re willing to relocate.
Example of the format: <State>,<Country> (willing to relocate)
If you hadn’t thought about it just yet, just leave it as it is! Let them ask, and let the FUTURE YOU decide!
- Linkedin URL (if any)
It is best that you already have a Linkedin account, and has SOME details filled out. If you don’t have one — now is your chance to start! It’s a pretty solid social networking platform to build up your personal brand.
TIP #5: Make sure it is not a REAL LINK (it should NOT be clickable). The ATS detects this as a potential virus. What’s worse than applying for a job and be confused with a virus over a silly misunderstanding with a system?
It’s ok if you don’t have it though, or don’t want to be found on Linkedin. No pressure! It’s not a requirement to most companies, just a ‘nice to have’. Do keep in mind if you DO list it, someone’s going to check it out.
- GitHub/Behance/Your Online Portfolio (if any)
If you’re applying for a tech position, do share your GitHub link. If you’re applying for designs-related, etc. –include your Behance portfolio, or any accessible portfolio.
This is a HUGE PLUS POINT. Don’t worry if you think your projects ‘aren’t good enough’. Similar to Linkedin, be sure it’s not a real link.
- Contact Number
Suggested format: +60 12 345 6789
Remember to always include your country code in your contact number. You never really know where the hiring manager is based in (some companies have international employees that will contact you)
TIP #6: Have some spacing in between the numbers, it’s a good practice to separate the country code with the rest of the number.
What’s awesome if you would do the spacing every 4 (max) digits.
Be sure that your email isn’t ‘funky’ (e.g. email@example.com), or at least show some formalism.
TIP #7: Let’s say your name is Jane Doe.
The best email format is <firstname><lastname>@email.com. However, there are several other options too, if that is already taken.
1. firstname.lastname@example.org (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)
..etc. You can also include numbers, but it’s best to keep it minimal.
On the side note, make sure the email isn’t a link either (like in the Linkedin part I’ve mentioned — the ATS could mistaken it as a potential virus).
This should be under your ‘Contact Info’. However, we’ll skip this and get back to this at the end!
I like to write my timeline in tables and make the borders ‘invisible’ by..
- Change the border’s size to 0px (BEST OPTION! This saves some space)
- Change the border colour to white
This way; I am able to sort my timeline properly. However, you also simply write it as a normal text. It’s just my own preference of structure.
When you’re writing your education, be sure to list them out based on the reversed chronological order (the most to the least recent).
Write your school (university/pre-uni, etc.), and then the programme you’re enrolled in (BOLD them). Limit information from only your high school. It’s a resume: it should be consice.
TIP #8: Write anything important as a description or an overview for each education listing that you’d like your employer to know — this could be your final year project, or even just a mere fact or lists of subjects you took. However, don’t OVERDO it by listing out too many. Simplify it.
This can be PLUS POINTS to talk about in the interview.
For the date range, it’s best for you to do: <month><year> range format for your current, and <year> — <year> for the past ones (see sample). I like mine to be italic, but it’s only a preference — if you’re following it; be sure to be consistent about it.
As for the CGPA or results: be honest about it too. I’d say it’s rather optional for your current education programme, but it’s a good practice to write it regardless. Some companies just wants to know! I was an intern at a company that required ‘a 3.00 CGPA min’. The pay was RM1,300/month (which was a pretty decent pay) and my CGPA was below 3.00 at the time because I flunked one of the subjects. This is why interviews matter. The ‘requirements’ are more often just a wishlist.
4. Employment History
Similarly to the Education Section earlier, I made a table and made them ‘invisible’ (I changed the border size for the top row to 0px).
The format should be as shown in the figure above. Be sure you have your position title BOLDED. Your title should be ‘impactful’ towards the position you’re applying for, or at least shows that you have some soft skills that can be used and improved for the position.
Have bullet points to highlight your main tasks and responsibilities. If you are no longer working at a certain company/organisation, start your words in a past tense format. Otherwise, it should be in a present tense format. You should have 6 points maximum to fully describe your tasks and responsibilities. However, I’d recommend 4–5 at most.
TIP #9: Be consistent in how you write.
1. Your date range has a consistent format with the current education section, e..g: Nov 2017 — Jan 2018, or Jan 2019 — Present, etc.
2. You write 4 points of tasks/responsibilities for each position of employment.
3. If you write 2 lines for each points.
For those in tech, or has experienced working with certain tools/software (e.g.: MATLAB, JIRA, AWS, etc.), be sure you mention them. You’ll get filtered better.
5. Volunteering Experiences /Community Involvement*
This is optional. If you don’t have it then it’s ok. However, if you do have it, it should be a PLUS POINT.
*If you’re involved heavily in community activities as an organiser, then write the title as “Community Involvement” instead.
You should write them in a reversed chronological order. The top one should be the most recent.
TIP #10: If you don’t have any employment history, do write your tasks and responsibilities in bullet points (refer to how I mentioned them in the Employment History section).
Again, you should have some consistency in how you write! The date format should be similar, as well as the number of lines for each points, etc.
What if I volunteered a lot? Do I write everything?
It’s better for you to filter out what’s relevant to the position you’re applying for. If you have some employment history, select your top 3–5 most relevant volunteering experience, and if you don’t then you can stretch this one out for 6–8 experiences.
Position the experiences you’ve had in a way it could benefit the position you’re aiming for, soft skills included!
6. Competitions (And Hackathons*)
*If you’re applying for tech jobs, and have some experience in joining a hackathon, write “Competitions and Hackathons” instead.
Referring to the sample shown above, you should also write down if you’re representing any organisation or area.
Add suffice details about your participation: what competition/hackathon did you participate in? Did you represent anyone (and who)? When did this happen? And lastly, did you win?
TIP #11: If you didn’t win anything, it’s ok — it’s all about the courage to try. You can’t have a ‘50th time’ without your first. Give yourself some credit.
If you didn’t win, but made it as a finalist, remember to award yourself with that title “Finalist”. If you have an award for the “best” category, write that too.
If you’re in the top 3 position, remember to use the title “winner” or “champion”, or even “1st place”. The “2nd place” or “silver” can be replaced with “1st runner up”. “3rd place” or “bronze” can be replaced with “2nd runner up”.
Projects are great, and it is always a PLUS POINT if you have documentations of it (e.g. a website/a newspaper cut/a blog post, put it up in your online portfolio like GitHub/Behance, etc.)
NOTE: Your university/school projects are STILL considered projects.
Try to keep it as relevant to the position you’re applying for as possible, and I’d recommend 3–5 projects that you’re proud of most!
TIP #12: If you don’t have ‘Employment History’, or ‘Volunteering Experiences’, then feel free to add bullet points for this one! Refer to the Employment History section. You could also stretch it out to 6–8 positions at most.
You could also list out the tools/software you used (refer to the Employment History section I mentioned earlier).
8. Relevant Skills
Write the top 6 skills you’re confident of, and ask your peers what they think are your strengths if you’re unsure! Ask them to be brutally honest, and listen to them. They might see a strength that you don’t! 😉
As an intern, it’s best to have a ‘moderately equal’ hard skills and soft skills, but generally, it doesn’t matter as much. Remember: nobody expects you to be a ‘master’ of anything just yet.
TIP #13: Avoid writing skills that could potentially make you look bad. Instead of “talkative”, write down “communicative” or “outgoing”, etc.
If you’re applying for tech roles, it’s also best to include your tech stack (what you can do/what you have practiced on). This can be from either your classes, or your own side projects, previous employment, etc.
9. Other Interests
List out your other interests. Write up to 2 lines, and use comma ‘,’ to separate them. Please do not write anything dangerous, e.g.: skydiving, swimming with sharks, etc.
List our the languages you are able to communicate in. Use comma ‘,’ to separate them.
TIP #14: Do not specify how good are in any of the languages, unless you’re in the language industry (e.g. translation, transcription, Natural Processing Language engineer, etc.)
If this is what you’re aiming for, I’d advise you to place this as one of the top highlights of your resume. You’d also have to specify how good you are in each of them, breaking it into: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
Feel free to seek advice from your lecturers and similar people of the same roles from the industry.
OK. So we’re almost done! Now, let’s get back to the 2nd section: Summary.
From all the writing earlier, what can you conclude? Write some keywords you think you’re able to relate to. Then, form a sentence or two.
Your summary should cover your interests and experiences. It should be like a paragraph and easy to be followed. Your last sentence should state what you are looking for in terms of your career opportunity.
TIP #15: Write up to 4 lines, and make sure you don’t use bullet points for this. Use up all the lines as much as possible to ensure you have the greatest opportunity in making the impact.
Now, you can design your resume as you wish. Do not remove any of the contents, unless necessary.
DON’T FORGET to remove the borders from the tables we did earlier.
If you like your resume to be as simple as possible, but want to have something ‘extra’, just change the ‘sections’ into a different colour text, or provide some ‘colour paddings’, like this:
Design-wise, I would not recommend going over the top. Find something simple, and easy on the eyes– it should not take you too much time on either; that’s just procrastination in disguise. Watch out for that.
Regardless of how you ‘style’ it, I wish you the best of luck! Do share this with your circles. Give a clap (or more 😉) if you found it insightful.
Kindly reach out to me if you have any questions or comments. I’d love to hear it from all of you. Also, let me know what else you’d like me to cover! The link to the sample is below.
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Make a Copy from the Sample:
Resume Sample Adapted From:
1. Google’s Director of Talent Explains How to Write a Killer Resume: https://www.fastcompany.com/90458024/googles-director-of-talent-explains-how-to-write-a-killer-resume
2.Brian Golod’s Resume Template: https://docs.google.com/document/d/19Fkh8dfe2C4H5wBCuFUK41ha1_4k_x2ASGT50ASqhEY/edit