Illustrated image of three resumes with pink, blue, and green highlights

An Easy 4-Week Plan to Perfect Your Résumé

In just four weeks, you can focus your research, select powerful keywords, and perfect your résumé to convince any employer you're the right hire. Here's how.

Since processes and platforms are often tailored to any given workplace, employers expect to provide technical training to new workers—so the traits they value most when hiring recent college graduates are transferrable skills such as leadership, adaptability, and industry knowledge. Employers often rate communication as the #1 skill they look for in entry-level employees. The job market’s hunger for effective communicators is good news if you’re hoping to secure a job in a month’s time. If you use the next four weeks effectively, you can craft a document that doesn’t simply say you’re an effective communicator but serves as proof of your polished writing and presentation skills. The following week-by-week schedule can help you perfect your résumé as you begin looking for your first full-time job.

Week 1: Analyze keywords and craft your header and summary

The words you put on your résumé need to be chosen carefully. Here's what you should do to get off to the right start.

Conquer keywords

Before your résumé makes it into the hands of a human recruiter, it will likely be evaluated by an automated applicant tracking system (ATS). Most ATSs are programmed to count the number of times words from the job description appear in your résumé. You should begin your process by spending two or three days looking for open jobs that interest you in your field. Once you’ve found 10–12, make note of commonly desired skills you already have. These will be the keywords you use to craft your professional summary and describe your skills.

Related: Infographic: Skills to Put on a Résumé to Land the Job 

Craft your header and summary

Your header consists of your name, contact information, and in some fields, your credentials. Once you begin selecting a design for your résumé, you’ll want to make your name stand out with a unique graphic treatment and a slightly larger typeface. Your contact information should include a link to your LinkedIn profile but not your full mailing address.

If you think of your résumé as a promotional document and your name as a brand, your professional summary is the sales pitch or tagline. As you draft it, focus on what you can offer your first employer and not on what you hope to gain from the experience. There are several ways to present your professional summary: as a brief narrative, as a series of descriptive titles and adjectives, or as a brief bullet list of accomplishments. Whatever approach you take, try to employ as many keywords from your researched list as possible.

Week 2: Choose a format and craft your skills section

Effective formatting can make all the difference! Here's what to consider and how to make the skills section shine.

Select a résumé format

The three most popular résumé formats include reverse chronological, functional, and hybrid. Due to its flexibility, the most effective format for most recent graduates is the functional résumé, as it allows you to list the skills, knowledge, and experiences you gained in the classroom and on the job as well as from campus or volunteer activities.

Related: 6 Smart Tips for Selecting the Best Resume Format 

Use skills to tell a story

As you perfect your résumé, focus on building a narrative that demonstrates how your skills will benefit your first employer. Don’t just list a skill; instead, tell a concisely worded story about how you solved a problem using that skill. Not only will this give your potential employer a better idea of what kind of employee you’ll be, but you’ll also be demonstrating what an effective storyteller and communicator you are through your writing.

Week 3: Draft your work history and education sections

You're halfway there! Here's how to make these important résumé sections stand out.

Leverage your education

As a recent college graduate, your education should appear in a prominent section of your résumé, just below your professional summary, particularly if your alma mater has a strong reputation in your field of study. If your overall or major GPA is 3.0 or higher, include it along with relevant coursework.

Make the most of your work history

Your functional résumé will conclude with your work history listed in reverse chronological order. At this stage, don’t worry if your work experience doesn’t seem relevant to your chosen field. Any job you’ve had—from cashier to lifeguard to sales clerk—can demonstrate your ability to learn new skills and interact with coworkers, customers, and clients.

Related: What Is a “Takeaway Résumé,” and How Can It Help You?

Week 4: Select your design and customize your résumé

Time to make your résumé uniquely yours—though there are still some guidelines you need to follow. Here's how to perfect the finishing touches.

Polish your layout

Because many ATSs are unable to decipher information from two-column résumé layouts, a one-column résumé will give you a better chance of making it past the first round of the hiring process. In most cases, you’ll supply your résumé digitally, so select a modern, sans serif typeface like Verdana or Tahoma.

Employ your résumé

Once you perfect your résumé, remember that it’s only a template. You’ll need to customize it for each job you apply to according to the details of each job description. Like your résumé, every job ad tells a story about a need the employer wants to address or a problem it needs to solve. Once you figure out what that need is, you can revise your master résumé to make the case that you’re prepared to provide the answer.

Related: Entry–Level Résumé Mistakes to Avoid as a New Grad

There you have it: an easy but effective plan to make your résumé the best it can be over the course of a month! By following these steps, you'll have a document that'll make a great impression on employers. Just don't forget to update it after you land the job. Best of luck! 

For more help on landing the job, check out our Internships and Careers section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

finding a job job search jobs postgrad resumes

About LiveCareer

Since 2005, LiveCareer’s team of career coaches, certified résumé writers, and savvy technologists have been developing career tools that have helped over 10 million users build stronger résumés, write persuasive cover letters, and develop better interview skills. Land the job you want faster using our free résumé templates and résumé examples, writing guides, and an easy-to-use résumé builder.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo


Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Emilie Delgado

Emilie Delgado

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2013

CollegeXpress has tremendously helped me in my search for financial aid opportunities as I enter my college career. It is easy to navigate and quickly narrowed down scholarships that I could apply for. Being awarded the scholarship will greatly help me in my finances regarding books and tuition. Thank you for this opportunity. Without CollegeXpress, it would have been more difficult to apply. I would recommend this site to everyone!

Jessica Rinker

Jessica Rinker

Student, Fairhaven High School; CollegeXpress Student Writer

My high school counselor introduced me to CollegeXpress freshman year. It has made such a difference in high school, and I plan to continue relying on it in college. CollegeXpress is my go-to because it addresses each aspect of being a student. There are the articles you’d expect regarding college applications and financial aid, but you will also find advice on things like de-stressing and maintaining relationships while balancing a heavy course load. CollegeXpress will also keep you updated on current scholarships through e-mails each Saturday. (They don’t harass you with any product promotion like so many other sites do.) CollegeXpress is a lot like an older sibling who has already conquered the challenges you are facing. Now, they are reaching out a helpful hand. I say take it.

Farrah Macci

Farrah Macci

High School Class of 2016

CollegeXpress has helped me in many ways. For one, online searches are more organized and refined by filtering scholarships through by my personal and academic interests. Due to this, it has made searching for colleges and scholarships significantly less stressful. As a student, life can already get stressful pretty quickly. For me, it’s been helpful to utilize CollegeXpress since it keeps all of my searches and likes together, so I don’t have to branch out on multiple websites just to explore scholarship options.



High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress was able to give me a short summary, background, and helpful tips about Bob Jones University The information given was helpful in allowing me to understand and read about personal experiences while at Bob Jones.

Priscilla Yeboah

Priscilla Yeboah


Throughout my search for colleges I was afraid and timid, but I finally found the college that was fit for me, and luckily, I got accepted. One of the most influential things that’s helped me a lot was the articles and advice on CollegeXpress. It’s helped me a lot and benefited me as a senior to make the right choices in life. Thank you!

College Matches