The 9 Mistakes New Graduates Make on Their Resumes

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8 February

When you’re just starting out in your career, you want to make sure that you’re doing everything right on your resume in order to get your dream job. But when it comes down to it, there are many things you could be doing wrong without even realizing it! To avoid these 9 common mistakes, read on and make sure that your resume is as strong as possible—and hopefully, your first job won’t be too far off!

#1) Not Tailoring your resume to the job

With so many different kinds of resumes out there, it’s easy to feel paralyzed when you think about how to write yours. It is important to keep your resume targeted and relevant to the job you are applying for. If you don’t have work experience, an internship will be more applicable than a summary of your extracurricular activities. The goal of your resume is simple: tell someone why they should hire you; everything else is irrelevant. If a company sees that your past experiences or credentials match their needs, then they won’t even bother looking at anything else in your application. That being said, tailor every other part of your application (cover letter, personal statements) specifically for that job as well.

#2) Missing key skills

Most new grads are unaware of what skills employers are looking for, but if you don’t have one of them, you could be missing out on a job opportunity. The easiest way to check your resume against those key skills is to do a quick LinkedIn search for positions that interest you; scroll through those job descriptions and see if any of your experience or knowledge matches up with these desired skills. If it does, make sure that you’ve listed them in your resume! Even if it doesn’t, make sure to add some relevant keywords in there as well – more and more recruiters are using keywords as filters when sifting through resumes.

#3) Typos & Grammar Errors

Typos happen. All of us make them from time to time, including professional resume writers and those who professionally proofread resumes. However, an applicant with a resume that’s full of mistakes is going to stand out in a bad way. Typos, misspellings, and grammar errors scream unprofessional to hiring managers and recruiters who are reviewing applicants for entry-level positions. Don’t give employers a reason not to look at your resume further by making these basic errors! Pro tip: Use Grammarly to check the grammar and spelling.

#4) Listing things that aren’t relevant

For example, listing every single thing you did during high school is pretty much useless. Not only do recruiters not care that you ran for treasurer, but they also don’t want to read through pages of irrelevant bullet points. The goal of your resume is to provide relevant information in a quick and easy-to-read format. If a recruiter wants more information about something, they’ll ask for it; don’t waste time and space with irrelevant details.

#5) Using templates

The biggest mistake new graduates make is using a resume template from Google and not tailoring it to their needs. If you want to stand out, you need to show hiring managers why you are a great fit for their open position. Avoiding templates ensures that your resume is a strong representation of your personal brand and skills. It also shows them that you’re savvy about business culture and understand what makes an effective resume in today’s competitive market.

#6) Putting References at the bottom

Leave it to employers to scan your resume in seconds and make snap judgments based on your references. If you’re leaving them at the bottom, they’ll never get a chance. Put references right below your name, in front of every job you’ve held (with dates) so that they catch an employer’s eye before anything else does.

#7) Having gaps in employment history

Though most young graduates aren’t working for more than a year or two straight out of college, having large gaps in employment can hurt your resume’s appearance. This is often due to post-graduation vacations and internships, but it may also be due to jobs you took for just a few months at a time. When possible, try to find ways to smooth over these gaps with sentence structure and keywords that describe what you were doing.

#8) Inconsistent formatting throughout

Making formatting mistakes can be a huge red flag to employers. When you’re drafting your resume, it's not just what you include but how it looks and is presented that’s important. Experts recommend keeping formatting consistent throughout your resume; otherwise, it will look sloppy and unprofessional. For example, don't mix upper-case with lower-case letters in headings or positions -- either use only lower-case or cap everything. Also avoid inconsistent spacing between sections (e.g., top vs bottom margins) and typographical errors (i for an l). Your goal is to show as much of your work experience as possible without obscuring your accomplishments; doing so shows employers that you are responsible and detail-oriented.

#9) Focusing too much on responsibilities instead of results

One of the biggest resume mistakes I see among new grads is a tendency to over-focus on their responsibilities at work. This is especially true for people who graduated from college with a major in soft science—like English, psychology, or political science. While it’s important to have concrete examples of your achievements, it’s also crucial that you don’t bury them by focusing too much on what you were responsible for instead of what you actually achieved. The main reason that employers like graduates with strong job experience is because they already know how to get results; what they don’t know is whether or not those same skills will translate into success in another industry. If all you talk about are your accomplishments and never mention any actual numbers (revenue, etc.), employers won’t be able to tell if you can scale or adapt those skills. If someone lists Received the highest grade in the class: 4.0 GPA then an employer knows they can teach someone how to learn and succeed with rigorous effort...however if an applicant lists Responsible for 80% sales increase then an employer can tell right away that there's some serious meat on these bones...even if it's only one item mentioned out of a laundry list of responsibilities. Make sure that you put as much emphasis on hard numbers as possible when creating your resume so potential employers know exactly what type of value proposition you bring: results!

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