Top 15 Resume Mistakes for New College Grads to Avoid

You have worked hard to complete your degree. The next big step is to land a job that lets you put that diploma to work. Applying to a professional job is different and the career services department can only help you so far in your job search. Our recruiters have put together the following list of the 15 biggest mistakes on your resume as a new college grad and explain how to avoid them.

#1 - Forgetting the Basic Contact Details

It may seem obvious, but the most common mistake by new grads on their resume is in their contact details. If you have the wrong or incomplete details on your resume, the recruiter or hiring manager won't be able to contact you for an interview. This means that your resume needs to have at a minimum, your name, email, and phone number.

Additional details that you should include on your new grad resume is your City, State, Zip Code, and your LinkedIn profile link. Why? Recruiters will filter candidates out based on their geography. So, you will be excluded from those searches by the applicant tracking systems (ATS) automatically if you don't include your geography.

The LinkedIn profile also needs to be included on your resume because people will be looking for it in the hiring process. Leaving it off only hurts your application and can leave to chance the person finds the wrong profile. So, put your LinkedIn profile and any other relevant profiles or portfolio sites in your contact details to make it easier to find more information about you.

#2 - Typos or Grammar Mistakes

Another big mistake by new grads on their resume is to forget to run spelling or grammar checks.  Typos and grammar mistakes make it look like you didn't take the time to proofread your resume or that you don't care about the details.

Most hiring managers and recruiters see this as inexcusable. There are so many free tools out there (including those built into Google Docs or Word) that there really is no reason for this to happen.

Studies show that people spend about 6 seconds skimming a resume before they make up their minds about a candidate. So, you must make a good impression immediately. And, that includes making sure that the resume is free of spelling or grammar mistakes.

#3 - Copying Your Friends

Everyone relies on their friends and colleagues for advice at some point in their career. In college, those friends or trusted resources may not have a lot (or any) experience in searching for professional jobs. Career services at your college or university can be a great resource, but they are there to help everyone else. So, a big mistake that many new grads make is to blindly follow the advice of their friends or career services.

This results in your application looking just like everyone else's on your campus. And, by copying them, you could also be making the same mistakes. To stand out, you have to build a resume that is built for your career. This means that you will also need to account for how and where that resume will go. And, you will need to account for the right keywords and phrasing for your career goals - not just that provided by your career services or friends.

#4 - Forgetting to Customize the Resume

Most college grads are pursuing multiple types of jobs so they can land somewhere to apply for their degree. Your experience is your experience, but how you capture that experience and the phrasing that you use can vary across job types or industries.

In doing so, they forget to customize the resume for the types of jobs that they are pursuing. This means having more than one version of your resume so you can effectively pursue the jobs that you are applying to. Or, customize the resume each time that you apply to a position.

#5 - Leaving Out Important Details

Another big mistake of new college grads is to forget to include all of the important details on their resume about their professional experiences. As noted above, the resume will be scanned by the ATS before it is reviewed by a person if you are applying online or otherwise going through HR. This means that the resume must include all of the relevant details on it to land the interview.

Avoid this common mistake by including all of the basic details and talking points about your experience so that you can land the interview. Make sure that you can talk to every word on your resume because you could be asked questions about it. And, remember that the person interviewing you may or may not be familiar with the organization or the program that you were in when you completed the experience. So, include information in a way that anyone could understand the experience.

#6 - Not Providing Numbers

Numbers are an important way to illustrate the impact of your work. Forgetting to include the results on your new college grad resume is a common mistake.  In fact, you may not even know the numbers or full impact of the work that you did because you didn't have access to that information.

A common workaround for that is to talk about the results that you know. Use the numbers of the accounts that you supported, the people you collaborated with, the clients served, etc. Think about how your experience compared to other interns or people on your team. Did you outperform others or the expectations for your work? If so, try to quantify it if you can.

#7 - Overlooking the Importance of Soft Skills

Entry-level professionals and new grads are almost always hired for their soft skills and ability to fit the company culture. This is because you won't and aren't expected to have the experience or expertise yet. Instead, the employer is actually looking for someone with a foundation knowledge that they can grow. But, most new grads overlook the importance of these skills on their resume and leave them off. Avoid this mistake by making a point to include clear soft skills on your resume.

Top soft skills to include on your new college grad resume are:

  • Self-motivated
  • Willingness to learn
  • Team player
  • Problem solver
  • Customer service
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Adaptability
  • Communicator
  • Professionalism
  • Reliable

#8 - Including Non-Relevant Details

Most new grads don't realize that a resume is simply a marketing piece to position you for the job that you want. It is not a historical report on everything that you have ever done. So, you will need to keep the resume focused on the relevant details for the types of jobs that you want to pursue.

One way to do this is to think about what the employer wants and needs. What are they looking for in the new hire? And, can you illustrate that you have those skills or experiences on your resume. Make sure to remove anything that is not relevant so that you can leave room for the details and experiences that are most relevant to your current search.

#9 - Wrong Format

The key to a good new grad resume is to make sure that it can get you an interview. For most people, this means that the resume will need to be ATS-optimized because they will be applying to jobs online or going through traditional HR processes. There are a lot of ATS programs out there and they can be highly customizable. But, these systems are all built around keywords and job titles. Meaning that the ATS will scan your resume for keywords to see if you are a match for the open job.

Over 70% of all applicants to jobs are automatically rejected by the ATS. Often, they are rejected because the programs cannot read resumes that have graphics, include pictures, or that are otherwise heavily formatted. So, you need to build a clean resume that is focused on the words on the page to get through the resume bots.

#10 - Including High School Details

You built a resume to get into college and that included a lot of details about your experiences in high school. Now, you need to remove or minimize that information from your high school time on your resume. Many new college grads forget this step and most hiring managers find it incredibly frustrating.

You have grown a lot since you graduated high school in your knowledge and ability to move into your career. What you did before really doesn't matter as much. So, avoid this by simply removing the older information or minimizing it to stay focused on what matters now in your job search.

#11 - Forgetting Details About College

Similarly, many new college grads forget to include some of the most relevant details about their undergraduate degree.  In many cases, these experiences are key to landing that first job. So, make sure to avoid this mistake by making room for the important details from your college experience.

Things that you should include are:

  • The actual name of the degree you earned
  • Specializations or areas of study
  • Honors and awards received
  • Names of relevant courses
  • GPA and other department awards

All of this information can help illustrate to the employer that you have the foundation knowledge for the job and help you to stand out from other applicants. In many cases, this can also help to add important keywords to your resume that may not otherwise show up in your experiences.

#12 - Leaving off Volunteer Experiences

Many new college grads underestimate the value of their volunteering experiences. The fact that you weren't paid doesn't mean that your experience is less valuable at this stage in your career.  In fact, many hiring managers see volunteer work as a strong indicator of your character and motivation.

So, make sure to include all of your volunteer experiences on your resume. This can help you to stand out from other applicants who may only have paid work experience. It also shows that you are motivated and care about making a difference.

Including this information can also help you to fill in any gaps on your resume. Many new college grads have a lot of volunteer experience but may not have as much paid work experience. This section can help to bridge that gap and show the hiring manager that you are ready for your career.

#13 - Length is Off

Another common mistake made by new college grads is building a resume that is too long or too short for their experiences. Most people that are just graduating college will have a 1-page resume. But, there are others that could and should have a 2-page resume.

Career services will tell you that your resume should be 1 page. There really is no hard and fast rule for resume length. Your resume needs to reflect your relevant career experiences to help you land a job. The pandemic has changed how and when people get their collegiate education. So, your experiences may be quite a bit more than the traditional college student. Make sure that you build a resume that reflects the full, relevant picture of you as a professional.

#14 - Additional Skills are Left Off

Many new college grads will forget to include the important skills they have beyond their education and professional experience. This could be technical skills, software, certifications, licenses, language abilities, etc. Whatever those additional skills are, they can matter for some employers and be requirements to qualify for certain jobs.

Make sure that you leave space and include these additional details at the bottom of your resume. Include these clearly and put them on your resume in an organized fashion so that people skimming for the information can find what they want. Leaving them off will only result in you being viewed as unqualified or under-qualified for the positions that you apply to.

#15 - Not Using it Properly

Another big mistake of new grads is in how they use their resume. You will need to apply to jobs (a lot of them) online and through various hiring events. When you do so, make sure that you are submitting a resume in the right way for the job that you are applying to. This means following the directions in how and where to apply for the job. Many people fail to thoroughly read those instructions in the job description and miss out on the job.

And, remember that this means that the resume needs to be viewable by the person that you want to see it. Not everyone has Pages or Google Docs. So, when applying, send a pdf version of your resume unless otherwise instructed. This will ensure that the ATS and the person ultimately viewing your resume can see what you want to see on your resume.

The bottom line is that there are many resume mistakes that new college grads can make. But, by avoiding these common mistakes, you can increase your chances of landing that first job. By following these tips, you will be on your way to creating a great new grad resume!

Want to land more interviews in your field? Work with one of our resume writing experts to build your resume and cover letter. Get Expert Help Now.