Resume Mistakes Common to New Graduates

By Laura DeCarlo

Resumes are the gateway of getting the job you want, so you want to make sure you have a resume that will impress prospective employers. New graduates are more likely than experienced job seekers to make the following mistakes:

  • Falling short of image standards: If you present an online resume blemished with the type of shorthand used for tweets and texting, or a paper resume flawed with typos, or a persona degraded with whoopee pictures or a goofy profile on a social media site, you flunk.

  • Omitting heavy-hitter points: You fail to distinguish yourself by creating an opening summary that calls to mind an image of your brand.

    Keep your summary brief — three to four accomplishments is plenty.

  • Overcompensating with gimmicky language: Don’t get cutesy in your resume to compensate for a lack of qualifications. Avoid using exotically original language, such as “eyelinered genius,” a term used by a business graduate applying for an entry-level marketing position in the cosmetics industry. The term may be colorful, but charm communicates better in the interview.

  • Making employers guess: Employers hate being asked to decipher your intent. Merely presenting your declared major and transcript excerpts isn’t enough to kick off a productive job search. Add both a targeted objective header statement and a summary section directed at a specific career field and type of position.

  • Leveling the experience field: Your resume is no place to give every job equal billing. Do what you can to make each one relevant for the prospective employer, but don’t be afraid to limit one to just a single line of job title, company name, location, and date in your reverse chronology for positions that just don’t seem to offer any relevant value.

  • Stopping with bare bones: Some rookies look at a sheet of paper and then at their embarrassing, bedraggled collection of jobs in their paid-experience stew. Desperate to get anything written, they settle for employer, job title, and dates of employment.

    The solution is to pull together all experience, including volunteer and part-time gigs. Sit, think, think some more, and add all your relevant competencies and skills pointing in the direction in which you wish to work.

  • Hiding hot information: Data entombed is data forgotten. Employers remember best the information you give first in a resume, not the data folded into the middle. The first one-third to one-half of the first page of your resume is prime real estate; determine your selling points and pack that punch up front.

  • Ignoring employers’ needs: Even the smartest new graduates, who may have survived research challenges as rigorous as uncovering the body language of ancient French cave dwellers, make this mistake: They forget to find out what employers want from new hires.

    At this moment in time, no one cares what you want — the only thing that matters is the value-pack you bring to the employer. Rigorously study numerous job descriptions for your targeted positions so you can gain gems of wisdom for where to put your focus.

  • Writing boastfully: Appearing too arrogant about your talents can cause employers to question your ability to learn and function as a junior team member. Even when you’re just trying to compensate for your inexperience, avoid terminology that comes across as contrived or blatantly self-important.

    When you’re not sure whether you sound too full of yourself, ask those who know you to read your resume and share feedback about what kind of person they think your resume represents. Then, go back and tweak wording if it needs to be toned down (or built up). An online thesaurus can be a great tool in coming up with similar words.