5 Common Resume Mistakes Made by Entry-level Workers

What’s your next step? Do you have a new job lined up? These are questions people hear over and over when they’re starting out or starting over, and the pressure is on to find entry-level employment.

Make that task easier by beginning each job application with a perfect resume, customized for the employer and role. And to get on the path to a successful resume, start by understanding and avoiding these five all-too-common resume mistakes.

Resume Mistake 1: Leaving Out Relevant Experience

Entry-level job seekers often face a conundrum: Many ads for entry-level jobs require one year of previous experience. One way to show a potential employer that you are prepared for the role is to incorporate previous work, internship and volunteer experience into your resume. Instead, focus on the experiences you have had, including:

  • Part-time jobs, even if they are in different fields
  • Leadership roles you held in a previous job, on campus or in local organizations, boards, or teams
  • Volunteer experiences 
  • Relevant skills like computer programs, languages, or time management 
  • Internships or research positions

Think critically about your experiences before adding them to a resume. For example, let’s say you were hired to work as a server at a restaurant. After a few weeks, you realized it wasn’t a great fit, so you left to pursue a different opportunity. It’s fine to leave that position off your resume, especially if you got a different job quickly.

On the flip side, if there was a natural disaster in your city and you volunteered for two weeks, day and night, with a national organization, it might be worth listing that under “volunteer experience.” But there’s no need to mention if you donated blood once or spent half an afternoon raking an elderly neighbor’s leaves.

A few caveats:

  • If you’re not sure if an experience is worth adding to your resume, consider checking with a colleague, professor, or someone else you respect. Lying, exaggerating or fudging dates are clearly resume don’ts.
  • If you’re a recent college grad, you shouldn’t include anything from high school on your resume – this is a common college graduate resume mistake.

Lying, exaggerating or fudging dates are clearly resume don’ts.

Resume Mistake 2: Using the Same Resume for Each Job

In today’s job market, you should update and customize your resume every time you apply to a job. Create a tailored resume by targeting keywords for skills and experience that fit each position. This will show potential employers that you understand what they’re looking for and that you have the experience necessary to do the job.

Additionally, adding the right keywords will help get your resume past Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), the computer programs that scan and sort applications before a human sees them (or not, if the ATS doesn’t “see” the right keywords.)

Follow these four steps to create your custom resume:

  1. Carefully read over ads for entry-level jobs in your field and take notes on the types of skills, certifications, education and experience listed. These can give you insight into the types of keywords to incorporate in your resume. 
  2. Keep the broad keywords you’ve found in mind and write a general resume that includes your work history, previous jobs, skills and education. Here are some resume templates to help you get started.
  3. Hone in on a single job posting and focus on that position as you edit your resume and cover letter for that application. Read over the job listing and write down out the specific keywords you find. Some might be familiar, and some might be new. It’s critical to write the keywords down exactly as they appear in the listing and incorporate them to get past the ATS.
  4. Read the company’s website and see if you can glean any new keywords that reflect the company’s values, like teamwork, community, transparency, military connections, etc. Add in a couple of those keywords to your resume as well.

Resume Mistake 3: Listing Everyday Duties, Not Standout Accomplishments

When you’re writing your resume, focus on accomplishments and ways in which you went above and beyond in a position.

For example, did you lead a shift or team at a retailer? Talk about the number of people you led and their sales results compared to other store locations. Did you diffuse a difficult situation with a customer who was dissatisfied? Describe how you dealt with the situation and made them into a lifelong customer – and how another customer overheard your interaction and commended your efforts.

Most internships include “administrative duties,” so listing that as one of your main tasks won’t catch the eye of a hiring manager. Instead, think about how you made a difference. Did you increase the company’s social media following when you were at the helm of the Twitter channels? If so, mention that, including the specific number of followers you gained or the percentage of followers you increased for the team.

Including details about leadership or impressive achievements are two other ways you can show the depth of your commitment to jobs, volunteer activities and on-campus groups. Perhaps you were the head lifeguard at your local pool and managed and scheduled a team of ten other lifeguards. That shows leadership. Maybe an organization you volunteered with recently recognized you for putting in 100 hours of service this year. That’s commitment. Or perhaps, as the treasurer of your church, you tripled fundraising efforts from the previous year. That shows initiative and creative thinking.

Not proofreading your resume is one of the biggest resume mistakes.

Resume Mistake 4: A Resume That’s Too Long or Too Short

An entry-level resume should be exactly one page long. No more, no less. You might think that a longer resume will impress a hiring manager, but that’s not the case. (Even some professionals who have been working for ten or more years have one-page resumes, so running over onto a second page might look like you’re overinflating your experiences.)

A well-organized entry-level resume can be broken down into the following sections:

  • Contact Information
  • Summary 
  • Skills
  • Work Experience
  • Education and/or Certifications

Resume Mistake 5: Errors, Inconsistencies and Unprofessional Details

Not proofreading your resume is one of the biggest resume mistakes. After writing your resume, print it out and edit it on paper. Ask a mentor, professor, or someone you trust to look at it as well. When proofreading, you should eliminate:

  • Spelling and grammatical errors 
  • Inconsistencies, like jumping between square and round bullet points, or using numbers for some months but writing out others
  • Formatting flaws, like a single line that runs onto a second page when the document is saved as a PDF
  • Unprofessional details, like an email address that’s something other than your name (like partypooper95@gmail.com, for example) or links to social media accounts that you use for non-work purposes

Keep editing until your resume is free of mistakes.

Get Help Writing Your resume

To stand out from similar applicants vying for the same positions, start with a resume that avoids the worst resume mistakes, and highlights the experience and knowledge you’ve gained, both in and out of the classroom. Get started with our Resume Builder to craft your perfect resume.