Top 5 resume mistakes new graduates make (and how to fix them)

march 21, 2024

Hey there, recent grads! I'm Gabrielle, and after a decade in university recruiting, I've seen my fair share of resumes. Today, I want to share with you the top 5 resume mistakes I often see from new college graduates. But don’t worry—I'll also show you some cool tricks in Microsoft Word to help you avoid each mistake. Let’s get started!

Mistake 1: Omitting key sections

First up, don't forget key sections. These segments introduce you to your potential employer and showcase your qualifications and potential. Let's break down the sections your resume should include:

  • A professional summary: This is your elevator pitch. It should concisely articulate who you are and what you offer.
  • Education: Highlight your degree, major, and any awards, honors, or distinctions. Don't forget relevant extracurricular activities or leadership roles. (As you gain more work experience, you might find yourself condensing some of this section in the future to make room for more relevant info).
  • Experience: Include internships, part-time jobs, and significant class projects. Tailor this section to the job you're applying for.
  • Key skills: Identify the skills that set you apart and are in demand in your field.
  • Relevant coursework: Especially useful if you lack related work experience, this can demonstrate your knowledge and enthusiasm for the field. (You'll likely replace this section in the future with additional work experience).

Pro tip: Start with a professionally-designed Word template or resume template to effortlessly organize the sections you need and ensure your resume looks polished.

Mistake 2: Lack of keywords

Next, pack in those keywords. Keywords are your secret weapon in getting your resume noticed, especially in an era where many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Here's a step-by-step approach to mastering this:

  1. Analyze job descriptions to identify frequently mentioned skills and qualifications.
  2. Align your experiences and skills with these keywords authentically. Avoid overstuffing!
  3. Leverage Word's Smart Lookup feature to understand the context and ensure you're using keywords accurately.

Mistake 3: Overlooking formatting

Never underestimate the power of formatting. A cluttered or oddly formatted resume can inhibit readability and distract from your accomplishments. Use Word's Styles feature to:

  • Maintain consistency across headings and subheadings.
  • Ensure bullet points are uniform, enhancing readability.
  • Leverage color to differentiate sections without overwhelming.

Remember, simplicity is key. Your goal is to make your resume as accessible and easy to navigate as possible, not to win any creative design awards!

Mistake 4: Ignoring action verbs

Action verbs are the unsung heroes of a compelling resume. They transform passive descriptions into powerful narratives of your achievements. Here's how to make the most of them:

  • Begin each bullet point with a dynamic verb to capture attention.
  • Right-click bland verbs and use Word’s Synonyms feature to replace them with engaging, action-oriented alternatives.
  • Ensure the verbs align with your industry and the tone of the job description.
  • Aim for a balance between exciting, action-packed verbs and “plainer” language that enhances the readability and flow of your resume.

Mistake 5: Neglecting proofreading

Finally, don't neglect proofreading. Spelling and grammar mistakes can hurt your chances. But proofreading isn’t just about catching typos; it's about ensuring clarity and consistency. Here are some additional tips:

  • Make it a habit to use Word’s built-in spelling and grammar check every time you complete projects like this. It’s a crucial step that even the best of us can forget!
  • Ask Copilot for an even more thorough resume review with feedback and suggestions. If you’re having a difficult time phrasing an experience or accomplishment, Copilot can also help you find the right words.
  • Use Word's Read Aloud feature to catch errors you might skip over when reading silently.
  • Never underestimate the power of a pair of fresh eyes! Ask a friend or career advisor to take a look at your resume and offer their feedback.

Conclusion

You're now ready to craft a resume that avoids common pitfalls and helps you stand out in a crowded field. Embrace these strategies, and you’ll be well on your way to capturing the attention of recruiters and landing your dream job. Good luck, and remember: You've got this!

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