College Student Resume Mistakes

I saw a lot of resumes in my final year of college. As a writing tutor and graduating senior, I was basically the go-to resume expert. It was always exciting to learn about other student’s post-grad plans, but I found a lot of college student resume mistakes! It seemed that a lot of students just didn’t know what belonged on their resume, and what was best left to their Facebook profiles. Here are some of the top college student resume mistakes to avoid making yourself!

Irrelevant Jobs

Did you work at the grocery store in high school? That’s super cool, but honestly, nobody cares. Jobs you held in high school or part-time college jobs don’t deserve to take up precious space on your resume. The only exception to this rule is if your past jobs actually relate to the field you’re currently applying to. For instance, maybe your cashier job is relevant if you’re applying for a sales position.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t include these experiences on your resume! But I am saying is they shouldn’t take up space that could be better spent explaining your field experience. To include your part-time jobs, add an “Additional Experience” section and include phrasing like “Retail Associate (2013 – 2017). Doing this shows employers that you were, in fact, employed for the past few years, but that this is not your most valuable professional experience.

For instance, here’s how I list my additional work experience under its own section header:

Too Long

Think of your resume like precious real estate. You need to make the most of the limited space you have! Employers only spend a few seconds looking at your application and resume, so don’t give them several pages to sift through. If your resume is more than a single page long, you better bet it’s going straight to the trash.

Choose a great single-page resume template to use as a guide when crafting your resume. Better yet, include a link to an online resume so interested employers can explore more of your past work/experience if they want more information.

You should, however, include references on a second page so it can be seen separately.

Listed Job Description

Let me give you an example of a resume that just lists the job description word-for-word for each position held.

  • College Admissions Office Assistant (May 2012 – June 2014)
    • Answered phones
    • Responded to e-mails
    • Reported to Office Manager

Basically, this just is listing the basic duties of an office assistant, something the hiring manager already knows! It’s way more powerful to list actual accomplishments, not daily tasks. Even if you don’t think you did anything particularly special, try to quantify your accomplishments. Here’s the same office assistant position again, with quantitative accomplishments.

  • College Admissions Office Assistant (May 2012 – June 2014)
    • Assist with Office Manager scheudling to ensure efficiency
    • Label and ship an average of 20 weekly delieveries
    • Took regular orders for office materials and merchandise

Better, right? At the very least, the hiring manager will have a much better understanding of your experience and capabilities, which is good. Look at some sample resumes for your field to think of project wording, if you have any trouble. Also, don’t include too many bullet points. There shouldn’t be more than four, so try to limit each description to your most important projects/accomplishments.

college student resume mistakes

Not Enough Numbers

It’s not enough to just say you did something, you need to show your skills! Numbers speak louder than words when it comes to resumes. Numbers are also easy to read quickly, so someone scanning your resume is more likely to see numbers than specific words.

Here’s another example for a listing about an internship. This one relies on words:

  • Literary Magazine Intern (Fall 2014)
    • Managed Facebook and Twitter page
    • Encouraged people to submit their work to the Spring edition
    • Updated magazine design

It’s okay, right? Not great. Let’s try it again using numbers:

  • Literary Magazine Social Media Intern (Fall 2014)
    • Increased Facebook and Twitter following by 300%
    • Recieved over 500 new submissions
    • Updated magazine website, reaching 10,000 page views

Way more impressive, don’t you think? Numbers are really powerful on a resume! They show you’re capable of achieving big results!

Generic Resumes

Generic resumes might be okay when applying to part-time grocery store gigs, but they won’t cut it in the post-grad career market. You’ll need to closely read each job requirement and cater your resume to meet its specific needs.

A lot of big companies now rely on virtual scanners to review resumes for specific keywords they’re looking for. It sounds unfair, but you can beat this technical system by including keywords from the job requirements in your resume. You can try using the free trial of JobScan to check your resume against relevant keywords.

I suggest creating one generic, large resume which you cater to each individual company you apply for. Remove the stuff that isn’t important, and add new sections when necessary.

College Student Resume Mistakes

It’s pretty intimidating to make your resume and send it out to companies! You spend a long time perfecting your resume, so make sure you don’t fall prey to any of these college student resume mistakes!

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