Entry-Level Résumé Mistakes to Avoid as a New Grad

Don't tarnish your first job hunt with an error-ridden résumé. Avoid the most common mistakes seen by recruiters by following these entry-level résumé tips.

Your résumé isn’t a place you want to make a glaring mistake. As the key to job search success, this document should ideally be as close to perfect as possible. Yet it’s incredibly easy to fall victim to errors when you’re an inexperienced job seeker who hasn’t had much practice with résumé writing. After all, if you’ve never applied for a formal position before, how are you to know what will irk or impress hiring managers? You might be familiar with the most obvious blunders to avoid, but what about the slipups that aren’t often discussed or those tied to old conventions that no longer apply? To help you submit an application that’s nearly flawless, we’ve outlined some of the common issues spotted by recruiters in the various résumé sections and coupled this insight with related entry-level résumé tips.

The header

The header is the first thing an employer's eyes will be drawn to upon opening your résumé, so you want to make sure it's not only clean design-wise but provides the right information without superfluous details.

Forgetting contact information or online links

It seems like a silly mistake to make, but erroneously omitting contact details can happen easily when you’re so focused on perfecting the meatier parts of your résumé. Always include your city, state, phone number, and email address, and show that you have an up-to-date online presence by inserting your LinkedIn profile URL and, if applicable, a personal website link.

Including sensitive demographics

There’s no need to include your age, gender, marital status, religion, or race in your header. Recruiters aren’t allowed to consider these demographics when selecting candidates, and mentioning them could subject you to the consequences of unconscious bias. 

Related: Infographic: What Skills Should You Put on a Résumé to Land the Job?

The summary statement

A professional objective statement shows that you can succinctly express your goals, skills, and the benefits you could bring to the job. Here’s how to approach it.

Writing an objective statement instead of a professional summary

The objective statement is a thing of the past. Instead of focusing on what you’re looking for in a job, open with a captivating summary that highlights your skills and interests and outlines what you could offer an employer. Keep it succinct, inject personality, and steer clear of done-to-death descriptors.

Lack of customization and keywords

One of the most important entry-level résumé tips we can give you is to carefully modify this document to suit each position you’re applying for, starting with your summary. This paragraph should make direct links between your abilities and the needs of each particular job, and it absolutely must include keywords from the job description so that screening software flags your résumé as an appropriate fit.

Related: The 10 Biggest Mistakes Students Make When Trying to Get a Job

Key skills and technologies

The key skills section of your résumé is extremely important. If you don’t have certain basic skills, or necessary specialized skills, for the position you’re applying for, you’ll see less than stellar results in landing an interview.

No mention of soft skills

College graduates tend to be so focused on the technical “hard” skills they’ve spent years honing that they forget to play up their soft skills too. Recruiters are extremely interested in less tangible personal attributes, like your ability to solve problems, communicate clearly, and adapt to new demands. Failing to highlight these strengths on your résumé is a mistake you don’t want to make.

Failing to leverage transferable skills

When you have no formal work experience, it’s critical to use your résumé to show that, despite this, you still have foundational competencies that will help you thrive in the workplace. Reflect on relevant skills you’ve developed through non-work experiences—through college classes or extramural activities, for instance—that you can transfer to the office, and place these front and center in the appropriate résumé section.

Not illustrating how skills have been applied

It’s not enough to say that you have great critical-thinking, leadership, or coding skills. Prove you possess the competencies you claim to by referencing concrete examples of times you applied them to bring about desirable outcomes.

Related: The Top 10 Hard and Soft Skills All Employers Want

Work experience

Your work experience section is what will prove to employers that you can conduct the work expected of you in the position you’re applying for—you’ve done it before, which means you can do it again. Here’s what to include and how to talk about it.

Excluding relevant “unofficial” experience

Entry-level applicants often assume that because they’ve never been formally employed, they have no work experience to list on their résumé. But the truth is, there’s no reason to leave your work history section blank. Any activity that taught you something can and should be described here—internships, volunteer work, part-time positions, summer jobs, and club memberships are all worth including. 

Focusing on duties over accomplishments

When you detail your professional experience, spend less time listing the tasks assigned to you in previous roles and instead focus on what you actually achieved in them. How did you add value to an organization during your last internship? What difference did you make to students as a college tutor? Quantify your accomplishments with figures and percentages and you’re bound to impress hiring managers even more. 

Related: How to Craft the Perfect High School Résumé


Your education is one of the more obvious sections to include on your résumé. You spent four years getting a degree that proves you’re an expert in a certain field of study. Most places won’t hire you without at least a high school diploma and a college degree, but there is a right way to present this information.

Too much focus on high school

This is one of those entry-level résumé tips you’ve likely heard before: Don’t harp on the subjects you took and awards you won during high school. What you’ve done since then, at college and in related activities, is far more relevant.

Not enough detail about college

As an inexperienced job seeker, you’ll need to put more emphasis on your higher education than a seasoned professional might. If you were awarded cum laude status or other notable honors at college, say so. If you participated in pertinent activities, mention them. And if you took a particular course that’s relevant to the job in question, highlight this too. That said, do not list every single class you took—you don’t want to put readers to sleep.

General mistakes

Some broader résumé mistakes to avoid as an entry-level applicant include:

  • Excessive length and rambling: Don’t waffle unnecessarily in an attempt to make up for your lack of work experience. Only include information that’s 100% relevant and keep this document to one page—two maximum.
  • Spelling and grammatical errors: Typos are unforgiveable on any résumé. Don’t rely on spell check alone; ask someone you trust to inspect your work.
  • Poor formatting: New grads might underestimate the importance of presentation. Keep your résumé simple, stay away from fancy flourishes, and leave enough white space.
  • Clichés and jargon: Make your résumé a true reflection of you by avoiding empty, overused phrases.

Related: A 4-Week Plan to Perfect Your Resume

Your résumé can be a hard thing to master because it takes the finesse of balancing all the different sections to showcase your best self. But with this advice and a little practice, you can craft the perfect résumé that will impress employers and get you an interview. Beyond that, you just need to learn the art of interviewing, and you’ll surely be on your way to landing a great job.

Still need résumé assistance? Consider checking out a collection of résumé samples from LiveCareer or check out our Internships and Careers section for more job application advice.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About LiveCareer

Since 2005, LiveCareer’s team of career coaches, certified résumé writers, and savvy technologists have been developing career tools that have helped over 10 million users build stronger résumés, write persuasive cover letters, and develop better interview skills. Land the job you want faster using our free résumé templates and résumé examples, writing guides, and an easy-to-use résumé builder.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Sonny Harris

Sonny Harris

College Student

For the entire year before college, I spent a lot of time deeply considering what major I wanted to go into and how to fund my higher education. After a lot of research, I came across CollegeXpress, which helped me ultimately find a ton of scholarships for which I could apply—and some of which I received! If it weren’t for CollegeXpress, I may not have found those scholarships as they didn't appear on any other scholarship search forum. Additionally, I learned more about the options I had been considering for my major through CollegeXpress’s resources. In the end, I chose to major in Computer Science, as it seemed best suited to me and the careers in the field seemed enjoyable, and I've never been more excited to move into my future! Ultimately, I want to thank CollegeXpress for offering their services. I received enough financial aid in scholarships to fund my entire freshman year of college and even got some money refunded which I used to purchase a new laptop, and I bought all of the books I needed for the semester!

Nikole Dixon

Nikole Dixon

$500 Refer-a-Friend Scholarship Winner

Toward the beginning of last year, I was searching for scholarships to apply to through my school, town, websites online, and anything else I could find. I asked tons of questions [online] about scholarships and the best places to find them because I was desperate and needed as many as I could find. I came across a ton of bogus websites, but as soon as I found CollegeXpress, I knew I had to tell other people about it. It was definitely the most helpful site I came across, so I told my friends about it. CollegeXpress is definitely a website worth giving as a source.

Tinuola Dada

Tinuola Dada

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2015

I am very excited to be this year's recipient of the Multicultural Student Community Service Scholarship. This scholarship will bring me ever closer to my academic and professional goals. CollegeXpress has been an exceptional resource to me, and I recommend it to all rising seniors as they begin to navigate the college application process.

Heather McCarty

Heather McCarty

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress has helped me with the college application process. The tips and tricks for important essays were so helpful. I also gained useful knowledge about college life. Even though I’m fully online, CollegeXpress has helped me develop a sense of how college is in person. The experiences from college students that were featured on their Instagram page have shown the good, the bad, and the “secret” life on campus from a reliable perspective. Not to mention, they relieved my feelings of anxiety about the workload. I can now understand how it can be stressful, but it takes self-control and willpower to get assignments completed on time and with quality.

Keydi Banegas

Keydi Banegas

Scholarship for Students of Color Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress is a great application that helped me search for many different scholarships, and it narrows the scholarships depending on how you set your profile. Not only that, but it helps you choose different colleges to apply to by finding matches through the description of your profile. It was the best experience for me.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Samford University

Birmingham, AL

University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati, OH

Seton Hall University

South Orange, NJ

Agnes Scott College

Atlanta, GA

North Park University

Chicago, IL