The 15 Most Common Resume Mistakes Made by College Students and How to Fix Them

By Megan Weyrauch on September 25, 2013

Photo by shawncampbell on

“I just mailed my resume to ten employers at once.”

“Dude, my resume is like, four pages; I’m sure to get hired with all of this experience.”

“Eh, I was a cashier once, but that didn’t seem important, so I left it off of my resume.”

Are you guilty of saying any of these things? These are three of the common mistakes that college students make on their resumes.

Associate director of Career Connection at The Ohio State University, Dr. Ana Berríos-Allison, said that a student’s resume is an important tool.

“The resume is the tool that you have to tell the employer the skills that you can offer to them,” Dr. Berríos-Allison said. “That’s the idea; and in a way, sort of a space that you have to tell a little bit about your story from a career perspective.”

How does your story look? Take out your resume and check for the following 15 common mistakes that college students make on resumes.

1. Misspellings and Grammatical Errors

One of the most common mistakes that Ohio State Arts and Sciences Career Services internship advisor Randy Dineen said that he sees is misspellings and grammatical errors.

“You want to make sure that everything is spelled correctly, all of the grammar is correct, all of your verb tenses are accurate,” Dineen said. “If its jobs or internships or volunteer opportunities you’ve done in the past, then everything should be in past-tense; if it’s things you’re currently doing, present-tense verbs.”

Spell check and proofread your resume, and then have a career coach, friend or family member look over your document. Sometimes a second set of eyes is all you need to catch those little mistakes you may miss.

2. An Outdated Resume

Keep your resume as up to date as possible. Dineen said that he sees a lot of student resumes that include high school information.

“If you are a first year student … it’s okay and acceptable to have high school information on there because you probably don’t have a lot else,” Dineen said. “But by the time you’re in your junior or senior year … you certainly want to make sure that high school information is off of your resume.”

Dr. Berríos-Allison provided an example of an exception to this rule.

“If there’s something from your high school experience that is relevant to the position that you are applying for, then you can mention it,” she said. “If not, then high school can go; no need for high school at this level. But the rule of relevancy is key here.”

List your current job positions and skills to give employers an updated picture of your professional profile.

3. Length of the Resume

Both Dr. Berríos-Allison and Dineen suggested generally keeping your resume to one page. Focus on the highlights of your different experiences, using bullets to enhance readability.

Think of it this way: employers do not have time to read through your multiple pages when they are looking through hundreds, perhaps thousands, of candidates’ resumes. Remember, “you don’t need to include everything that you ever did.”

4. Lack of Accomplishments

A resume needs to show accomplishments. Oftentimes, students use only verbs to say what they did at a job. For example, a resume may have one of the following descriptions:

“A. Worked with employees in a restaurant setting.

B. Recruited, hired, trained and supervised more than 20 employees in a restaurant with $2 million in annual sales.”

Option A shows what a student did at their job, but option B shows this with outcomes, something that many student resumes lack, according to Dr. Berríos-Allison.

“You’re telling me a verb, you’re telling me what you did, but what is missing in that formula, the key for a very, very well-written resume is in outcomes,” Dr. Berríos-Allison said. “You need to demonstrate to me that you have the skill … or how that skill works.”

5. Untailored Resumes

You should send a different resume to each employer.

“Depending on where you’re applying, you have to tailor to that specific position,” Dr. Berríos-Allison said. “Don’t mass mail resumes, please; that won’t get you [anywhere].”

Pick experiences that are relevant to the position you are applying to in order to tailor your resume to the specific organization. Employers want you to write a resume specifically for them that shows how and why you fit the position in a specific organization. A generalized resume is a quick way for an employer to land your document in the trash can.

Photo by woodleywonderworks on

6. No Action Verbs

When composing your bullet point descriptions, start with action verbs to explain your experiences.

“Start with a verb, active verb, because the verb will portray the skill,” Dr. Berríos-Allison said. “You need a verb, plus what you did.”

Avoid using phrases like “responsible for.” Instead, use an action verb to make your resume bullet point descriptions stronger. For example, instead of saying you are “responsible for recruiting new hires” say that you “recruit new hires.”

7. Leaving off Important Information

Dineen said that he talks to some students who say they have had certain part-time jobs that they leave off of their resumes.

“They think it wouldn’t be something to put on a resume or they think employers wouldn’t care about reading about that,” Dineen said. “But even part-time jobs—you know customer service type jobs, food industry jobs—still allow you to gain a lot of skills that would be very acceptable to put on a resume.”

Dr. Berríos-Allison said that the experiences do not have to be paid, however.

“The employer cares about the skills, so it could be a course that you took, a project that you did, anything really that counts,” she said. “Students will just go with those paid positions, and they don’t realize they have the experience from course work, from a project, from a volunteer position somewhere; everything counts.”

8. Incorrect Contact Information

Double-check your contact information located at the top of your resume. Are your phone number and email correct? Is your address current? Checking even the most minute, taken-for-granted details could spare you later embarrassment or frustration.

9. Repetitive Verbs

Do not use the same verbs for all of your bullet point descriptions.

“The verbs have to be a variety of verbs,” Dr. Berríos-Allison said. “Sometimes that’s a common mistake—it’s the same verb that repeats all along.”

Adding variety to your verbs will give employers a grander picture of what you actually did during all of your experiences.

10. Inconsistent Layout

Dineen said that students commonly make mistakes on the layout or format of the resume.

“Things as simple as making sure whether you have any dates or locations on the right-hand side of the page, that they all line up nicely, that they aren’t all over the page,” he said. “You want to make sure your bullet points line up and that all bullet points are the same size.”

Dineen said that you want to make sure everything looks the same.

Use one font, font size (11-12) and color throughout your entire resume to ensure a consistent, visually appealing resume.

11. Paragraphs Instead of Bullet Points

Both Dr. Berríos-Allison and Dineen suggested using bullet points to present your information, rather than paragraphs.

“It’s going to be very difficult to read a paragraph,” Dr. Berríos-Allison said.

Using short, bulleted lists makes it easier to convey your information to employers and in turn allows employers to scan your resume at a faster rate.

12. Excluding G.P.A.

Students sometimes leave their grade point averages (G.P.A.) off of their resumes.

Dineen and Dr. Berríos-Allison suggested to include your G.P.A. if it is a 3.0 or above. Leaving off your G.P.A. when it is above this number could seem to employers that your G.P.A. is below a 3.0.

13. Listing References on Resume

Save your list of references for a separate sheet of paper. References do not need to be listed on your resume, and should only be submitted to an employer when specifically requested.

14. Leaving Out Dates

List dates on your resume to give employers an understanding of how long you were in a specific position or organization. Leaving dates off might seem like you are trying to hide certain information.

15. Lack of Numerical Statistics

Numbers provide detail to your potential employers about the scope and length of your work.

“It also helps to spice it up a little bit with the use of numbers and percentages,” Dr. Berríos-Allison said. “Time frames are very helpful.”

Photo by James Cridland on

Avoid these 15 mistakes by chronically updating and proofreading your resume.

This document will get you a job—treat it as such, and take the time to edit and improve your resume today.

Hello! I served as the Director of News/Managing Editor for Uloop News from 2013 until 2017. I recruited writers, edited many articles, managed interns, and led our National Team. When I'm not writing or editing, I love to take part in community theater, read, and enjoy the outdoors with my husband Kevin. I have a Bachelor's degree in English and Professional Writing from Ohio State University and an M.Ed. in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Wright State University.

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