What to leave off your resume
Employers and recruiters take just a few seconds to scan a resume and decide if it’s worth another look, or destined for the circular file.
1. Your whole life history
Do you really think someone cares you worked in a nightclub 15 years ago and what certificates you’ve received for playing in University’s baseball team? Whenever you update your CV, strip off the deadweight from years ago to keep it as relevant as possible.
2. Non-specific skills
90% of jobseekers describe themselves as ‘proactive’, ‘goal oriented’ or ‘able to perform under stress’. These phrases are too general and say nothing about you, they just take up space. Instead, be specific, and try to show your skills through achievements. “Marketing” is one thing, “increased sales 20% through an email campaign” is better.
3. Obvious or redundant skills
Nowadays Microsoft Word and some practice in paperwork are expected, not extra. This should take up no more than a line in a professional resume, and only if you don’t have enough experience to fill the space with something better.
While you may stretch your accomplishments as far as you can, don’t be tempted to outright lie on your resume. The most common areas for job seekers to lie are education, employment dates, job titles, and skills. You risk losing the job entirely, and your reputation will follow you for years in small industries.
Moving around too much and many short-term positions can harm your reputation in the eyes of your employer. If you have multiple short jobs, consider combining them into one section, or leaving them out entirely if the gap is not too long. The exception is freelance or consulting work, where short term contracts are expected.
A professional CV shouldn’t have large gaps you can’t explain. Medical leave, caring for family, and other absences should be explained with a few brief sentences. Deal with unemployment gaps proactively be working on certifications and freelance work whenever you can. We like Business Insider’s tips for explaining gaps in employment.
7. Too many duties
Your daily routine at your past workplace is not nearly as important as how well you performed then. Listing accomplishments rather than duties, with numbers and figures wherever possible, is recommended by every resume writer.
8. Unrelated details
Your resume is a marketing document – don’t use your figure skating knowledge to sell yourself to a finance position (unless you know the CEO loves the Winter Olympics). It’s okay to leave out or reduce to one line positions and accomplishments that aren’t related to the job you’re applying for.
9. Typos and poor grammar
Spellcheck and a detailed read through will be your best friends to find simple errors before you hit ‘Send’. Employers think sloppy grammar means a sloppy employee. Don’t screw up applications by being too lazy to proofread your CV.
10. Your photo
Unless it was requested in job description, a photo is NOT included in a resume or CV in the English speaking world. Other countries have different protocols. For applications requiring a photo, a clear, smiling, headshot is the classic solution.
11. Fancy design
You might be tempted to splash out on a custom resume with flashy fonts and colors, but outside of the design industry (where you should design it yourself!), many hiring managers just find them annoying and gimmicky. Your layout should be clear and simple to help your employer scan your accomplishments easily. Non-typographers won’t care if you use Arial instead of Helvetica.
Try not to turn CV writing into self-glorification. Your employer can’t verify the truth of your claims, and your best references (for them) are those that will talk candidly about the good and the bad. Testimonials waste valuable space you could fill with your accomplishments and skills – let them speak for themselves.
13. Wrong language
While making your list of jobs seem engaging and interesting can be hard (especially for janitors), using vivid, punchy, sentences to describe yourself and your skills can make your CV stand out among a pile of applications. Avoid overuse of ‘I’ statements. Consider using a professional CV writing service to really polish your style.
Your CV is not the place to list your office culture, benefits, and salary requirements – this can be touched a little in a covering letter, and mostly in the interview, at the offer stage. Unless you are coveted by headhunters (and even then) listing your requirements seems out of touch and combative.
15. Your high school diploma
As you gain experience, your high school diploma should be irrelevant to your resume as a whole. Take it off after four years, or after you’ve finished college – whichever comes first.