This article will outline what doesn’t belong on your resume and why you can and should leave these things off.
13 Things To Leave Off Your Resume
Whether you are writing a new resume or editing an existing one, be sure to avoid or eliminate the following:
1. A Solid Block of Text
Since employers will likely only spend about 8 seconds looking at your resume initially, it’s a good idea to make it scannable and easy to read by avoiding huge blocks of text. Instead, use bullet points and headings/subheadings to break up the text and try to be as succinct as possible.
A well-organized resume will still include all of your pertinent information without overwhelming the reader with a wall of text.
2. Too Much Information
On a similar note, you’ll want to pare down your resume information to only the most relevant details in order to help you avoid that wall of text. So, for example, if you have been in the workforce for 20 years and worked many different jobs, you don’t need to include every single job you’ve ever had. Include only the positions that are in the same industry as your target position or those that demonstrate transferable skills or experience.
Additionally, limit yourself to 3-5 short bullet points under each job that you list, and focus on highlighting your quantifiable accomplishments and achievements rather than simply listing your job duties - the employer likely already knows generally what you did based on your job title.
3. Unnecessary Personal Information
It’s against the law for employers to ask for personal information that might cause them to either intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against a job candidate. If you do include it, the employer might automatically discard your application to avoid any potential claims of discrimination. As such, the following personal details generally do not belong on your resume:
- Your age or date of birth
- Nationality or place of birth
- Height, weight, or other physical characteristics
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Whether you have children
- Religious or spiritual beliefs
- Political affiliation or preferences
- Whether you possess a driver’s license and/or a vehicle
- Your social security number
However, if you are applying for a job where one or more of these details is directly relevant and necessary for the position, you can include that particular detail. For example, if you are applying to be a school bus driver, you will likely need to demonstrate that you have a driver’s license and experience driving.
Another exception would be if you are applying for a job in another country where it is customary to include these details.
4. Photo of Yourself
Similarly, it’s also not necessary to include a photo of yourself on your resume. A photo could reveal your gender, approximate age, nationality, and physical appearance and, again, could potentially cause an employer to automatically discard your application. Additionally, a photo takes up a lot of valuable real estate on your resume.
As an alternative, you can include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your resume, and ensure that your profile photo is professional and up to date. Employers will likely look you up on LinkedIn anyways if they are interested in bringing you in for an interview, at which point they’ve already identified you as a good candidate for the job and discrimination is less of a concern.
One exception to the no-photo guideline would be if you are applying to a position that is directly related to your appearance, such as on-air television, acting, or modeling jobs.
5. Charts or Graphics
While it might seem like a good idea to break up the text on your resume by including a chart or graphic, it will likely get distorted format-wise or even left off completely after your resume passes through an applicant tracking system (ATS) scan. Plus, potential employers will likely want to see that you can succinctly outline your qualifications in writing without relying on charts or visuals.
6. False or Misleading Information
It can also be tempting to stretch the truth, exaggerate your qualifications, or flat-out lie on your resume. However, this is essentially never a good idea as many employers will attempt to verify your skills and experience. Being caught in a lie can result in not getting hired for the job, getting fired if you’ve already been hired when the lie is discovered, and permanent damage to your reputation.
7. Past Salary Information
Avoid listing your previous and/or current salary information on your resume. Including accurate salary information could result in potential employers presenting low-ball offers, and exaggerating your earnings falls under the previous section of lying on your resume. So, it’s best just to leave this information off your resume and negotiate your salary if/when you are offered the new position.
8. Reasons for Leaving Past Jobs
You don’t need to justify or provide reasons for why you left your past positions. It’s not relevant to the new position and it can come off as if you are providing excuses, which isn’t necessarily flattering. Plus, it just takes up space on your resume.
9. Spelling or Grammar Mistakes
There’s nothing more unprofessional than spelling or grammar mistakes on a resume. Do your very best to avoid them by proofreading your resume thoroughly or having a friend or family member look over it for you. Don’t rely on spell-check programs alone, as they might not pick up some errors.
It can be easier to find mistakes when you print out your resume and read the physical copy, as you can point a pen at each word to help yourself focus.
10. Passive Language
Passive language can make your resume seem unexceptional or even boring, so it’s best to use action words to catch a potential employer’s attention and impress them with your experience and accomplishments. For example, instead of listing “revenue growth of 25% was achieved” as a bullet point under one of your past positions, write something like “consistently exceeded revenue projections and grew revenue by 25% over 1 year.”
You can avoid passive language by steering clear of various forms of ‘to be’ verbs, such as:
- Has been
- Have been
- Had been
- Will be
Generally, the accepted method for resume writing is absent first person, in which all pronouns (I, me, we, etc.) are dropped from sentences and bullet points. Dropping these pronouns allows you to write more succinctly and therefore include more information overall. It’s also stylistically appropriate for a resume and easier to scan. So, for example, you might write “3-time Employee of the Month” instead of “I was the Employee of the Month 3 times.”
12. Negative Comments About Former Employers or Positions
Keep the tone of your resume positive by avoiding making any negative comments about your previous positions or employers. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of your experience by highlighting your skills and achievements. You might mention how you overcame certain challenges in a past role, but writing negatively about another business will likely not reflect well on you.
Finally, there’s no need to include your references on your resume or to write ‘references available upon request.’ References take up a lot of valuable resume space, and employers know that they can ask you for references and will likely do so later in the hiring process.
Rather than list your references on your resume, create a separate document that contains the names and contact information of your references, as well as a short description of your relationship to each person.
Save room for the most important and pertinent details on your resume by leaving out unnecessary personal details, photos and other non-text elements, past salary information, reasons for leaving your past jobs, references, and so forth. Ensure that your resume is polished and powerful by carefully checking for spelling and grammar errors, avoiding passive language, dropping pronouns, and including only relevant, accurate information.
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