13 Things to Never Put on Your Resume

Saturday, July 8th, 2017 - Resume

Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away. — Antoine de Saint Exupéry 

When you’re job-hunting, you want to aim for perfection in your resume. Whether or not you actually achieve the perfect resume, your time will be well spent including effective elements as well as ridding your resume of undesirable elements. Here, then, are 13 things to never put on your resume.

Image source: Getty Images.

  1. Private information: Leave your Social Security number, driver’s license number, bank account number, or other financial information off your resume. If you’re hired you’ll need to provide the Social Security number, but there’s no need for it to be floating around where an identity thief might find it.
  2. Confidential information: If there is any information that your current or former employer expects you not to divulge (such as a strategic plan or performance numbers), don’t divulge it. For one thing, you’ll be showing prospective employers that you might be freely sharing their sensitive information.
  3. Personal information: Don’t share your age, gender, religion, ethnicity, marital status, parental status, political views, or other personal factors about yourself. They shouldn’t play a part in whether you’re hired or not. Some suggest leaving the years off your education section, if that will make you seem old.
  4. A photo of yourself: Not everyone agrees, but conventional wisdom says to omit any photographs — after all, they may telegraph that you’re not quite what the hiring person has in mind, due perhaps to your age or gender. Omitting the photo can give yourself a fairer shake. A photo can also hurt if the employer needs or wants to be hiring without regard to race, gender, age, etc. (Of course, these days prospective employers can often look up your photo on LinkedIn or elsewhere, if they want.)
  5. Salary information: Don’t reveal how much you earn now or have earned. Such information may come into play later, during salary negotiations if you’re hired, but it doesn’t belong on a resume. (It can really hurt you, as a prospective employer might think they can’t afford you or that they can get away with paying you relatively little.)
  6. Mistakes: If your resume has typos in it, that will reflect poorly on you, suggesting that you don’t pay attention to details or that you don’t spell well. Spell-check won’t always be enough, so try to have a friend or two review the document for errors. Be sure that your dates are correct, too.
  7. Unnecessary words: Your resume should be concise and chock-full of valuable information about you. You needn’t say “References available upon request” because that will be assumed. You don’t need to put “Phone:” in front of your phone number or “Email:” in front of your email address. It can also be good to not use the pronoun “I.” Instead just use phrases such as “Designed ballistic missile system” or “Taught economics at the college level.” Including “etc.” is a no-no, too, as it doesn’t add anything and might suggest that you couldn’t be bothered to complete the list.
  8. Ineffective “Professional Objectives” statement: Many a great resume will not have a “Professional Objective” line up top, either. Consider omitting that, unless yours is very compelling. Alternatively, perhaps offer a summary statement, reviewing your expertise and making yourself seem perfect for the job. Here’s an example from a Harvard Business Review article: “Online ad sales director with 12 years of experience leading sales teams in start-up, rapidly growing, and established companies. Maximize profitability of ads across all platforms, including games, mobile, social, and web. Consistently exceed revenue targets—even when battling Facebook and other relentless competitors in crowded markets.”
  9. Suboptimal words: Most resume experts will advise against using the passive voice. That’s when you use phrases such as “duties included” or “responsible for increasing sales by 20%.” Instead of that latter phrase, you might say “Increased sales by 20%” — or “Designed marketing plan that increased sales by 20%.” Other active verbs include strengthened, integrated, transformed, persuaded, facilitated, coordinated, spearheaded, surveyed, redesigned… you get the idea. Active verbs will make you seem more dynamic and can convey more information, too. 
  10. Unprofessional details: Don’t use any fancy or cutesy fonts. Fonts that have been recommended for resumes include Calibri, Gill Sans, Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, Cambria, and Garamond. (Some see Times New Roman and Arial as over-used, though.) Don’t use an email handle that’s unprofessional, such as JeffandTiffany@, SteelersFan3417@, BikingDude@, or YourRomeoGuy@. For that matter, think twice about offering an address with a seemingly old-fashioned email provider such as AOL or Earthlink.
  11. Too much information: Most people should be able to keep their resume to one page, which is typically most effective, too. If you’re using two pages, think about how to condense them and what to leave out. If you’re in your 50s, for example, you don’t need to list jobs from decades ago or your college achievements. By cutting less impressive information from your resume, you can make it stronger.
  12. Too little information: Meanwhile, it can be wrong to include too little information, as well. Don’t use abbreviations when a reader may not know what school or company or term it refers to. Don’t leave out time periods in your work history, if possible, as it can lead others to wonder what you were doing then that you don’t want to mention.
  13. Irrelevant information: One way to keep your resume focused and concise is to leave out irrelevant details, such as tasks you performed at past jobs that have nothing to do with the position you’re seeking now.

Go ahead and aim for perfection in your resume as you try to land your dream job. As you do, it’s critical to make sure you’re not including words and elements that can sabotage your efforts, making you look less professional.

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