With the employment market tightening after the massive course correction/near-depression that happened about a decade ago in 2008, a proper resume/C.V. is as important as ever, especially with the internet making mass applying to gigs easier than ever. Despite the revolution that has happened to the employment market in the past few years, most people are relying on advice from before the internet was invented to craft their resumes, which is obviously a mistake as a lot of people in the Human Resources or recruiting field are being trained to spot “red-flags” in people’s resumes (especially as those flags change about as often as people change jobs, which is on average every three to four years). Some of these are obvious, but others are things you’ve either been told are standards your entire life or brand new trendy additions that are supposed to help your name/resume stand out from others. Considering that most recruiters look at hundreds of resumes a day, it could be argued that that is the most important process in the entire hiring cycle and as applying to jobs becomes easier and easier, it’s becoming more and more important to have not only the right looking resume but one that hits all the right notes without being too: Wordy, self-involved, misspelled, resentful, full of excuses, stuck, descriptive, not descriptive enough, etc.
So, let’s take a look at the top 15 things you should keep off of your resume, in the hopes that you’ll be able to find your dream gig while killing time at your current position by reading this!
15. Space Fillers
A lot of people get an idea in their head as to how long a resume should be (a full-page, or two-pages) and because of that they rely on some pretty outdated techniques to fill those pages. One of the most famous is the “References Available Upon Request”, which is basically like a gigantic picture of a red flag sitting at the bottom of a crazy amount of resumes. It’s really just a way of showing potential employers that you’re sort of lazy, but think you’re crafty, which is pretty much the exact opposite of the traits that employers are looking for. So, instead, either add the references or don’t, skip the description as to why they aren’t listed, especially considering most employers will ask for references if they want them. There are a lot of rules to creating the perfect resume, but the best rule of thumb here is to only put things that involve how you can bring value to the position you’re applying to (and/or the company you’re applying to as well). So, while there are things you need to put (education/work experience), they should all point back to the same thing.
14. Names/Contact Info of Former Bosses
Like the number 15 entry on this list, there are certain things that people list on their resume that are just viewed as generic spot fillers and including the name and contact info of former bosses is a big part of that. Considering the fact that this information is really provided on an as-needed basis, randomly including it on every resume or CV just looks strange. It’s also potentially wishful thinking, as checking references is typically one of the last parts of the hiring process so by adding it at the very beginning you’re giving the impression that you’re assuming that you’ll get to that part while bogging down the eyes/brains of recruiters who have to go through hundreds of resumes a day. While there is a time and a place for stuff like this, it’s not on the initial resume you use to apply to every gig you like on Careerbuilder.com or Indeed.com. On top of that, a lot of bosses don’t want to give recommendations if they don’t have to because of the strict rules/laws surrounding a referral, meaning that they will avoid calling a company back if they can which makes you look bad and opens up a can of worms that otherwise wouldn’t have existed.
13. Reasons for Leaving a Previous Position
People often mix up the points behind resumes and applications, and while most applications do ask you why you left your previous positions, it’s not something that you need to include on your resume. Think of a resume as a way in the door, or really, a way for you to get an interview. Only include things that’ll get you to that point, and if you’re insecure about the number of jobs that you’ve had over the last few years adding the reasoning behind your multi-job year(s) may end up looking more defensive than anything else and that’s the last thing you want when someone is making a literal split second decision as to whether to push you forward in the hiring process or delete your resume altogether. So, the best rule of thumb is to think of stuff like this as a “Need to know” situation, if they want to know they’ll ask. One of the larger things that HR people/recruiters are trained to identify is the number of jobs in a period of time that a candidate has had, for example, if someone has had 5 jobs in 5 years, they’re not a “good fit” and their name should be moved to the “Not Interested” folder. So, really, there’s nothing you can do to make the number of jobs look any better, but you can definitely make it look worse.
While the entry to this list talked about using 20th Century resume advice in a 21st Century world, that doesn’t mean that all new changes to the resume game are good. One of the more questionable new additions to the hiring and recruiting game is the phenomenon of job-seekers (who aren’t actors or models) attaching photographs of themselves (or *shutter* pets) on their resumes. While people do need to find a way to differentiate themselves in a world where most jobs get hundreds (if not thousands) of resumes for every job opening, adding a picture of yourself does nothing in that regard (or nothing positive, anyway). Most jobs don’t (or shouldn’t) care what you look like and posting images really raises all sorts of ethical questions that most big employers want to avoid in the first place, so they may not even click on your resume if they see an image attached. Also, in the day and age of social media, a lot of high paying gigs will look you up on LinkedIn or Facebook before interviewing you and they’ll see a lot more than that one picture of you volunteering (because it was required by the courts). So, avoid redundancies at all costs and this is one of them, as they’ll eventually see your face as well.
11. Weak Academic Achievements
Filling out your resume as a recent graduate is one of the more scary experiences a job-seekers can go through, as you suddenly realize just how unqualified you are as you’re attempting to fill out an entire page with what school you went to and the summer jobs you’ve had. So, while it may seem like a gigantic life raft, adding limited academic achievements to your resume (like being on the Dean’s list for a single semester, or a sub-3.0 GPA) is actually something that hurts you rather than helps you. The rule of thumb is to only focus on areas of strength, and if you rocked a sub-3.0 GPA academics aren’t an area of strength (and the fact that you have to have that explained to you doesn’t help, either, from a hiring perspective (of course!)). Really though, after a few years of working in the real world you really shouldn’t talk much about things you accomplished in college, anyway, as your professional accomplishments should over-shadow that sick B- average you had back during the Clinton Administration.
While the idea behind this spot filler of a resume category was that employers like well-rounded candidates, most people aren’t honest with their actual list of hobbies or interests so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense pretending that you’re into “trips to the Library” or “volunteer work at T.B.D.” when filling out your resume. Employers typically like seeing things they can verify, like employment history or college GPAs, so if it’s something you can lie about most employers assume you will lie about it. So, unless you’ve got a picture from the award ceremony at the UNICEF, perhaps leave that off your list of hobbies (next to that picture). Sadly, most gigs don’t want you to have a private life so there’s not a whole lot outside of work that they’ll care about in the first place or at least see as anything but a gigantic distraction. If they do request something like this, though, leave out things that imply that you’ll miss work like traveling or elective surgeries.
9. Personal Information
Like with the whole picture situation, listing your personal information like height, weight, age, sex, gender, political or religious beliefs etc. is a bad idea because a lot of big employers have all sorts of government requirements when it comes to hiring people that are a certain age, race, ethnicity and /or gender so adding this information can only complicate that process (unless you’re one of the underreached groups, then it just looks like you’re looking to take advantage of that fact, which is sort of gross). Beyond that, it does seem relatively vain to put the stats that should be on the back of a baseball card on your Resume, but maybe that’s just common sense talking.
8. Misspellings or Grammatical Errors
While it may seem highly ironic and also something that should go without saying, one of the quickest ways to get your resume send to the “Do Not Contact” folder is to include misspellings and or grammatical errors. Whether or not it’s fair, the fact is that your resume is the first (and often times only) way for people in recruiting to get to know you and so using perfect grammar and spelling is incredibly important. So, while no one would honestly do this purposefully, it’s worth mentioning because it’s still something that people struggle with despite all of the apps and software out there that exist to avoid this very situation (ie Grammarly, God bless you, Grammarly).
7. Speaking of Grammar…
Another rule that has to do with spelling and grammar is the use of flowery language or the thesaurus tool to attempt to sound smarter than you are or to make previous gigs sound more important than they were in the first place. The common joke in the recruiting world is that there are a lot of “Hamburger Technicians” or “Customer Service Directors” working at McDonald’s, for example, and while it doesn’t extend solely to job descriptions, honesty is always the best policy when it comes to your resume. So, don’t attempt to sound too smart as no one wants to work with the guy who says “Automobile” instead of “Car” or that was either a “Performance Artist” or a “Birthday Clown”, so there’s really no point in lying as these jobs will be verified and at best you’ll get a chuckle but at worst they’ll think you’re delusional and self-important. Seems like a pretty bad cost-benefit ratio!
6. Irrelevant (and Old) Experiences
The best way to explain this tip is that every single statement on your resume should point to why you’re a good candidate for THAT position (not any job in general). While it’d be incredibly time-consuming to craft an individual resume for every position that you apply to, most employers actually expect that from their job seekers so when you include random facts from high school when you’ve got a 30 year employment history, it just looks like you’re randomly applying by randomly listing random topics. So, unless the skill pertains to the gig you’re applying to, omit it, and while that means you’re going to spend an awfully long time applying to each job, your hit rate will be that much higher which means that you will have spent that time fruitfully.
5. Starting Phrases with “I”
While this is a good rule of thumb for writing in general (I think. I think that it’s a good rule of thumb because… I like it), it may not be for the reasons that you think. The first thought is that it may sound self-centered, but instead it just reads like you don’t value the time of the people that are actually reading your resume as every statement needs to be about the skill(s), action(s) or accomplishment(s) that make you the best fit for that position. So, instead of talking about yourself from the first person, discuss the different skills you acquired from each experience on your resume and how they relate to the position you’re applying to, your future self will thank you for it. I truly believe that I am onto something when I tell you that because I had a job once that asked I to I before I could I. I.
4. “Responsibilities or Duties Included”
Another tied and true statement that finds it’s way onto most resumes is the “Responsibilities and Duties included” line that ends up under each previous job listed on the resume. Similar to the number 5 entry on this list, you should spend time discussing what you accomplished at that position and really how it ties into the current position you’re applying to or for as opposed to just listing the different things you did on that job. Even if you’re doing that under the banner of “Responsibilities/Duties Included” it may get ignored because of the (growing and) negative connotation surrounding that word in recruiting communities. There are a bunch of other ways to really include your accomplishments on your resume, if you need help hop on Google and ignore the ones that include pictures. On top of this, it’s more something that would or should be on an application as opposed to a resume, where you do have some flexibility in terms of what you want to focus on in your position history (or in general). Duties or Responsibilities sound like things you HAD to do, as opposed to things that you did on your own, brought to the job or most importantly accomplished.
3. General Descriptions of Duties…
This is very similar to the number four entry on this list but it’s important enough to include its own entry. As has been stated multiple times on this list, basically every entry on your resume should point back towards how you’re a great fit for that position. So, attempt to avoid any generic or general descriptions of duties under old positions or the position that you’re looking for (in the intro, especially). The best rule of thumb is that employers don’t want to learn about your previous jobs from the point of view of what you did, but rather what you learned and how that applies to the gig they’re looking to fill or rather what skills you acquired and how you utilized them to achieve real-world results. Do that and you won’t be applying to gigs for long enough to need a list like this.
2. “What You Want to Gain” from a Job
While it’s said that if you want to stand out for a position you should include an intro, most people follow a pretty generic copy and paste model when it comes to what their introduction or objective actually says or is. While most typically discuss what a job-seeker is looking for, the correct rule of thumb is to actually provide genuine thoughts on what you may bring to the position that you’re applying to. While many people have figured this out, they’ve simply just rephrased the former for the latter and so most objectives for jobs ranging from working at a pharmacy to an ocean liner all sound pretty much the same. So, customize your objective or introduction to the point that it’s pretty clear that you wrote it for that gig specifically and always talk about what you bring, not what you want. It’ll pay off in the long run and actually make your job a lot easier.
1. Long Paragraphs
One of the biggest rules of thumbs when it comes to writing a resume or writing, in general, is respecting your audience. When you apply to a gig, while it’s incredibly important to you that you get a job, it’s also incredibly important for the person reading your resume that they continue to have a job in recruiting and thus that they don’t go crazy from reading your resume. So, attempt to avoid as many long and repetitive sentences as possible while also ensuring that your sentences are neither long nor repetitive. Most recruiters are trained to pick up on red flags that disqualify resumes (as opposed to finding things that are positive and mean that a candidate is a good fit) and one of the larger, just from a time-saving perspective, is avoiding large blocks of text with seemingly no point. On top of that, including bullet points show that you’re computer savvy and good at organization, three things tied into one that can really help improve your chances on a subconscious level.