- Résumés can be tricky, and it’s often difficult to know what to include in a limited space.
- But there are a few things you can definitely skip to save that precious résumé space and let your actual skills and achievements shine.
- Sloppy formatting, egocentric phrasing, and awkward selfies are among some of the things that could cause hiring managers to pass on your résumé.
- Business Insider compiled a list of 38 mistakes to remove from your resume so that you can polish your application and leave a great first impression on recruiters.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Hiring managers receive an average of 75 résumés per position they post, according to CareerBuilder.com.
So they don’t have the time or resources to review each one closely, and they spend approximately six seconds on their initial decision.
If you want to make it past the initial test, you need to have some solid qualifications — and the perfect résumé to highlight those qualifications.
Here are 38 things you should never include on your résumé.
1. An objective
If you applied, it’s already obvious you want the job.
The exception: If you’re in a unique situation, such as changing industries completely, it may be useful to include a brief summary.
2. Irrelevant work experiences
Yes, you might have been the “king of making milkshakes” at the restaurant you worked for in high school. But unless you are planning on redeeming that title, it is time to get rid of all that clutter.
But as Alyssa Gelbard, career expert and founder of career-consulting firm Résumé Strategists, pointed out: Past work experience that might not appear to be directly relevant to the job at hand might show another dimension, depth, ability, or skill that actually is relevant or applicable.
Only include this experience if it really showcases additional skills that can translate to the position you’re applying for.
3. Personal stuff
Don’t include your marital status, religious preference, or Social Security number.
This might have been the standard in the past, but all of this information is now illegal for your employer to ask from you, so there’s no need to include it.
4. Your hobbies
If it’s not relevant to the job you’re applying for, it’s a waste of space and a waste of the company’s time.
5. Your full mailing address
A full street address is the first thing Amanda Augustine, a career-advice expert for TopResume, looks for to immediately cut from a résumé.
“Nobody needs to have that on their résumé anymore, and, to be quite honest, it’s a security concern,” she told Business Insider.
6. Blatant lies
A CareerBuilder survey asked 2,000 hiring managers for memorable résumé mistakes, and blatant lies were a popular choice. One candidate claimed to be the former CEO of the company to which he was applying, another claimed to be a Nobel Prize winner, and one more claimed he attended a college that didn’t exist.
Rosemary Haefner, former chief human-resources officer at CareerBuilder, said these lies may be “misguided attempts to compensate for lacking 100% of the qualifications specified in the job posting.”
But Haefner said candidates should concentrate on the skills they can offer, rather than the skills they can’t offer.
“Hiring managers are more forgiving than job seekers may think,” Haefner explained. “About 42% of employers surveyed said they would consider a candidate who met only three out of five key qualifications for a specific role.”
7. Details that give away your age
Another surprising way your résumé could give away your age: double spaces after a period.
8. Too much text
When you use a 0.5-inch margin and eight-point font in an effort to get everything to fit on one page, this is an “epic fail,” said J.T. O’Donnell, a career and workplace expert, founder of career-advice site Work It Daily, and author of “Careerealism: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career.”
She recommends lots of white space and no more than a 0.8 margin.
9. Too many bullets
In the same vein, you can also overload your résumé with too many bullet points, which Augustine called “death by bullets.”
“If absolutely everything is bulleted, it has the same effect as big dense blocks of text — your eyes just glaze over it,” she said.
Augustine explained that bullets are only to be used to draw attention to the most important information. “If you bullet everything, everything is important, which means really nothing stands out,” she said.
10. Your interests
“They don’t care that you like Dave Matthews Band,” Augustine told Business Insider.
11. Multiple phone numbers
Augustine suggested including only one phone number on your résumé. That number should really be your cellphone, so that you can control who answers your incoming phone calls, when, and what the voice mail sounds like.
“Also, you don’t want employers trying to contact you in five different places, because then you have to keep track of that,” she said.
12. Time off
If you took time off to travel or raise a family, Gelbard doesn’t recommend including that information on your résumé. “In some countries, it is acceptable to include this information, especially travel, but it is not appropriate to include that in the body of a résumé in the US,” she said.
If your employers want to speak to your references, they’ll ask you. Also, it’s better if you have a chance to tell your references ahead of time that a future employer might be calling.
If you write “references upon request” at the bottom of your résumé, you’re merely wasting a valuable line, career coach Eli Amdur said.
14. Inconsistent formatting
The format of your résumé is just as important as its content, said Augustine.
She said the best format is the format that will make it easiest for the hiring manager to scan your résumé and still be able to pick out your key qualifications and career goals.
Once you pick a format, stick with it. If you write the day, month, and year for one date, then use that same format throughout the rest of the résumé.
15. Personal pronouns
Your résumé shouldn’t include the words “I,” “me,” “she,” or “my,” said Tina Nicolai, executive career coach and founder of Resume Writers’ Ink.
“Don’t write your résumé in the third or first person,” she said. “It’s understood that everything on your résumé is about you and your experiences.”
16. Present tense for a past job
Never describe past work experience using the present tense. Only your current job should be written in the present tense, Gelbard said.
17. A less-than-professional email address
If you still use an old email address, like BeerLover123@gmail.com or CuteChick4life@yahoo.com, it’s time to pick a new one.
18. Any unnecessary, obvious words
Amdur said there is no reason to put the word “phone” in front of the actual number.
“It’s pretty silly,” he said. “They know it’s your phone number.” The same rule applies to email.
19. Headers, footers, tables, images, or charts
These fancy embeddings will have hiring managers thinking, “Could you not?”
While a well-formatted header and footer may look professional, and some cool tables, images, or charts may boost your credibility, they also confuse the applicant tracking systems that companies use nowadays, Augustine told Business Insider.
The system will react by scrambling up your résumé and spitting out a poorly-formatted one that may no longer include your header or charts. Even if you were an ideal candidate for the position, now the hiring manager has no way to contact you for an interview.
20. Your current business contact info
“This is not only dangerous; it’s stupid,” Amdur wrote in NorthJersey.com. “Do you really want employers calling you at work? How are you going to handle that?”
21. Your boss’ name
Don’t include your boss’ name on your résumé unless you’re comfortable with your potential employer contacting him or her. Even then, Gelbard said the only reason your boss’ name should be on your résumé is if the person is someone noteworthy, and if it would be really impressive.
22. Company-specific jargon
“Companies often have their own internal names for things like customized software, technologies, and processes that are only known within that organization and not by those who work outside of it,” Gelbard said. “Be sure to exclude terms on your résumé that are known only to one specific organization.”
23. Social media URLs that are not related to the targeted position
Links to your opinionated blogs, Pinterest page, or Instagram account have no business taking up prime résumé real estate. “Candidates who tend to think their personal social media sites are valuable are putting themselves at risk of landing in the ‘no’ pile,” Nicolai said.
“But you should list relevant URLs, such as your LinkedIn page or any others that are professional and directly related to the position you are trying to acquire,” she said.
24. More than 15 years of experience
When you start including jobs from before 2000, you start to lose the hiring manager’s interest.
Your most relevant experience should be from the past 15 years, so hiring managers only need to see that, Augustine said.
On the same note, never include dates on education and certifications that are older than 15 years.
25. Salary information
“Some people include past hourly rates for jobs they held in college,” Nicolai said. This information is completely unnecessary and may send the wrong message.
Amy Hoover, SVP of Talent Zoo, said you also shouldn’t address your desired salary in a résumé. “This document is intended to showcase your professional experience and skills. Salary comes later in the interview process,” she said.
26. Outdated fonts
“Don’t use Times New Roman and serif fonts, as they’re outdated and old-fashioned,” Hoover said. “Use a standard, sans-serif font like Arial.”
Also, be aware of the font size, she said. Your goal should be to make it look nice and sleek — but also easy to read.
27. Fancy fonts
Curly-tailed fonts are also a turn-off, according to O’Donnell. “People try to make their résumé look classier with a fancy font, but studies show they are harder to read and the recruiter absorbs less about you.”
28. Annoying buzzwords
Online resume service Resume.io consulted 1,602 hiring managers in the US for the words they most disliked seeing. It turns out they hate seeing “committed,” “motivated,” “great,” “adept,” and “excellent” – descriptors that they’ve found too many job applicants attributing to themselves.
The word they hated most of all? “Proven,” which seems to be an indicator of an applicant who believes they’ve seen and done it all.
29. Reasons you left a company or position
Candidates often think, “If I explain why I left the position on my résumé, maybe my chances will improve.”
“Wrong,” Nicolai said. “Listing why you left is irrelevant on your résumé. It’s not the time or place to bring up transitions from one company to the next.”
Use your interview to address this.
30. Your GPA
Once you’re out of school, your grades aren’t so relevant.
If you’re a new college graduate and your GPA was a 3.8 or higher — it’s OK to leave it. But, if you’re more than three years out of school, or if your GPA was lower than a 3.8, ditch it.
31. A photo of yourself
This may become the norm at some point in the future, but it’s just weird — and tacky and distracting — for now.
32. Opinions, not facts
Don’t try to sell yourself by using all sorts of subjective words to describe yourself, O’Donnell said. “I’m an excellent communicator” or “highly organized and motivated” are opinions of yourself and not necessarily the truth. “Recruiters want facts only. They’ll decide if you are those things after they meet you,” she says.
33. Short-term employment
Avoid including a job on your résumé if you only held the position for a short period of time, Gelbard said. You should especially avoid including jobs you were let go from or didn’t like.
34. Short-term work
Avoid including a job on your résumé if you only held the position for a short time, Gelbard said.
35. Generic explanations of accomplishments
Don’t just say you accomplished X, Y, or Z — show it by quantifying the facts.
For instance, instead of, “Grew revenues” try, “X project resulted in an Y% increase in revenues.”
36. Spelling and grammar mistakes
This one may seem obvious, but it cannot be overstated — spelling and grammar mistakes are a sure-fire way to get your résumé thrown into the junk pile, and they’re so easy to fix. All it takes is a few extra minutes of perusing, and perhaps a second set of eyes, to fix this big résumé no-no.
37. Overly formal words
Nicolai told Business Insider she hates overly formal words like “utilize” — they’re not engaging and they don’t allow the reader to get a good sense of the applicant’s personality, she said.
And she’s not alone.
As one copy editor Bonnie Mills told Grammar Girl, she usually swaps out pretentious-sounding words like “utilize” for unimpressive ones like “use,” which get the point across without much fuss. She said that sentences that use overly formal words sound fluffy and make it seem like you’re trying too hard.
38. An explanation of why you want the job
That’s what the cover letter and interviews are for.
Your résumé is not the place to start explaining why you’d be a great fit or why you want the job. Your skills and qualifications should be able to do that for you — and if they don’t, then your résumé is either in bad shape, or this isn’t the right job for you.
Jacquelyn Smith, Rachel Gillett, Vivian Giang, and Natalie Walters contributed to an earlier version of this article.
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