You know the basics of writing a resume — how to format it, the general order and how long it should be. But are you aware of the things you should not include? What you leave out is almost as important as what you put in. Here are 10 things that don’t belong on a winning resume.
1. Typos and grammatical errors. Even the smallest typo — a missing word or the wrong form of they’re/their/there — can kill your chances of advancing in your job search. A clean resume, on the other hand, opens doors. Take advantage of spelling and grammar-check software. Then ask a grammar-savvy friend, teacher or colleague to proofread your final version.
2. Personal information. Your age, marital status, whether you have children, religion, sexual orientation and political views — potential employers need to know none of those things. In fact, hiring managers are legally bound not to ask you those questions. If it’s not directly related to the job, leave it out.
3. A photo. Unless you’re looking for a modeling or acting job, don’t send a photo of yourself. You may wonder, what’s the harm in letting human resources know what you look like, especially in this age of online searches? However common the practice is in other countries, the majority of hiring managers in the U.S. still frown on this practice because they don’t want to risk being accused of discrimination based on appearance.
4. Your keen sense of humor. Unless you’re applying to be a writer for “Saturday Night Live,” save your wit for after you get the job — not before. Verbal cleverness and outlandish summary statements don’t come across well on paper, and busy hiring managers don’t have time for, well, funny business. No matter how hard you want to stand out from the dozens of other applicants, it’s not worth writing a clever resume.
5. All your jobs and responsibilities.Unless you’re really desperate to show any work experience, leave off your summer job as a lifeguard or stint operating rides at the state fair. Include only what’s relevant, which can include volunteering and internships. The same goes for job responsibilities: Instead of listing each and every task you did, state only skills that are pertinent to the job you’re applying for, and then get specific. When writing a resume, it’s far more important to demonstrate your problem-solving skills than to have an exhaustive list of your role in every single job.
6. Meaningless words. Steer clear of overused buzzwords, business-ese and esoteric acronyms. Jargon doesn’t add meaning and can turn off hiring managers. So please, don’t say “leverage synergies” unless you’re trying to elicit an eye roll.
7. Reason for leaving. This is never expected. It interrupts and detracts from a strong narrative about your strengths and how you can apply them with a new employer. If hiring managers want to know why you left a certain job, that question will come up during the interview where you will have a better chance of explaining yourself.
8. Hobbies. Don’t cram the “Other Information” section with activities that don’t overlap with the job description. Translation: Do include community service, such as if you’re an IT professional who teaches computer skills to seniors. That’s relevant. Your bobble-head doll collection is not.
9. Salary requirements. When writing a resume, it’s presumptuous to mention the minimum you’ll work for. It’s also a poor tactic. If the number is too high, your may not make the short list. If it’s too low, you could be paid less than what the employer is willing to offer. If the job post asks for a salary requirement, don’t give a number or even a range. Instead, include something like this in the cover letter: “My salary requirement will depend on a variety of factors, including the benefits package.”
10. “References available upon request.” Resume real estate is valuable, and this is a line that means very little. Of course you’ll provide references when asked — what job candidate wouldn’t? Pat phrases like this annoy hiring managers to no end.
When writing a resume, make every word on those one to two pages work for you. Aim for a chronological and easy-to-read format, use active words and drop any extras. Let your resume wow hiring managers and get you interviews — not harm your chances of getting a great job.
Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 400 staffing and consulting locations worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, read our blog at blog.roberthalf.com or follow us on social media at roberthalf.com/follow-us.