What NOT to put on your resumeAug 26, 2022
Resume writing can be tricky, but what always surprises me is not how difficult it is to jot down your information but how difficult it is to select what information to cut!
That’s why in this blog, I’m going to be hitting you with some straight FACTS about what NOT to include on your resume. A lot of people say to me, “how can I possibly get my resume down to one page or two pages?” and I promise you, YOU CAN!
I’m going to share with you the details that are better left off your resume, to keep it sleek, concise, and value-packed! Let’s get into it 🚀
What to leave OFF your resume
Everything you’ve ever done or accomplished
Your resume does not have to include every single thing you've ever done or accomplished in your career. If you’ve been told do to this - it's a lie. I'm a big fan of using career highlights to keep things concise while emphasising only the most important and aligned aspects of your career history.
If you've got 20 years of experience, I don’t want to see your internships from 19 years ago. You do not have to go back to the 90s to have a compelling resume and story. Using career highlights or work experience highlights as headers are the best way to make a splash without going on for multiple pages. Essentially, it’s best to not leave off entire jobs, however, you don't have to go all the way back to every little part-time job or internship you ever had. Depending on the job you're going for, it might be quite strategic to leave a particular position off!
You also don't have to put everything you were responsible for under each different role. I often see people do this in a long paragraph, touching on all of the things they did in their role… Think about your audience. Think about who's reading this resume. They want to know about your skills, your career stories, and your accomplishments - only the juicy stuff! I don't want your resume to be a 😴 snoozefest 😴 and I don't want you to distract them from the important bits. So, think about it for every role - what is the impact you had? How do you make things better? How did you contribute? What did you achieve? That’s the information to bullet point on your resume!
You can have just three to five bullet points under each experience (recruiters generally just skim the first few anyway). So leave out the sentences that will distract the recruiter from your accomplishments or things that you're proud of.
Don’t include ‘references on request’ on your resume
The next thing to ditch completely is ‘references available upon request’. Of course, they know that they can call your references upon request if you get to that stage of the process. There are two main options here 👇
Firstly, you can completely take it off. Option two is to provide references but include their name, LinkedIn, and phone number. This can generate quite a nice positive feeling and some trust if you're comfortable doing that. In general, recruiters will not contact them before asking you regardless.
Leave generic computer skills off your resume
The next thing you can get off that resume is generic computer skills... If you've been working for 10 years, we know that you know how to use Microsoft Word - thanks 🙃. Unless the job description calls for it (in which case, it might be required by the applicant tracking system), leave it off!.
If the job description specifically states that you need to have Microsoft Office Suite then absolutely include it! But otherwise, I'm pretty sure you know a professional with 10 years of experience knows how to use PowerPoint and Microsoft Word - so including it is simply a waste of valuable resume real estate!
Instead, it’s important to focus on the specific industry tools that are going to be helpful and advantageous for this job. In saying that, don't list all the programmes you’ve ever used and can use - just include the ones that are going to make the difference for this role!
Cut generic interests off your resume
The next thing that you can take off your resume is generic interests. When I say ‘generic interests’, I mean things like “I enjoy reading, travel, running, pilates, and yoga…”
Now, I do think that interests can play a part, especially if you're a grad because it differentiates you from the pack. However, there are a couple of things that you can do to optimise your use of this.
You can tell the recruiter why you do what you do. Rather than just calling it interest, you could title the section something like ‘more about me’. Under this heading, you could say “I run marathons because I thrive on setting big goals and achieving them.” This provides a little more context and lets the recruiter infer things about you being motivated in your professional and personal life by doing [X]. Connecting the dots between your interests and the impact they have on your professional life can be a great way for people to connect with you and feel more around who you are as a person - sharing the same values or sharing the same kind of motivations - it can be quite strategic in that way.
So as you can see, it's either leave them off entirely (especially if you need the space) or ensure they’re aligned perfectly with the role and attributes you’ll bring to it.
Personal data should be left off your resume
Another aspect you can leave off your resume is personal data. This can differ by country norms, but in general, it’s best to leave off information like your marital status, the level of your health, your full address, etc.
Essentially, anything that can elicit human bias should be removed. For example, if you included that you have three lovely kids aged 12, 13, and 17, this could be used against you. Likewise, leave off a photo of you - unless it’s your country’s norm (then definitely include one). There are laws against discrimination and bias from photos that can impact your application so it’s best to check with your country's norms and avoid including one if it isn’t expected. The only kind of personal we wanna see on your resume is personal branding ✨
Don’t include the reasons you left your previous job on your resume
The last thing to take off your resume is the reason you've left your current/previous job. I have seen resumes that include this and, honestly, it looks quite defensive and like you're justifying yourself. So, leave that off! In general, you don't need to justify why you're leaving - it can sometimes be another ground for discrimination.
That’s it - everything you should be leaving OFF your resume! Hopefully, after doing all of this your resume feels 10 pounds lighter! I hope this helps you when it comes to writing your next strategic resume.
Hungry for more next-level resume tips? Don’t worry, I’d never leave you hanging! Feel free to download my killer resume cheat sheet for concrete tips to get your resume send-ready!