Remove these unnecessary things from your resume right away.
In today's competitive job market, employers receive approximately 250 job applications for every open position. Ninety-five percent of large organizations use software known as an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen applications and eliminate the least qualified applicants.
If your resume is among the lucky 25 percent of applications that make it past the dreaded bots, it still must pass muster with the recruiter or hiring manager. With so many applications flooding their inboxes, it's no wonder that the average recruiter skims a resume for only six seconds before deciding if the applicant belongs in the “no” pile.
When your job application is facing the six-second resume test, it's important to not include information that will distract the hiring manager from seeing your true qualifications. But how do job seekers decide what to include in a resume and what to delete? Below is a list of what you should not include in a resume. Use this checklist to review your resume and ensure your job application avoids the trash heap.
1. Resume objective statement
We've all seen those generic resume objective statements talk about a professional who is “looking for opportunities that will allow me to leverage my skills.” This vague statement is a waste of space on your resume because it doesn't help hiring managers quickly understand what type of position you're seeking and why you're qualified for such a role. Remove your run-of-the-mill objective statement and replace it with a professional summary — also known as a career statement or career summary — that delivers your elevator pitch. In approximately 3–5 lines, explain why you're a good fit for the position you're pursuing by summarizing your relevant qualifications and career achievements.
Related: How Are a Resume Objective and a Resume Summary Different?
2. Unprofessional email
The email address “firstname.lastname@example.org” may have been funny in college, but it's inappropriate to use on your job applications and business cards. The same goes for shared family email accounts such as “email@example.com” and email addresses that are offensive or sexual in nature. Create a free email address with a provider like Gmail that's reserved exclusively for your job-search activities. Whenever possible, create an email address that incorporates your name as it appears on your resume and LinkedIn profile, as well as your credentials. For example: “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
3. Full mailing address
Gone are the days when it was required to include your entire mailing address on your resume. In fact, if you're trying to relocate for work, I recommend removing all location information unless you can provide a local address. If you're searching for work near your home, include your city, state, and zip code to show the hiring manager you're a local candidate. Do not include your street address, as it's not necessary at this stage of the recruitment process, takes up extra space, and can be considered a security risk (think of all the places you upload or post your resume — hello, identity theft!).
4. Multiple phone numbers
The more contact options you provide on your resume, the easier it is to miss an important message from a prospective employer. Avoid any confusion by streamlining your contact information. Include one — and only one — phone number on your resume. I suggest listing the number for your mobile phone so you can control the voice message, who answers each call, and when.
5. Outdated or irrelevant social media profiles
Do not include on your resume social media accounts that host unprofessional content, do not support your current job goals, and are not regularly updated. If you're going to include the URL to a social media account on your resume, make sure it reflects your personal brand and serves to demonstrate why you're qualified for the job.
In addition, create at least one professional online profile on sites like LinkedIn or GitHub (depending on your line of work) and include the link at the top of your resume. If you work in a creative field, consider creating an online portfolio or blog that has a mobile-responsive design so employers can access your site from any device.
Related: How to Write a Powerful LinkedIn Profile Summary
6. Personal details
There's no need to include personal information on a resume such as your social security number, marital status, nationality, sexual orientation, or spiritual beliefs. In fact, it is illegal for employers to ask for these personal details. If you're unsure whether to include a detail about yourself on your resume, consider if the information is relevant to the job you're targeting. If it doesn't demonstrate your qualifications for the role, it doesn't belong on your resume.
Unless you're a TV celebrity or your career requires a professional headshot, there is no reason why your resume should include a picture of you. Your photo will likely reveal your nationality, gender, or age — among other factors — that could inadvertently lead to discrimination. There's no need to provide an employer with those details until they've considered your application based solely on your qualifications. In fact, some recruiters have been known to automatically dismiss a candidate whose application includes a headshot because they don't want to be accused of discrimination.
Also, some recruiters see candidates who include headshots as egocentric at best and lacking sound judgment skills at worst.
While it's important to include in your resume relevant keywords from the job descriptions that interest you, it's not a good idea to stuff your resume full of fluffy buzzwords. Make sure you incorporate keywords in a way that sounds natural when you read your resume out loud. If you deliberately stuff keywords into your resume or use a bunch of annoying buzzwords, it will be painfully obvious to the recruiter — not to mention a big turnoff.
Related: Words and Phrases to Remove From Your Resume Right Away
While there is some debate within the resume-writing community, the generally accepted practice is to refrain from referring to yourself by your name or personal pronouns such as “I,” “me,” “she,” or “he.” Save the first-person point of view for your LinkedIn profile summary. Instead, write your resume in what is known as the absent first person, where all pronouns are dropped from the sentences.
10. Elaborate formats and designs
When it comes to selecting a design for your resume, less is more. Not only do elaborate designs and unconventional formats confuse most applicant tracking systems, but they also annoy recruiters who are accustomed to quickly scanning a resume for specific information they expect to find in particular spots within the document. Don't make recruiters hunt for the information they care about. Play it safe and stick to a clean resume design with a clear hierarchy. Not sure what works? Check out TopResume's library of free resume samples.
11. Embedded charts and images
While these design elements may look nice to the human eye, resumes with embedded images become a garbled mess, or get completely omitted from your application, after they pass through ATS. In addition, recruiters don't want to see a pictorial — and rather subjective — representation of your skills like the second resume I review in this video. Save your creativity for your online portfolio and don't include images in your resume.
12. Spelling and grammatical errors
A recruiter survey by TopResume found “spelling and/or grammatical errors” to be the No. 1 resume mistake that could cost you the job. However, with a little effort, you can easily avoid this resume deal-breaker. Print your resume out in a different font, read it aloud, and ask someone with impeccable writing skills to edit your resume for grammar.
Related: 5 Ways to Proofread Your Resume
13. Too much of the past
If you're new to the workforce, it's time to remove all references of high school from your resume. Once you've been working for a few years in your desired field, you can pare down the details from your college experience. If you're further along in your career, limit the details of your employment history to the past 15 years. Anything further back in time can be briefly mentioned in a career note or an abbreviated “Earlier Work History” section. Not only if this information considered less relevant because it took place so long ago, but listing it makes it challenging to stick to an appropriate resume length and can open your application up to age discrimination.
14. Salary history
Supplying your current or previous salary in your resume is not a great job-search strategy. If you include accurate information, then you might get low-balled when it comes to your starting salary. If you fudge your past earnings, then you risk getting caught in a lie and terminated. In fact, as of April 2018, there are nine places in the U.S. where employers are no longer allowed to ask for your current or previous salary. Do yourself a favor and do not include this type of information in your resume.
Do not include a list of references or the line “References available upon request” on your resume. This information is not necessary at this stage of the application process and it wastes precious resume space. In addition, employers know that if you want the job, you'll provide them with a list of references when they ask for them — there's no need to state the obvious.
What to include in your resume
Now that you know what not to include in your resume, take a second look at your resume to make sure it includes all the right elements to effectively tell your story and market your qualifications and work experience. Click on the following link to learn what 11 pieces of information every professional should include in a resume.
Not sure if your resume includes any of these mistakes? Let us help! Take advantage of TopResume's free critique today!
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