Plenty of advice exists on what should be included in your resume. But, there’s not a huge amount of information out there on what you should exclude from your resume. So, here it is, a simple check-list that you apply to your resume as a final check, just before you click the send button. Using it could be the difference between the short-list and the rejection pile.
This one is a minefield, so I’ll keep it simple. In the U.S. and UK, do not include a photo in your resumes; in other countries, check with local experts. Why? Looks are not relevant to your abilities as an employee. Also, photos on resumes put employers in an awkward spot, as if they choose to reject a candidate with a photo resume, the candidate will have more circumstantial evidence to support them if they were to make a claim of discrimination against the employer based on some aspect of their appearance. Many employers will discard the resume without looking at it or even have a policy of rejecting resumes with photos to avoid this risk.
Unless your interest and hobbies are relevant to the job, e.g. you are a marathon runner joining a sports footwear manufacturer, leave it off. Space on a resume is at premium, so exclude irrelevant hobbies and save the space for pertinent information
3. Gaps in work history of less than a year
Generally, gaps in work history will reflect badly on your application. While there may be valid reasons for the gap, the tendency is to think the worst, e.g. the candidate is unemployable or unwilling to work, neither of which is attractive to a potential employer.
For short gaps of less than a year, write a resume so the employment dates only reference the year and not the month and this will hide the gap. See the example below. If you had a six-month work gap in 2009 then it wouldn’t show on this CV:
Sales Specialist, ABC Corporation
2009 – 2012
Sales Trainee, DCE Corporation
2007 – 2009
This approach is just designed to get you past the first screening hurdle. If you are asked about your employment dates at interview, then tell the truth!
4. Negative comments about your last employer, colleagues or boss
Not only should these negative comments be excluded from the resume, they should also be excluded from your cover letter and interview process. If you cast aspersions on former colleagues it can make you look like someone who likes to apportion blame and who does not take personal responsibility for managing relationships and resolving problems. This practice will not reflect well.
5. Every job you have ever had
Experienced employees need only focus in on the last 15 years of their career, as this is where the recruiter’s attention will be directed. The earlier part of your career can be summarized and heavily abridged (ideally in a list format) with one line per job showing employer name, job title and dates. This will make your resume more focused, shorter and, therefore, far more palatable to the reader.
6. Age and graduation dates
A quarter of the cases filed to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are age related, so we can assume that age discrimination is still prevalent in the US today. Therefore, to minimize your chance of being unfairly discriminated against for age, do not indicate your age on your resume. Also, do not include your graduation dates, as it can make it easy for employers to deduce your age using this information.
7. Salary expectations/previous salary
Avoid including salary expectations on your resume. If your salary expectations are too high, you can be seen as too expensive by the employer and could be rejected on that basis alone before you have the chance to say you “might have negotiated”. Also, if your salary expectations are too low, recruiters can think you are desperate, and unemployable, which can put question marks around your application. If you are asked to include salary expectations in your application, then do one of three things in response:
- Say, “salary expectations in line with advertised rates”
- Give a broad salary range
- Say, “salary is negotiable”
Adopting one of these approaches will mean that you don’t show your hand too early.
8. Less than professional email addresses
Playful email addresses like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org are great for socializing with friends, but can come across as unprofessional when used for a job application, meaning an employer may be less likely to respond. Don’t use them for job applications. Setup a formal email address like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and use this as it is far more professional.
Also, never use joint addresses like PeterandJane@email.com or email@example.com as recruiters’ emails are private and intended for the candidate only, which means they may be reluctant to contact you on that address.
9. Personal information, such as marital status, children, religion, and/or disability
It’s illegal for employers to ask you about this information so you do not need to include it.
10. Too many densely worded paragraphs
Job descriptions should be broken down into responsibilities and achievements with each section being written in bullet points, and not paragraphs. It’s much easier to scan and more penetrative.