Hiring managers rarely have the time or resources to look at each résumé closely.
They typically spend about six seconds on their initial “fit/no fit” decision.
SHARE Share on Facebook SHARE Share on Twitter TWEET Link The format of your résumé is just as important as its content. Photo: Lyn Osborn
If you want to pass that test, you need to have some solid qualifications – and the perfect résumé to highlight them.
Here are 35 things you should strike from your résumé right now.
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. Personal details
Don’t include your marital status, religious preference, or other personal information.
This might have been the standard in the past, but all this information could lead to discrimination, which is illegal, so there’s no need to include it.
3. 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.
4. More than one phone number
Augustine suggests including only one phone number on your résumé. That number should really be your mobile phone, 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 says.
5. Your hobbies
In most cases, nobody cares. 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.
The exception is if including your hobby will make you stand out as the more attractive candidate by providing insight into your skills, industry knowledge, or positive personality traits.
6. Blatant lies
When CareerBuilder asked 2000 hiring managers for memorable résumé mistakes, 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, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, says these lies may be “misguided attempts to compensate for lacking 100 per cent of the qualifications specified in the job posting”.
But Haefner says candidates should concentrate on the skills they can offer, rather than the ones they can’t.
“Hiring managers are more forgiving than job seekers may think,” Haefner explains. “About 42 per cent of employers surveyed said they would consider a candidate who met only three out of five key qualifications for a specific role.”
7. Too much text
When you use a 1cm margin and eight-point font in an effort to get everything to fit on one page, this is an “epic fail”, says JT O’Donnell, a career and workplace expert, founder of career-advice site Careerealism.com, and author of Careerealism: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career.
She recommends lots of white space and no less than a 2cm margin.
Augustine agrees, warning particularly against dense blocks of text.
“Let’s be honest: You’re looking this over quickly, you’re glancing through it. Your eyes glaze over when you get to a big, long paragraph,” she says.
8. Too many bullets
In the same vein, you can also overload your résumé with too many bullet points, which Augustine calls “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 says.
Augustine explains 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 says.
9. 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,” she says.
10. Details that give away your age
If you don’t want to be discriminated against for a position because of your age, it’s time to remove your graduation date, says Catherine Jewell, author of New Résumé, New Career.
Another surprising way your résumé could give away your age: double spaces after a period. While many people were taught to type that way in school, it’s now an outdated practice.
If your employers want to speak to your references, they will 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 says.
12. Inconsistent formatting
The format of your résumé is just as important as its content, Augustine says.
She says 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.
13. Personal pronouns
Your résumé shouldn’t include the words “I”, “me”, “she”, or “my”, says Tina Nicolai, executive career coach and founder of Resume Writers’ Ink.
“Don’t write your résumé in the third or first person. It’s understood that everything on your résumé is about you and your experiences.”
14. 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 says.
15. 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.
It only takes a minute or two, and it’s free.
16. Any unnecessary, obvious words
Amdur says there is no reason to put the word “phone” in front of the actual number. “It’s pretty silly. They know it’s your phone number.” The same rule applies to email.
Other superfluous words like “responsible for”, “oversight of”, and “duties included” unnecessarily complicate and hide your experience, Gelbard says.
“Be direct, concise, and use active verbs to describe your accomplishments,” she suggests. Instead of writing, “Responsible for training interns…”, simply write, “Train interns…”
17. Headers, footers, tables, images, or charts
These fancy embeds 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 tells 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.
18. Your boss’s name
Don’t include your boss’ name on your résumé unless you’re OK with your potential employer contacting him or her. Even then, Gelbard says 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.
19. Company-specific jargon
“Companies often have their own internal names for things like customised software, technologies, and processes that are only known within that organisation and not by those who work outside of it,” Gelbard says. “Be sure to exclude terms on your résumé that are known only to one specific organisation.”
20. Social-media URLs unrelated 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 says.
“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.”
21. 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 says.
On the same note, never include dates on education and certifications that are older than 15 years.
22. Salary information
“Some people include past hourly rates for jobs they held in college,” Nicolai says. This information is unnecessary and may send the wrong message.
Amy Hoover, president of Talent Zoo, says 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 hiring process.”
23. Outdated fonts
“Don’t use Times New Roman and serif fonts, as they’re outdated and old-fashioned,” Hoover says. “Use a standard, sans-serif font like Arial.”
Also, be aware of the font size, she says. Your goal should be to make it look nice and sleek – but also easy to read.
24. 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.”
25. Annoying buzzwords
CareerBuilder asked 2201 US hiring managers: “What résumé terms are the biggest turnoffs?” They cited words and phrases like, “best of breed”, “go-getter”, “think outside the box”, “synergy”, and “people pleaser”.
Terms employers do like to see on résumés include: “achieved”, “managed”, “resolved”, and “launched” – but only if they’re used in moderation.
26. 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 says. “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 if you’re asked.
27. Your grade point average
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.
28. A photo of yourself
This may become the norm at some point in the future, but it’s just weird – and tacky and distracting – to include a photo with your résumé for now.
“Unless you are a TV personality or you require a headshot as part of your role, there is absolutely no reason that you should have a picture of your face,” Augustine tells Business Insider.
29. 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.
30. Opinions, not facts
Don’t try to sell yourself by using all sorts of subjective words to describe yourself, O’Donnell says. “I’m an excellent communicator” or “highly organised and motivated” are opinions of yourself and not necessarily the truth. “Recruiters want facts only. They will decide if you are those things after they meet you,” she says.
31. Baseline expectations
Another problem with saying you’re an “excellent communicator” is that this is a baseline expectation. Stating that you are really great at communication isn’t, in fact, saying very much.
32. 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 per cent increase in revenues”.
33. 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.
Writing “whorehouse” instead of “warehouse” can be a mortifying spelling mistake – and, yes, it’s happened.
34. Overly formal words
Nicolai tells Business Insider she hates overly formal words like “utilise” – they’re not engaging and they don’t allow the reader to get a good sense of the applicant’s personality, she says.
And she’s not alone.
As one copy editor tells Grammar Girl, she usually swaps out pretentious-sounding words like “utilise” for unimpressive ones like “use”, which get the point across without much fuss. She says that sentences that use overly formal words sound fluffy and make it seem like you’re trying too hard.
“They don’t care that you like Dave Matthews Band,” Augustine tells Business Insider.
Jacquelyn Smith,Vivian Giang, and Natalie Walters contributed to earlier versions of this article.
This story first appeared in Business Insider. Read it here or follow BusinessInsider Australia on Facebook.
Hiring managers rarely have the time or resources to look at each résumé closely.