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You worked hard in school and got your foot in the door. Now, it is time to take your career to the next level. Knowing what to include and what to omit on your resume can help you launch or advance your career.
Resume Advice From Recruiters
The Hispanic Network surveyed more than 500 major corporations to obtain resume advice from recruiters. Overwhelmingly, the recruiters who responded to the survey agreed that unrelated work experience, photographs, logos, personal information and outside hobbies should not be included on a resume. Do not volunteer personal information on your resume that you are not legally required to provide, such as your age, race and religion.
Unnecessary Headers and Fonts
Professional resumes should not say “Resume” at the top of the page. You can trust that hiring managers know a resume when they see one. Similarly, don’t use a huge font for your name. A slightly larger font is fine, but don’t get carried away because resume space is precious when selling yourself in a page or two.
Career Objective and Goals
Current thinking among recruiters is that a career objective is unnecessary. Arguably, the cover letter is a better place to expound upon your career goals and desire to work for a reputable company. Omitting an objective makes your resume more versatile if you’re exploring different types of positions. If you do decide to include a career objective, tailor it to the specific job you’re seeking.
Detrimental Statement of Qualifications
A statement of qualifications is a short paragraph near the top of your resume summarizing what makes you an ideal candidate. Hiring managers may not connect the dots between your transferable skills and the position they’re trying to fill.
Narrowly focus on certifications, licenses, apprenticeships, leadership experiences and evidence-based results you achieved in previous jobs. Avoid irrelevant personal disclosures such as retiree, recent college graduate, stay-at-home dad, displaced worker, immigrant, former minister, recovered addict or rehabilitated offender, which could interject bias into the hiring process.
Confidential and Personal Information
Never include your birth date, Social Security number or bank deposit information on your resume. Identity theft is a major problem, and you have limited control over who sees your resume after submission. Do not mention your credit score, driving record, years of sobriety or any criminal involvements. Employers have a right to ask for limited confidential information later in the process, but do not proactively furnish such information on your resume.
Do not directly or indirectly disclose legally protected personal information on your resume such as age, gender, marital status, race, sexual orientation and religion. For example, do not list the date you graduated from college, as this could expose you to age discrimination if the company thinks you’re too young or too old for the job. Requests for accommodations are made separately from the job application process as per the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Unprofessional Email Address
When listing your contact information at the top of your resume, include your address and email. For purposes of job hunting, you will need an appropriately named email address. Now is the time to ditch Partyhard4ever@gmail.com. Make sure your voice message greeting on your phone will not turn off recruiters calling to schedule an interview. Attempts at humor can be misinterpreted or even offensive to people who don't know you.
Avoid Insider Terminology
Avoid using acronyms, industry terms or jargon that is not widely used outside your business or organization. For instance, the Marine Corps Community Services organization advises veterans against including their rank or military terms that civilians don’t understand on their resume.
Clearly communicate your skills and competencies without abbreviations. Otherwise, applicant-tracking software may screen out your application due to missing keywords.
Big and Little Lies
Few organizations tolerate deception. Employers reserve the right to verify any verbal or written information provided. Dishonesty can take many forms on a resume. Lying about a degree, falsifying transcripts, altering your job title, overinflating your duties, fabricating accomplishments or embellishing your work history are grounds for immediate termination before or after hire.
Unrelated Hobbies and Interests
Naturally, you’re proud of your ability to yodel, walk on stilts and juggle fire torches, but neither special talents nor hobbies will help you stand out in a good way if you’re applying for an ordinary job. Outside interests should only be included if they directly relate to the job you’re pursuing. For example, if you’re an actor or a stunt performer, then list all your special skills because a casting director might hire you instantly.
Typos and Poor Grammar
Avoid embarrassment and unemployment by asking a friend with proofreading skills to review your resume and cover letter. Spellcheck is woefully inadequate for a resume. Grammar mistakes could cost you jobs that demand exceptional communication skills. Employers may get a good laugh at your expense if you claim to be meticulous and detail oriented in the body of your error-riddled application materials.
Health and Physical Characteristics
Height, weight, eye color and dress size only belong on the resume of an actor/model. Do not mention that you are in good health, exercise regularly and practice yoga. Focus on what is needed to perform the job. If you are looking to demonstrate that you meet certain legitimate occupational qualifications, like heavy lifting, you could mention your body building and weight lifting titles among your list of related activities, for instance.
Cliches and Worn Expressions
Steer clear of buzzwords, cliches and vague phrases. Certain words have become overused to the point that employers discount them. Examples that may surprise you include "team player," "hard worker," "self starter," "visionary" and "problem solver," to name just a few. Either leave these flowery adjectives and descriptors off your resume altogether or back up such statements with verifiable, measurable evidence.
GPA and Honor Roll
Only current students or recent college graduates should consider including their GPA. Furthermore, GPA or honor roll mentions should be in the range of 3.8 on a 4.0 scale. The rigor of schools vary, which limits the validity of a GPA in judging a candidate’s potential. Once you are out of school for three years or more, actual job performance is more important than the grades you earned.
Unimpressive, Ordinary Skills
Weird Fonts, Clip Art, Colored Paper
The fleeting days of mailing gimmicky resumes on funky colored papers with crazy fonts and clip art are long gone. Most resumes are submitted online, and they need to be typed in a readable font like Arial. Avoid big blocks of unbroken text, tiny fonts and limited white space. Bullet points are preferable to marathon sentences.
Jobs That Didn’t Work Out
Recruiters recommend omitting short-term jobs on your resume. An employer may see this as a red flag and wonder if you abruptly quit or were fired. What’s more, a short stint at a job isn’t seen as a significant contributor to your skill set. If you worked a seasonal job that is related to the position you are seeking, you should include that position but clarify that you were hired as a temporary worker in the first place.
Stay-at-Home Parent Returning to Work
Do not label your current occupation as "stay-at-home parent." Rather, articulate how you have stayed current in your field during your gap years.
Employers understand that many men and women take time off for family reasons. However, there is still the expectation that time was set aside for honing professional skills through networking, volunteering, taking classes, self-study, writing or attending conferences.
Personal Social Media Links
You are looking for a job, not a date, so keep everything professional. Do not include links to any of your personal social media accounts even if they’re rated PG. The exception is your LinkedIn profile but keep that strictly work related too, with no mention of your political leanings. Other resume advice for LinkedIn includes focusing on recent job experiences over past positions.
Poor Choice of Skills
Exercise care when choosing skills to list on your resume. Today’s office workers are presumed to be trained in Microsoft Office, so don’t bother mentioning it unless the job requires Excel expertise, for example. Avoid listing skills if you are only marginally proficient in those areas, or your first few days on the job could be your last. Common mistakes include overstating proficiency in multiple languages and exaggerating computer skills.
Social Clubs and Activism
Mentioning membership in anything other than professional organizations is risky. The hiring manager may think certain groups to which you belong are too liberal, too conservative or too different from the company's image and values. On the other hand, you may prefer to be upfront about your views and affiliations if you’re looking for a certain type of work culture. Either way, consider the pros and cons of including social clubs and activism on your resume.
High School Activities
Omit high school activities unless those days are relatively recent, and the experiences are job related or indicative of character, such as being an Eagle Scout. Omit typical school activities and honors. Titles such as "homecoming queen" or "snow king" are not necessary as evidence of your youthful popularity. The employer will assess your likability during an interview.
Professional Photographs and Selfies
Do not insert a photo on your resume or attach a glossy print copy. Some employers remove photos from resumes to eliminate potential claims of bias in hiring. The rule doesn’t apply to actors, who typically attach a head and body shot for casting purposes. Including a photograph may reveal gender, age, race and ethnicity, which the employer should not know or use in the hiring process.
References Available Upon Request
Do not put “references available upon request” on your resume. Employers assume that you will provide references if asked at the time of application or later in the hiring process. Many companies ask for a resume, cover letter and a separate list of references as part of their online application process.
Related Resume Tips
Resume advice from 2019 will change over the course of your career, so stay abreast of best practices as defined by statute, corporate recruiters and human resource experts. For instance, you can always find up-to-date resume advice on LinkedIn, including resume advice from recruiters. If you are a recent college graduate, visit your campus career center for a critique of your resume.
Research anti-discrimination laws. Know what employers can and cannot ask in your state, which tells you what information to leave off your resume and dodge in a job interview. State discrimination laws can be broader than federal laws. For example, California also prohibits biased treatment based on sexual orientation, gender identity and marital statu_s._
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- Forbes: 18 Things to Take off Your Résumé and LinkedIn Profile Today to Succeed Tomorrow
- Forbes: What to Include on Your Resume (And What You Can Ditch)
- Forbes: Ten Things Never, Ever to Include on Your Resume
- Hispanic Network: What Not to Put in My Resume
- Business Insider: 29 Things You Should Never Put on Your Resume
- Harvard Business Review: How Stay-at-Home Parents Can Transition Back to Work
- Harvard Web Publishing: Resumes & Cover Letters
- University of Nevada Law School: Common Resume Mistakes
- Society for Human Resource Management: Not All State Employment Discrimination Laws Are Created Equal
- Marine Corps Community Services: Seven Resume Mistakes That Might be Holding You Back
Dr. Mary Dowd brings decades of hands-on experience to her writing endeavors. Along with general knowledge of human resources, she has specialized training in affirmative action, investigations and equal opportunity. While working as a dean of students, she advised college students on emerging career trends and job seeking strategies. As director of equal opportunity, she led efforts to diversify the workforce and the student body.