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5 things you should never put on your resume


542776060 0f66127582 5 things you should never put on your resume

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Job searching can be a lonely, frustrating place. It's time consuming and it rarely comes without rejection. In most cases, your years of hard work are represented on one or two pages and evaluated by someone who has probably never worked in your position. And it's that step that determines if you are in the "in" interview pile or the "out" pile.

Those two pages of finely tuned words ARE you, until you have the chance to let your personality shine through in the interview. Here are my top five things to avoid putting on your resume.

  1. Giving personal data. Your resume should be a business representation of you. Avoid listing your marital status, age, family data, hobbies, etc. You should have hobbies and a life outside of work, but it's not necessary to include them on your resume UNLESS the hobby or information is relevant to the job itself. Your prospective employer will find this all out anyways on your Facebook or Myspace page (so make sure it's representative of what you want them to know). Your age, sexual preference, martial status or family information (children, ages, etc.) are irrelevant. The unfortunate truth is that hiring managers may base their decisions on whether or not to interview and hire you based on the information you provide, discriminatory or not. Don't let them make that judgment.
  2. Listing every job since adolescence. The Starbucks Barista job that got you through college isn't for the resume. If it's not relevant to your current job search, drop it. Think: Did this job prepare me to be a PR pro? If not, don't list it. That goes for internships too. If you have more than five years experience your internships are no longer relevant.
  3. Going more than two pages. This is a tough one, especially for candidates with lots of experience. You may have the temptation of wanting to list all of your relevant experience, but nobody reads more than two pages. So don't give in, no matter how much experience you have. Find a way to cut it down. A good way to start is by focusing on accomplishments for each position rather than a long list of responsibilities.
  4. Personal pronouns. Writing your resume in the first person detracts from your accomplishments. It adds unnecessary work and wastes space. The same goes for referring to yourself in the third person. Examples: "I pitched business and trade publications such as..." or "Jane has 15 years of experience..."
  5. Providing references or stating "references upon request." You need references, but not on your resume. You don't want your valued references being called before you have a chance to let them know. If a company requires references, it will ask you for them when you are seriously being considered for the position. Listing "references upon request" at the bottom of your resume is a given and wastes valuable space.

What would you add to the list?

This is part one of a three-part series about what to never put on your resume.
Part 2: Top things you should never put on your resume by readers
Part 3:
Make sure your career progress is not mistaken for job hopping

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37 Comments - Add yours!

Adam Gainer (November 24th, 2008)

As someone who is graduating soon and looking at working in the field of PR, I find this resume list really helpful.

Martin Buckland (November 24th, 2008)


Great article!

I would add that it’s vitally important to portray to a future employer that you are a consistent performer and not a couch potato.

Leave responsibilities out. Build each bullet around STAR: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Tell a short story, max 3 lines about each accomplishment. These can also serve as a platform for the interviewer to position their questions.

Happy job searching!

Jenn (November 24th, 2008)

I would probably add that an objective is no longer necessary. It’s pretty evident to the employer/recruiter that you’re looking for a job. Resumes, and I’m sure you can attest to this Lindsay, are scanned in a matter of seconds. Axe the objective and you’re going to save valuable space and time.

Paul Copcutt (November 24th, 2008)


As a former recruiter (and I am sure you see it all the time) it amazed me what candidates thought constituted a resume (let alone a good one!). Here are some other thoughts:

- Silly, Funny (usually just to you) or offensive e-mail addresses. Gmail is free and generic – use it!

- An objective (still seen on far too many resumes) – by all means have something to give off a resume but make it a vlaue prposition – what you can do for the employer – not what you want from them

- No phone number! Yes believe it – when I was in recruitment I did a quick survey once and found over 15% of resumes had no contact phone number – Huh???!!

- Reasons why you left – rarely seen now, but it does happen, do not eliminate yourself before the interview. Save it for a face to face, or at least a telephone conversation.

- Photos – in recruitemtn we used to have a ‘rogues’ gallery of photos that were attached to resumes. Again save it for the interview or web interview. Or make sure any photo is professionally taken for bios and on line profiles like LinkedIn

Just my toonies worth!

Bill Green (November 24th, 2008)

GPA – leave it off. If you have a 3.8, you have just publicly said you not as smart as someone with a 4.0. If you have 4.0 you clearly have no life and very little about PR is academic.

Public Relations » 5 things you should never put on your resume (November 24th, 2008)

[...] Source: 5 things you should never put on your resume [...]

Esteban Cervi (November 24th, 2008)

I not agree with the first item: “Giving personal data”

I think all the hobbies and information related to the personal life of the candidate are part of his personality, and for each work, the recruiters must consider the personality of each person of a teamwork to configure a custom team identity that could be stable and reach the objectives with efficiency.

Lindsay (November 24th, 2008)

Martin – good advice on the STAR. I like that.

Paul – awesome comment. Thanks for expanding on my thoughts. I get resumes with the wrong phone number on it all the time. It drives me nuts. Of course, there is an email address, but I automatically lose confidence in the candidate if the contact info is wrong.

Bill – I agree with the GPA. I usually see the GPA on entry level resumes. Save it for the interview.

Esteban – I understand what you mean and how hobbies and personal data are related to the candidate. It’s important to find someone who is a cultural fit and a cultural fit is determined once the candidate and team have the opportunity to meet. I would argue what is appropriate to put on a resume vary from country to country. It’s illegal in the United States for an employer to ask age, marital status, etc. (so why put it on your resume if you live in the U.S.?) where in Argentina it’s perfectly acceptable for an employer to state they are only accepting applications from females, age 25-35, with a photo.

In terms of hobbies, I would argue by stating your hobbies in your CV is dangerous. Let’s say you love to hunt, but the person evaluating your resume and deciding if you will interview is an animal rights activist and vegetarian. It doesn’t mean you can’t work together – you might realize its a great fit upon meeting, but may have never had the chance to meet if your CV was trashed because your hobbies were considered and rejected as part of your application.

Jacob from JobMob (November 24th, 2008)

Where to begin? This article is a great start and as some of the commenters point out, so much more can be said.

Top 10 Unusual Resume Mistakes

Thanks to Martin for reminding me of STAR. I had that on the tip of my tongue the other day and then it disappeared.

Stumbled, Twittered and made delicious for you, Lindsay

Lindsay Olson | Archivo » Top things to never put on a resume by readers (November 25th, 2008)

[...] I listed five things to never put on your resume. By no means was it an exhaustive list. Paul Copcutt, former recruiter and blogger at Reflections [...]

Kathryn (November 25th, 2008)

This post is great! I had not thought about leaving out the line “References available upon Request” but you have convinced me! I am going to delete that tonight and make more room for actual accomplishments.

One more thing I would add to that list, which I see on many intern resumes, is a list of their “Relevant Courses.” While it’s great that you have taken those courses, we do not need to see your entire schedule and usually just skip over it anyway. Save that space for “Relevant Experience” instead.

Lindsay Olson | Archivo » Make sure your career progression isn’t mistaken as job hopping (December 2nd, 2008)

[...] is part three of a series about what not to put on your resume. Here you can find part one and part [...]

A Step Ahead » Blog Archive » Resume faux pas: What you should and shouldn’t do (December 3rd, 2008)

[...] I read Five things you should never put on your resume by Lindsay [...]

Lindsay Olson | Archivo » Top things to never put on your resume by readers (December 8th, 2008)

[...] I listed five things to never put on your resume. By no means was it an exhaustive list. Paul Copcutt, former recruiter and blogger at Reflections [...]

Girl Meets Business | How to Rock Your Résumé (January 2nd, 2009)

[...] Five Things You Should Never Put on Your Resume from Lindsay Olson [...]

Kelly Rusk (March 6th, 2009)

Great tips! And agreed, objective is another one that should be on there.

Never though of references though… I do keep one reference on my resume at all times. It is a former prof and trusted friend who has no problem being contacted without me letting her know first. I always thought it shows I have nothing to hide, but at the same time, no one has ever contacted her before an interview anyway.

Terry Ryan (April 13th, 2009)

I often see the advice to keep a resume under 2 pages, or even less sometimes. While this may be true for some fields, I do not believe it is true for a technical field. When I look at resumes of prospective technical candidates I want to see as much detail as possible regarding the technical experience I’m looking for.

You might say, “leave the details for the interview,” but in my experience the less detail a candidate gives on the resume, the less they know or understand about the subject. If someone simply lists a technology that they supposedly have experience with, in reality it usually means very little and it’s a waste of time to talk to that candidate. However, if they describe in detail the things they’ve done with a technology, it’s usually easy to see that they at least have a basic understanding of it.

Emma Craig (May 5th, 2009)

These points are spot on, as an ex HR manager who had to plough through hundreds of resumes, finding a great resume was suprisingly difficult. I would support all of the comments, however i was happy to read more than 2 pages if the content was relevant to the candidates experience and it built a good picture of who they were.

I also liked to read accomplishments, rather than a long list of jobs that they did, it showed me how engaged the candidate was in that particular position.

On a final note because I liked to hire on a cultural fit, I actually liked to see some hobbies on there so that I could get a feel for the person before I met them in interview.

Lindsay Olson (May 6th, 2009)

Hi Emma, Thanks for your comments. In regards to hiring on a cultural fit: I agree it is important for both the candidate and the company to hire someone who fits in culturally in the organization. I just question if the hobbies listed on a resume isn’t ground for possible judgment before a candidate has the opportunity to be invited in for an interview? Let’s say the candidate is an avid hunter and the resume reviewer is disgusted by the sport of hunting, do you think that it might be possible the candidate wouldn’t be invited into an interview? His hunting hobby surely has nothing to do with his work capabilities, neither is it a topic that has to come up in the workplace. Or someone puts some of their more active hobbies on their resume so the reader automatically things that the candidate may be more likely to ask for extended amounts of time off. While I agree hobbies can tell you a lot about someone, I believe they at least need a chance to come in for an interview to meet people in person before that kind of judgment should be made.

jbm (May 10th, 2009)

Regarding hobbies: I have been told more than once in interviews that musicians (like me) seem to be successful in the areas that I have worked. People seem to highly respect musical skills (pertinent or not…)

Yes, potentially offensive hobbies (hunting) should be avoided for sure.

Welcome to the Career Carnival Blogging Event! « Radiant Veracity (June 5th, 2009)

[...] Those two pages of finely tuned words ARE you, until you have the chance to let your personality shine through in the interview. Here are my top five things to avoid putting on your resume.” [...]

steve (June 9th, 2009)

I was always taught to keep your resume down to one or two pages and not list every job you ever had, but to just go back 10 years. But lately feedback on my resume is that it is incomplete. I have had 15 HR people tell me to list everything after college and explain any gaps. Or that I didn’t get the interview because my resume was incomplete and that indicates someone that is hiding something. Having worked for over 20 years, Just listing my relevant jobs takes me to 3 pages. It must be a Minnesota thing. It especially weird because the always make you fill out an application that also lists every job (which I can see they need for background checks and such).

They also don’t like you talking yourself up too much and using personal pronouns, that’s being “full of yourself.”

And I’ve had interviewers tell me if someone sends them a thank you letter, they go to bottom of the pile, because that shows someone who is brown noser.” If I only heard this from one person I would shrug it off, but many Minnesotan employers have told the same thing. I’m only from a state away (Michigan), but I was taught sending a thank you letter was good manners and you should always do it.

Brad Hubbard (June 14th, 2009)

I’ve been a hiring manager in the IT industry for a number of years, and actually taught a seminar on job search and resume preparation for folks separating from the military.
I agree with #1 and #2 above. They demonstrate the candidate is out of touch & doesn’t realize what is and is not relevant to the discussion.

I disagree with #3 and #4. I’ve never passed on anyone because their resume was too long, and I don’t really care what case it’s written in – AS LONG AS IT’S CONSISTENT. It is certainly important to have your most relevant skills up front. This is critical to make it past the recruiter & hiring managers’ first scans through, because it will only get about a 2-5 second review. BUT in a competitive environment, having more information may be better than less. I don’t really care what case it’s written in, as long as it’s consistent throughout. The case itself is a matter of style, & I can change that once the person is aboard through direction, policy, etc. But changing it demonstrates inattention to detail.
And #5 doesn’t really matter either way. Companies check references at pre-defined points in the process. So providing them or not doesn’t really make a difference. But BECAUSE of what I just said, I do agree they don’t technically belong on the resume.

Brad Hubbard (June 14th, 2009)

And to explain the feedback Steve is receiving from HR folks:
If I get a resume from someone stating they have 15 years of experience, I expect to see what they’ve done over the entire 15 years. I want to know about gaps in employment, etc. The impression it makes if it only goes back so far is that the candidate is hiding something. I strongly disagree with an artificial page limitation. In my opinion that’s bad advice based on good intentions. Again, the important thing to realize is you MUST put what is MOST relevant on the first page. Everything after that will only be looked at if you’ve made it to the more detailed reviews. But once there, more information can, and often is, beneficial.

Brad Hubbard (June 14th, 2009)

One last comment. Sorry Steve. Not picking on you, you just brought up another pet peve of mine from countless interviews.
Personal pronouns aren’t bad, especially in the interview. Actually I have the opposite issue. Candidates sit in front of me & go on an on about what “we” did, what “we” were responsible for, etc. While I understand that people are conditioned in the workplace to have a sense of team & not talk themselves up at the risk of taking individual credit for team success, and interview is NOT the time for this. I have stopped candidates mid-sentence and reminded them that I’m not interviewing their team, I’m interviewing them as an individual. What I’m interested in is their individual contribution to that team/organization. Candidates who can differentiate that fair much better, at least with me.

Lindsay (June 14th, 2009)

Steve – in response to your listing every job. I think it deserves a bit more explanation. You should list your positions for your entire professional work experience. The format doesn’t need to follow the traditional chronological resume though. When I say, don’t list every job since adolescence, that means I don’t care what you did while in high school or college. What matters is your professional experience after college. If you have 30 some years of experience in several different companies, it’s okay to list them all, but for space sake there’s no reason to go into deep detail to each of the positions in the beginning of your career. Hiring managers are most interested in your relevant and most recent experiences. Resumes are like speeches – you can only read/listen for so long before the reader/listener loses interest.

Brad, I think Steve is referring to personal pronouns in the resume as the blog post pointed out and that is bad. Personal pronouns aren’t necessary in a resume. In an interview, you’re right, you need to talk about what your part and and your personal accomplishments.

A note about page length – It is entirely possible to get any resume on two pages, even if you are listing all of your experience. Receiving a seven page resume tells me a couple of things about the person: they haven’t tailored their resume for the job and their communication style is not concise and have a hard time getting to the point.

Welcome to the Career Carnival Blogging Event! | Radiant Veracity (June 16th, 2009)

[...] Those two pages of finely tuned words ARE you, until you have the chance to let your personality shine through in the interview. Here are my top five things to avoid putting on your resume.” [...]

Ron (July 23rd, 2009)

I help people with their resumes. I’m a graphic designer and have been on the hiring side for many years. Here are my tips:

1.) Include an objective. Someone above said not to but I think now days, there are so many companies using search software to filter resumes. An objective is a great place to add keywords that will make your resume filter to the top.

2.) Send your resume flat. It’s important so don’t fold it.

3.) Make sure that every bullet point is doing its job. If it’s not popping, then it should not be on your resume.

4.) Write your resume in what I call the “I can” fashion. You want the reader to read every point and think to him/herself, “If I hire Lindsay, I can _____.” Example: “- Merged the marketing communications activities of three departments. It saved the company $125,000 per year and consolidated our branding efforts leading to a higher page ranking on Google.”

5.) That above example is also a good example of using your resume to write your interviewer’s questions for them. The interviewer is bound to ask, “How much higher on Google?” You don’t want to put everything in your resume or the interviewer will think they know you well enough that they don’t need to meet you. Leave them wanting more.

Graeme Fraser (August 12th, 2009)

Having gone through this process myself over the past 2 months, here are some additional thoughts:

1. Personal data: Don’t include house address, or even middle name, on an CV you are going to post online. You need to think about data protection.
2. References: agree with Lindsay. Include a linke to your linkedin, you’ll have recommendations here that can be viewed
3. Hobbies: I agree in part with lindsay here. Yes they should be relevent, however, if they demonstrate achievements, which in turn reflect your skills, goals and ambitions as a person include them i.e. I have run several marathons: commitment, ambitions, dedication, even project management.
4. I would say for each role on your CV, list a maximum of 6/7 achievements. That way they will all have a strong impact.
5. Two page: On the whole I agree. Also bear in mind font and font size. Make sure the font is clear and legible. Arial is pretty safe, comic sans is not.
6. There is no such thing as the perfect CV
7. Each CV should be adapted depending on the role you are applying for.

Barbara Nixon (August 14th, 2009)

Thanks for your tips, Lindsay. I appreciate how you not only offer the suggestions, but also explain your rationale. A question for you . . . How might you adapt your advice for soon-to-be college grads? (Tip #2 could be a challenge for them, as it would leave most of their resumes bare.)

robb (September 4th, 2009)

i didn’t see there’s anything wrong with putting age or marital status in resume.
overall, good points u have there.

Leandro Lemos (October 16th, 2009)

I’m a .NET software engineer, Last week I send my resume for one consulting firm, very light with 2 pages…. they call me back asking for a resume with 4 pages minimum =| , they say with 10 years experience you could not use a two pages resume! There’s any relation about years of experience with number of pages on resume?

Leandro Lemos

j pantell (October 30th, 2009)

Who cares what you put on your resume .I worked for 15yrs at the same job I have no other experience except for housewife.Now try to find a job in a state with no jobs for the factory worker with no other experience.I’m old I don’t want to go to school I just want a job that isn’t 20miles away

Andrew Jordan (November 26th, 2009)

I once opened a resume from a “star” salesman and was showered with little stars like you stick on kids report cards when they get a star.
That was the worst I ever saw.

Candace Shields (January 14th, 2010)

Outstanding post; I found it very helpful. I’m a professional resume writer and am asked these questions all the time. I will be directing clients to your very informative blog.

Jeremiah Allen (June 8th, 2010)

Fluff wording should never be included in a resume. If you don’t have anything else to say, stop writing.

Don’t embellish. Don’t elaborate. Don’t posture. Don’t do what I’m doing right now by making this comment longer than it needs to be.

ukjobs (September 5th, 2010)

A note to all job hunters: Please, please, PLEASE write a cover letter to accompany your resume! I have spent the past two days reviewing resumes while my company’s recruiter is out of town, and I’ve discovered that about 90 percent of our applicants (we get about 12,000 a year) don’t send a cover letter at all. About 9 percent send something like the first example. I weep with gratitude for the 1 percent who write a cover letter like your perfect example. I think I can say this on behalf of every recruiter out there: Use your cover letter to give me a reason to put your resume on the top of the pile!

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