10 Things Not to Include on Your Resume and Why

There’s a lot of misguided advice floating around out there about the things you should and shouldn’t include on your resume. Some of it stems from standards that were common practice going back decades, and people just haven’t had the time or the inclination to modernize their thinking. Others are more grounded in the present reality but bring with them their own set of problems.

Neither one of these is better or worse than the other, but both are wrong — and when you’re talking about the document that holds the key to potential employment and a better life, the last thing you want to be is wrong.

Here are the 10 things you should leave off your resume if you hope to strike a powerful first impression with potential employers:

  1. Objective

Few things will make a recruiter cringe more than seeing something like this at the top of a resume:

“Objective: To secure a position as an Operations Manager at a dynamic, rewarding company in the packaged goods industry.”

Yikes. The recruiter has barely gotten through your name and contact information, and you’re already making demands about what her company should be able to offer you? When you’re selling yourself as a fit for a job, it’s not about what you want — it’s about what the company needs.

If you still want to include a quick blurb at the top of your resume, get rid of the objective statement and include a brief summary of your best qualities instead. Think “what’s in it for them?” as you write it, and you’ll be in a good spot.

  1. Hobbies/Interests

Not quite as egregious as the cringe-worthy objective statement mentioned above, but best to leave off a resume. Your resume should be about highlighting the skills and attributes that make you the best fit for the job, not what will showcase you as a well-rounded person — that’s what the interview is for.

There’s a good chance that the recruiter will look you up on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn anyway, which should satisfy any desire to better understand your interests outside of work. Making sure these don’t remove you from consideration is a topic for another day!

  1. Photos

Companies are fearful enough of employment lawsuits as it is, and you don’t need to give them another reason to worry by providing anything that could be used as evidence of discrimination during the hiring process. If they really want to see what you look like, they can easily pull up your LinkedIn profile, so leave this choice up to them. Plus, photos take up valuable resume real estate that could be better used for more purposeful content.

  1. shutterstock_431079931Names of references or “References Available on Request”

Companies typically won’t ask for references until you’re far along in the interview process, and by that time your resume will have already served its purpose of getting your foot in the door. When they need references, they’ll ask you for them directly. No need to waste resume space on something that won’t be relevant until you’re already in an active conversation with a company anyway.

  1. Links to social media profiles (except LinkedIn, if needed)

It’s not necessary to direct readers to your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. — if they’re interested, recruiters will do their own stalking (this is more common than not, actually!). Including a URL for your LinkedIn profile among your contact information is acceptable, but not needed. If you do, keep it simple — drop the http:// and www, and display it like this: linkedin.com/in/danclay.

The only exception would be if the position requires a strong presence and aptitude in social media — think a Social Media Manager, for instance. Then it’d probably be best to include these right out of the gate.

  1. Recommendations or endorsements

Some people have the idea of bringing their resume into the “modern era” by including quotes or endorsements from people they’ve worked with. I like this idea in theory, but a resume just isn’t the place for this type of information. LinkedIn is perfect for this sort of thing, so stick to that platform for your endorsements. Once your resume piques the interest of a recruiter, they’ll check out your LinkedIn profile too, so you want them to find some new information that adds to their impression of you. Don’t give it all away at once!

  1. Personal information like age, marital status, date of birth, gender, religious affiliation or sexual orientation

As I alluded to above, employers are scared to death of lawsuits that might arise as a result of the hiring process. Giving away your age or marital status was a good practice — in the 1950s. Today, with discrimination lawsuits over age, sexual orientation or any number of things, you want to give your employers as few potential landmines to step on as possible. This is one of the reasons I sometimes even recommend leaving your graduation date off your resume — age discrimination, even if it’s unintentional, happens more often than you’d think, and there’s absolutely no way to prove it if you’re never called in for an interview in the first place.

Don’t let anything detract from the unique set of skills, capabilities and attributes that you bring to the table.

  1. HR ESMB 2016-070_900x600Images or graphical elements

It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to a resume, the words you elicit with a picture won’t be ones you want. “Unprofessional,” “uninformed,” “misguided,” “tacky” and “waste of space” are all words a recruiter may be thinking if he sees any kind of image on your resume. Stick to words only!

  1. A keywords section

The proliferation of Applicant Tracking Software, or ATS, has proven to be a tempting target for candidates who know how this software works and are looking to game the system.

In case you’re not familiar, here’s how these systems work. Due to the large volume of resumes a company receives on a regular basis (many of which come from unqualified applicants), the company will run them through a piece of software that matches keywords on the resume to keywords found in a target job description. If too few of the words match, the resume is disqualified and never gets in front of human eyes for further review.

To ensure their resume makes it past the filter, some candidates will include a section of their resume that looks something like this:

Key Proficiencies: Customer Experience · Account Management · Leadership · Process Improvement · Employee Development

To a recruiter, this just screams of laziness and unoriginality. Don’t get me wrong — passing the ATS filter is important, but the best way to do this is by incorporating your target keywords into your resume bullets, not slapping them into some nonsensical section and calling it a day. Recruiters will know exactly what you’re up to and will penalize you for it, so don’t fall for this cheap parlor trick.

  1. Desired salary or salary history

When it comes to negotiating your salary, he who gives the first number loses. Putting your desired salary or salary history on your resume may cause you to leave thousands of dollars on the table in case the employer was ready to offer you more. Plus, you really shouldn’t talk about money until they’ve made you an offer anyway, so including this information upfront could be seen as presumptuous.
If you’d like to see some examples of powerful resumes that don’t include any of these elements, check out my five free world-class resume templates. I’ve personally used these to land lucrative job offers in my own career and help others in my life land their ideal jobs as well.


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