There are countless tips for job seekers who are looking to create a professional resume, but sometimes what is left off the resume is almost as important as what is included.
I saw hundreds of resumes when hiring writers earlier in my career. There are a few that still stand out in my memory—for the wrong reasons.
Multiple people submitted resumes including e-mail addresses that sounded unprofessional. One applicant went into detail about their hobby of selling items on eBay. Another had a few sentences explaining why New Jersey was their favorite state to visit. (Check out this list of some of the worst resume mistakes ever, compiled by Salary.com.)
Standing out from the pack is important when applying for jobs, but a cover letter is the place to let your personality shine through. A professional resume should be a concise document that provides an overview of your experience, accomplishments, and skills. Here are a few suggestions for what to leave off when creating a resume.
Typos and errors
This one is obvious, of course, but it is one of the most important mistakes to avoid. Having any errors on your resume is often the fastest way to getting rejected. Simply using spell check is not enough; I recently read something by a business professional who referred to themselves a “though leader” rather than a “thought leader.” Spell check is a useful tool, but you can’t rely on it alone. One editing tip is to print your resume and then read it out loud. Changing things up in this way gives you a fresh perspective on it and makes it easier to identify mistakes. Having someone else look it over is also a good idea. In addition to trying to catch typos, make sure that your resume’s format is consistent, that all dates are correct, and that your contact info is current.
Many employers today use applicant tracking systems to screen resumes. Applicant tracking systems cannot always read pictures, and if the system cannot read your resume, your application will be discarded. Further, some hiring managers will automatically reject all applicants who include photos of themselves, in order to protect their company from any claims of discrimination.
A resume objective statement is often a vague, general statement along the lines of “Interested in obtaining a project management position where I can provide leadership and direct large scale programs.” In other words, an objective statement doesn’t really say much at all. If you have submitted your application for a job, then it is obvious that your objective is to get hired for that role. Thus, the objective statement is unnecessary. While it is important to use resume keywords, these are best included when detailing your skills and experience.
Including the statement “references available upon request,” or anything in that vein, is essentially a waste of space. It is assumed that you have references; if you don’t, that is something you should address immediately. If you are just starting out in your career, consider using a teacher, professor, or a supervisor from volunteer experience or an internship. For the most part, employers do not ask for references until the interview stage, so you do not need to mention references on your resume at all, especially because space is at a premium.
More than two pages
Again, a professional resume is intended to be concise. A curriculum vitae, or CV, is a document that includes all of your experience, education, and accomplishments, but only a handful of industries use CVs rather than resumes. If your resume is more than two pages, you need to trim the content. As already mentioned, you do not to include an objective statement or any mention of references. You also generally do not need to include information about your GPA (unless you are a recent graduate, and it was exceptional) or college coursework. Keep your resume limited to information relevant to the job for which you are applying.
An abbreviation might seem obvious to you, but it is important to be clear and specific. If you list that you earned your bachelor’s degree at USC, does that mean the University of Southern California, or the University of South Carolina? Applicant tracking systems do not necessarily recognize every possible keyword variation. And keep in mind that, should your resume make it to a hiring manager, they might not know every abbreviation used in your field.
Be as clear as you can, but don’t bog your resume down in too much detail. Don’t try to be funny or cute, and don’t use include any filler. When creating a professional resume, the goal is to provide a clear and concise picture of your background and accomplishments.