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What not to include in your resume

When writing resumes we naturally focus on the ‘good stuff’ to include. But what about the ‘bad stuff’?

It may come as a surprise but there is content you should avoid weaving into your resume, for a host of sound reasons. The last thing you want is to be passed over for a role because you’ve inadvertently included material in your resume that’s irrelevant, unnecessary, or not wise.

Here are some of our ideas on what not to include in your resume. And, in this expert article, we share tips and links to other expert articles focusing on how to make your resume shine.

Unrelated personal details

Sure, it might be appropriate to include some personal content in your resume (depending on the job type, level and industry or sector involved) but you’ll want to keep some personal information out.

You’re not obliged to, and likely shouldn’t, share details of your:

  • age
  • marital status
  • sexuality
  • race
  • family size or shape
  • religious beliefs
  • political leanings.

This will help ensure you are assessed for a job based on merit, and merit alone. Including information that could be used to form an unfair preconception of you isn’t smart.

Negative detail

While honesty is critical when writing resumes, avoid diving into negative detail about your past jobs or incidents in your personal life. This could be a signal to a prospective employer that you’re not worth exploring further.

Let’s look at being fired from a position. We recommend including the position on your resume so there’s no unnecessary and unexplained gap. Include what duties you performed and achievements but leave the rest out. Then prepare yourself with a short and concise explanation of what happened should you advance to interview and be asked about what happened.

Bad comments about a previous employer

If you’ve left a position because you clashed with your previous employer, and/or had uncomfortable run-ins with them, that’s one thing. But sharing your views on this in your resume is another.

Simply stick to the facts and detail the job you performed.

Hobbies and fun stuff

While work-life balance is something we should all strive for, it’s wise to avoid details of hobbies that don’t relate to the role.

If you’re a sports enthusiast and are applying for a role in the fitness industry, then go for it. If you’re an amateur actor and are applying for a role in the arts, then go for it. If you’re an avid photographer and are applying for a communications or media role, then leverage that hobby.

However, if you’re applying to be an accountant or a legal assistant, does your perspective employer need to know that you love arts and crafts, going to the movies, fishing or following astrology?

Omitting this information will help you keep your resume focused, short and sharp.  Make sure you avoid including hobbies that could be seen as a potential conflict or an activity that could harm your ability to do the job.

Your life story

Your resume is a great chance to paint a positive picture of your skills (hard and soft), experience and expertise. However, you don’t need to delve into every single detail of your life – as far back, for example, as your first job babysitting or delivering the local newspaper.

And you don’t need to go into incredible detail with all roles, even if you’ve enjoyed an extensive career. At one point, earlier roles will be irrelevant or too junior to add value.

With education, the same applies. If you have a PhD, you don’t need to include where and when you completed your high school education.

Apply common sense and cut back on unnecessary content as much as possible.

It is important, however, to detail your last 2 to 3 roles, covering the tasks you performed. With roles older than 7 years, you can just include the organisation’s name, position title and dates.

Puffery or dishonest material

Never, ever lie on your resume. You’d be amazed at how often people get caught out with dishonest or misleading content. Read more about the repercussions of fudging your resume.

Also avoid puffery. By this, we mean content that’s so exaggerated or embellished it doesn’t ring true.

Working in a call centre, for example, likely means you can handle high volumes of work, but it doesn’t make you a ‘project manager’. Saying you managed a team is great if that’s the case, but junior supervision of one other junior colleague does not make you a ‘team leader’.

Think seriously about puffery in your resume. What if the interview panel decides to ask you for more detail on what you’ve claimed? Chances are you’ll be stuck with no answer and embarrassed to boot.

Avoid chunky paragraphs and long streams of information which can be hard to read. Use bullet points that are, on average, 1.5 lines long.

Here’s a great article on words to use and don’t use in your resume.
A mountain of information

Remember that your resume is a highlight summary. So if you provide so much detail on every job that your resume blows out to a dozen pages, one thing is for sure … it won’t be read. Be precise and concise. Keep your resume to 4 to 5 pages at a maximum.

Too many examples

Examples, statistics and facts are fantastic ways to demonstrate that what you’re saying you can do is true.

But too many examples can be overwhelming. One or 2 strong ones to back you up will suffice.

This expert article has great tips – Resume writing: Quantify your achievements.

Tips for creating a great resume

How to write a winning resume

How to write a fabulous resume

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