When putting together a resume, we usually ask ourselves What should I include? and not necessarily What should I leave off? To start, don’t include a picture of your cat.
While that might seem obvious, Kelsey Brown counts that image as one of the most off the wall things she’s witnessed as a recruiter for Trunk Club. She also says she’s seen driving capabilities listed as well as a “rap” a candidate submitted by mistake, neither of which helped the potential employee.
Other resume killers may not seem as obvious. Here’s what to leave out of your resume to snag a recruiter’s eye.
1. Your Entire Life Story
A resume is not the story of your life. Do not include every single internship, job, volunteer experience, extracurricular activity, class or skill in this document. Instead, tailor it to each specific job opportunity. Include the most relevant and recent work experience. Think about which activities and volunteer roles best demonstrate the skills needed for the position. And, consider breaking up your resume into sections: Professional Experience, Education, Volunteer Activities, Leadership Experience, Skills and Interests are some examples.
2. Bland Vocabulary
Lose the boring action verbs and break out the thesaurus. Recruiters review tons of resumes every day and you need to make your accomplishments stand out with compelling language. Did you help put together an Annual Report? Great! Consider writing, Designed and edited a 20 page annual report that was distributed to senior executives, the board of directors, funders and partner organizations. Tell your unique story with strong action verbs and vocabulary.
3. Fancy Formatting
Simplicity in formatting is key. “Sometimes candidates go slightly overboard with pictures, designs, and, oftentimes, ‘fluff’ in order to make their resume look more aesthetically pleasing. Instead, this can easily become a distraction,” Brown says. Job seekers should focus on the content of the resume and the value they will add to a company, rather than developing a fancy format. The exception: for highly visual positions like graphic designers, photo editors, or front-end developers, your resume will help establish your individual brand identity. Keep it simple but unique to stand out.
Give yourself more real estate on the page by leaving off your references. Most of the time, employers do not even think about references until after the initial interview. Instead, use those extra inches to dive deeper into a job responsibility or showcase your skills and interests, which Brown says is her favorite part of a resume. She once interviewed a female student who played hockey for the men’s hockey team. Those few lines conveyed a great deal.
5. An Objective Section
Old resume wisdom says to include an objective line at the top of your resume; however, it really is unnecessary unless you are changing career paths. Objectives are rarely that captivating and are often skipped over in favor of reading the professional work experience. A great place to include an objective-like section is not on your paper resume, but rather on your personal website or your LinkedIn Summary.
You don’t have that much space on a resume to share your unique accomplishments, so be selective and thoughtful about what you choose to include. Other things to consider? Brown says to leave out the head shots and artwork…and definitely that picture of your cat.
Photo: Sam Teich / Levo League