Eight items to leave off your resume

Here’s a quick list of things that should never appear on your resume. Unfortunately, I see them all the time.

A photo
unless you’re applying for a position as a model or actor.
A list of references
You’ll be asked for them at the right point in the process. If you want the company to be impressed by who you know or who you’ve worked with, then put that in the cover letter.
“References available upon request”
This is assumed. The reader will not think “This guy has no references available, so toss his resume.”
An objective
Objectives are summaries of what you want to get from the company. It doesn’t make sense to start selling yourself by telling the reader what you hope to get out of him. Replace your objective with a 3-4 bullet summary of the rest of the resume. (See more posts about objectives)
Salary information
Disclosing your salary history weakens your position when negotiating a salary. It’s also irrelevant on your resume.
An unprofessional email address
Email accounts are free from Gmail, so there’s no reason to use your “cubs_fan_1969@yourisp.com” account for professional correspondence.
Meaningless self-assessments like “I’m a hard worker” or “I work well on a team.”
Everyone says those things, so they have no meaning. Instead, the bullets for each position on your resume should give examples and evidence of these assertions. (See more posts about self-assessments)
Hobbies that don’t relate to the job
Everyone likes to read and listen to music and spend time with their families. Exception is if the hobby somehow ties to the job or company. If you play guitar and you’re applying to be an accountant for Guitar Center’s corporate office, then mention that you play, even though your job won’t involve guitar-playing directly.

What else do you see on resumes that should never be there?


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9 Responses to “Eight items to leave off your resume”

  1. JT Smith Says:

    Computer skills. I see crap like “MS Office” or “Excel” or “Email”. Unless you’re applying to be an executive assistant, everyone can assume you have some basic word processing or email skills.

    Awards. I don’t care if you were Miss Teen USA, won an equestrian riding award, or were employee of the month at your last job. Now if you are applying for a job with horses, perhaps the equestrian riding award means something.

    Extensive education section. If you’re fresh out of college and don’t have much work experience, then you need to fill up the education section with lots of detail. However, if you’ve got a nice career history then the only education you need to list is the name of the degree and what school you attended.

    • LPhillips Says:

      To be fair, a lot of jobs in non-tech fields (academia, librarianship) specify MS Office skills, and there are still some people in the ought-to-soon-retire age range that DON’T have these skills beyond a basic level. There are more people in their late 50s suddenly laid off and thrust into job seeking than you might imagine, and some of them are deficient in Office. Since you can extrapolate my age from my work history (a grad degree + 18 years experience = I’m in my 40s at the youngest), I make sure to mention these so I don’t look like I might be a 58 year old that thought they would be retired before they really had to mess with Excel.

      I know Andy’s advice is aimed at the tech job seeker, where knowing Word is as assumed as “can walk and talk”, but if the job ad says “you gotta know Office”, my resume confirms “Yep, I know Office” rather than letting HR assume I don’t if I didn’t mention it.

  2. LPhillips Says:

    “Excellent health”. I saw this on a fellow graduate student’s resume as he was searching for jobs in that “I’m about to get my degree” time period. Apparently he had seen this phrase in a resume book, right near the part that suggested putting your marital status on your resume.

    This happened in the early nineties, but the resume book must have been from the early 70’s.

  3. Mark Dominus Says:

    I once reviewed a resume where the writer had listed *all* his work experience, including that he used to wash dishes at his frat house.

  4. Henning Michael Møller Just Says:

    Everytime this comes up I think back to the example you have on page 32 on http://petdance.com/perl/advice-for-job-seekers.pdf

    I think we get pictures on about a third of all resumes. More than half list irrelevant activitites from the time they were in high school.

  5. Hiram Q. Pustule Says:

    Point taken about hobbies, activities and awards that aren’t necessarily relevant, but I include a few of these to show that i’m connected to my community and the kind of person who gives back. And it’s not entirely irrelevant: I mentor a FIRST robotics team in my area of engineering expertise. So… Should that section stool get cut?

    • Andy Says:

      It’s up to you to decide what’s relevant. I said “Hobbies that don’t relate to the job”, and if you think that the robotics team relates to the job, then keep it in.

  6. Paul Houle Says:

    There was a certain phase of my career where having a list of objectives on my resume seemed to be very helpful in the selection process — two places I worked at specifically noted that they were impressed with my objectives. I did interesting things and learned a lot in that time, but neither of those jobs lasted six months, and retrospectively, I was drifting in my career.

    Lately I was talking to a recruiter and that led me to quickly put together an updated resume, which, in some ways, is the best I’ve ever written. It’s got an objectives section that’s really quite specific, and I didn’t hear back from that guy after sending it. I think my objectives weren’t what he had in mind and, at least for now, that’s for the good, because I’m not hungry for money or things to do, I’m hungry for meeting my objectives.


    • Andy Says:

      Would love to see what you have as an objective that people loved. I’m guessing it wasn’t just “I want this from you” but was a thumbnail of your career plans and how you could help the company while achieving those goals.

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