10 Things That Don’t Belong on Your Resume

10 Things That Don’t Belong on Your Resume

by Kerry Scott on 29 June 2009


This post originally appeared on January 12, 2009.

  1. Objective Statement—I hate to include this, because it’s been a source of amusement to me for so many years. When I read an objective like, “To find a company where I can feel warm and fuzzy every day in every way, using my fabulous people skills to spread sunshine and happiness to others so that the feel like they’ve had a hug every time I touch their lives,” well, I chuckle. Objective statements (short, concise ones anyway) were a good idea back in the days when recruiters received paper resumes, and needed a quick way to sort them into the right stacks. Nowadays, we have computers for that. Your resume is almost certainly being auto-sorted by either an email filter or an applicant tracking system, so there is no need for an objective statement, and since so many of them sound, well, stupid, it’s best to leave them off.
  2. References Available Upon Request—Well, duh. Of course they are. That’s true for most candidates, so there’s no need to state it. You’re just taking up space that could be better used to describe your accomplishments (and looking a little too old-school in the process).
  3. Health, Height, Weight, Marital Status, and your Picture—I’m told that including this information used to be the norm back in the day. If you include it, you look like you are still living in, like, 1970. That’s bad. Not only do employers not need this information, but many are freaked out if you include it, because they’re afraid that if they don’t hire you, you’ll sue them based on the information you provided. I know some recruiters who will actually return the resume to the candidate and ask them to resubmit without this information. I think that’s a bit much…but on the flip side, a candidate who still puts stuff like this on his resume is clearly a bit out of touch, and “out of touch” is rarely on the list of Most Desired Traits for any position. Leave this stuff off, please.
  4. Links to your MySpace Page or other home page—Unless you are applying for a blogging job and are linking to blogs you write, or are applying for a web design job and are linking to work samples, this is just not appropriate. For one thing, those “see my web page for more info” messages are of limited use to corporate recruiters, since the information on your website can’t easily be incorporated into the applicant tracking system. That’s why we ask for resumes, not links. For another, I don’t need to see pictures of you with your friends at a party playing with a blow-up doll (true story). Unless the employer asks for links, or there’s an excellent business reason for providing them, don’t.
  5. Interests—I don’t need to know that you like walks with your poodle, roller skating, and stamp collecting. I need to know whether you can do the job or not. Don’t fill space on your resume that could be better used telling me how successful you will be in the job, based on how successful you’ve been in past jobs. Including a list of your hobbies or interests is old-school, and like the height and weight stuff, it makes you look out-of-touch. It’s true that companies will consider who you are as a person in determining your fit for their culture, but that’s best done in the interview, not on the resume (and it still won’t factor in your love of roller skating).
  6. Deception—Please, please don’t make stuff up. In the age of the internet, people are very, very networked, and it is easy to find people who worked at your company and know that you didn’t really invent Post-It notes while you worked there. There’s a myth that companies don’t check these things, but quite a few of them do, and you won’t know until you make a fool of yourself and lose out whether this company does or not. It’s just not worth it.
  7. Typos—DON’T RELY ON SPELLCHECK. Excuse the shouting, but you would be astonished at how many typos slip through and make you look stupid. Proofread, then proofread again, then wait a few days and proofread again, and then give it to a few other people and have them proofread. In this market, when you are competing with hundreds of other qualified applicants, you cannot have typos. Period.
  8. Made up words, or words you had to use a thesaurus to find—Bigger words do not make you sound smarter. In fact, your resume is more likely to be read if it is short and punchy. Don’t say “utilized” when you mean “used.”
  9. Exclamation points—I once had this candidate! She loved exclamation points! She was reasonably qualified! But every single sentence had an exclamation point! It was really freaky! I interviewed her anyway! I turned out that her personality was super peppy! Like, so peppy we wondered if she’d pass the drug test! Resumes are a form of business writing, and business writing almost never requires exclamation points.
  10. Text-message-speak—Again, resumes are a form of business writing. That means words need to be spelled out, not abbreviated. Proper spelling, punctuation, and capitalization are key. Otherwise, you don’t look hip-you look illiterate. That’s not good. Remember that when you type your name and address in when you first register for job hunting sites like Monster, it’s going to appear on the recruiter’s screen as you type it. If you type in, “pat jones, 123 main st, milwaukee, wi,” it’s going to look sloppy. Put in the extra effort to press down the SHIFT key once in a while, y’know?

Photo by Hetemeel.com

Facebook Twitter Linkedin Stumbleupon Email

Other posts you might like:


Eliz June 29, 2009 at 2:26 pm

It’s amazing that people don’t know better, isn’t it? I took the objectives off my resume years ago. Then last year, in a fit of desperation over why I wasn’t getting any callback action, I sent my resume blindly to a few people who get tons of freelance work, asking if they’d have a few minutes to critique my resume. THREE of the five of them told me I left off the very crucial objectives at the top of my resume. Great. Fantastic advice. My takeaway from that was that don’t ask anyone over 50 for advice and certainly not from anyone who hasn’t had to job hunt in the past 20 years.

michael black June 29, 2009 at 3:13 pm

excellent synopsis. i have hated the objective statement for years. for the past 3 years i have volunteered my time to help people write their resumes and it’s the first thing i go after. it is so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. i get it, you are looking for a company and career opportunity that will allow you to grow professionally and personally through the utilization of your highly adaptable skill set.

i do have a problem with #10 as i love typing in all lower case

michael black’s last blog post..recruiterdude: rt @Morleybros: #shrm09 show floor is real slow

Tim G June 29, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Good advice, as usual. The two that resonated with me the most were 1 and 7 (objective and typos). So often candidates do some customization of the objective to meet what they think the job is about. Sometimes the objective even states “to get employed at xyz company” or something about job security. Both would be wrong, so just leave it off. And the typos just speak to quality – how much do you care? Show it! (Oops, I mean show it, no exclamation point).

Tim G’s last blog post..13 Frequently Given Answers – Safety Investigations

abdpbt June 29, 2009 at 4:48 pm

First of all, I love the picture. Secondly, yeah, I always thought the objective section was odd, that along with the interests section at the end. “Why would anyone care that you like to dance?” as I put it to an old college boyfriend. We broke up not long thereafter.

abdpbt’s last blog post..17 Things To Do If Your Governor Is Missing

Sabrina June 29, 2009 at 5:08 pm

I removed the objective awhile back and replaced it with a “Professional Profile” hope that’s OK? :)

Sabrina’s last blog post..Protected: Well that was short lived

Kerry Sandberg Scott June 30, 2009 at 7:30 am

Sabrina—I don’t hate the Professional Profiles as much as the objective statements. They can be useful for getting keywords you need on your resume in order to get recruiters at big companies to find you in their database. If you’re using it for that (like, for special software programs you know, or certifications, or other stuff like that), it’s cool.

If it’s that thing that some resume books tell you to do that has stuff like “Excellent verbal and written communication skills” or “Team player who works well with all levels of staff,” that space can be better filled with your actual achievements (unless you’re right out of college and have a really short resume that needs puff to make it a full page). It should be stuff that is unique to you, not stuff that is just a list of generally fabulous things that apply to most people (at least when they’re job hunting…like, I’ve never seen anyone who didn’t think they had Excellent Verbal and Written Communication Skills).

David B. Thomas July 1, 2009 at 9:21 am

Great stuff. I’ve been amazed at the bad resumes I’ve received over the years. One cover letter had a typo in the third word. I’ve received resumes where the applicant hadn’t bothered to change the objective, so that it didn’t even come close to the job he was applying for.

My favorite remains the cover letter that began, “Marketing is a discipline in a period of great change of which it is still evolving.” I still wonder what that actually means, if anything at all.

David B. Thomas’s last blog post..If social media is the new punk rock, I guess I would be in The Knack

carla July 1, 2009 at 10:52 am

I had my objective on my resume back in 1998 when I was 19/20 and applying for my first legal secretary job. I was just following a resume guide book and didn’t know any better! Then again, most employers were still accepting paper resumes.

carla’s last blog post..SkinnySkinny Sale

Charles July 2, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Number 1 – Objective Statements used to be a must. I always felt they were useless because they were “required” and yet had to be very generic in order to not disqualify you. Unfortunately, I still once in a while hear of some hiring managers who have put resumes in the “no” pile because there is no objective. Thankfully I think they are very much in the minority.

Number 3 – “If you include it, you look like you are still living in, like, 1970.”

Hey! I was around in 1970; and, NO it was not the norm “back then” to include such info. The only resumes that include such info were, and still are, actors and other entertainers who also have to include head shots with their resume because “looks” are a part of the job requirements. Now if you had said the 1940s maybe I wouldn’t have been so bothered by your “out of touch” comment.

Number 4 – I do include links to my professional web page as that is where they can download samples of my training materials (I am a software trainer). Most of these materials are computer based (i.e. Flash or PowerPoint files) which do not translate well to simple paper copies. By including the link the hiring folks can look at my samples before the interview. This way they have a better idea of my skills and experience when they interview me.

What I think should be added is that when one does provide a link to a professional page that page must be current. Last year, I was working on a temp assignment and was asked to review some resumes for others temps to join our project. I quickly found at least half of the resumes that included a link to a page where the webpage resume did not match the paper resume that I had in my hand. I am not talking about a few words here or there. It was whole jobs missing from the experience section.

When my manager actually brought one of these folks in for an interview anyway I asked the job candidate why the resume did not match (it was missing his last job). He said that he did not “get around to updating” his web page. The job missing from the web page resume had ended over two months before. Thinking that he was involved in another work assignment, I asked him why it was two months later and he still had not updated his webpage. No, he admitted that last job on the paper copy was his most recent assignment; but that a friend of his created the webpage for him and getting that friend to update the page was bothersome.

This reminds me of Number 6 – Deception. This job candidate did not claim anywhere to have created his web page. But, it was rather simple and had a “home-made” quality about it leaving the impression that he I did it himself. If I had not “pressed” him on this I think my manager might have very well assumed that the job candidate created it himself. I don’t know if this was intential deception or not – but it was one more (in a series) of strikes against him.

As for spell cheque, your sew write. Its knot a substitute for god old-fashion proofreading.

Kerry Sandberg Scott July 8, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Charles—I am totally fine with a link to work samples. In fact, I like to see that stuff up front when possible. My objection is to people who refuse to send me the resume…they just send an email that says, “I’m interested in X job. My resume is .” This was big in the early 2000s, when having your own web page was a new thing, and there are still people doing it. The thing is, I’m not going to click on a random link without knowing who the hell you are…and your web page is pretty much useless in terms of the resume anyway, because I can’t get it into the applicant tracking system (and often, I can’t even print it without formatting issues).

But for work samples—no problem.

As for the 1970 thing…in 1989 or so I got hired as a temp to clean out the files of a latex manufacturing plant. They had files going back to 1970, and they hadn’t thrown anything out. I remember being blown away by the fact that the resumes included that info, and that the employment application asked for it as well. For a kid born around that time, it was a rude awakening.

Then my parents gave me the newspaper from the day I was born. The ads for admin jobs like mine included requirements like “attractive girl wanted to answer phones.” It blew my mind.

Lorraine August 3, 2009 at 3:07 pm

A reader asked me to critique her resume. It was 4 pages, 9 pt font, and left & right margins of a quarter inch. Needless to say it was just a tad wordy…
.-= Lorraine´s last blog ..When To Introduce Your 30/60/90-Day Plan In the Interview =-.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: