7 things to leave off your resume

What you leave off your resume can be just as important as what you include on it.  Here are seven things to leave off of it.

* Your photo. Seriously. Stop. It’s unprofessional and makes you look naive. Interestingly, more men do this than women.  What is this about? (If anyone knows, please tell me. It freaks me out.)

* Subjective descriptions. Your resume is for experience and accomplishments only; it’s not the place for subjective traits, like “great leadership skills” or “creative innovator.”  I always ignore anything subjective that an applicant writes about herself, since so many people’s self-assessments are wildly inaccurate and I don’t yet know enough about the candidate to have any idea if hers is reliable or not.

* The objective statement you clearly wrote for a different company. In fact, leave an objective off altogether. I’ve never seen one that made a candidate more appealing, and often they’re so unrelated to the job being applied for that they cause harm.

* A third page. If you’re in your 20s, your resume should only be one page; there’s not enough experience to justify a second one. After that, two pages are fine, but you go over that limit at your own peril. Hiring managers may be only spending 20 or 30 seconds on your application initially, so extra pages either are ignored or dilute the impact of the others. Yes, you have much impressive experience, but the resume is for highlights. Cut that thing in half.  Speaking of which …

* Two versions of your resume. You have to pick just one. I understand that you’re torn between the chronological version and the functional version (hint: pick the chronological), but (a) I’m not reading both, and (b) this is a time when you want to demonstrate the ability to make decisions.

* Your ability to type and use Word. It’s assumed you can do both of these things.

* Extra documentation. Unless the company has specifically asked for something other than a cover letter and resume, don’t send it. Candidates sometimes include unsolicited writing samples, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and so forth. In most cases, sending these extras without being asked won’t help you, and in some cases it can actually hurt — for instance, when a candidate attaches an unsolicited 20-page writing sample, it looks naive and makes me think she doesn’t understand the hiring process.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 2 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Ain’t it great when HR folks with a fraction of your intelligence play Gd with your career?

    1. mk*

      Why do you say HR folks have only a fraction of your intelligence? The fact that you hold such an opinion and are willing to make such a rude comment shows you have no emotional or interpersonal intelligence…both of which are very important to ones career.

      Thanks for the (as always) informative article Allison!

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