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12 Things You Should Leave Off Your Resume

By Gerald Walsh ©

This is an updated version of a 2015 blog I wrote that received 242,000 views on LinkedIn. Before sending out your next resume, check it against this list.

Are you sending out resume after resume and hearing nothing back? Quite possibly it’s because you don’t have the right background or skill set that particular employer is looking for.

But it is equally possible that your resume contains things that turn off the employer.

Remember, employers often receive dozens if not hundreds of resumes for job openings. Since they don’t have time to carefully read every one, they sometimes look for reasons to reject an applicant. Typos, grammatical errors and bad formatting are three possible reasons for putting you in the “do not interview” pile.

But what else might be contributing to your lack of success in getting interviews? Here are 12 things you should leave off your resume:

1. Sappy, generic objective statements.

Yes, wouldn't everyone like a challenging position at a company that provides a great work-life balance and the opportunity for growth? If you can't take the time to customize your resume for the specific job you’re applying for, why should the employer bother reading any further?

2. A less-than-professional email address.

If you still use an email from your younger years, like BeerLover789@gmail.com or PartyAnimal123@yahoo.com, get rid of it. It’s unprofessional and childish. Getting a new one only takes a few minutes and is free. Or buy your own domain name. For under $10, you can purchase a professional sounding domain name.

3. Lengthy description of your duties and responsibilities.

Instead of writing a laundry list of what you did in the job, focus on what makes you stand out. State your accomplishments. Explain how you added value to your company. When doing so, remember to use bullet points which are much easier to read.

4. Jargon or abbreviations.

Don’t write anything that might limit the reader’s understanding of your capabilities. Always use generally-understood descriptions on your resume unless you are absolutely certain that it will be read by people who are totally familiar with the terminology.

5. Gaps in work history.

Explain the gap if you can. If you took a couple years off while your children were young, state this. If you were between jobs for a bit, fill in this gap with volunteer or consulting work.

6. Irritating buzzwords.

Words like “mission-critical,” “traction,” “synergies,” and “foster” are simply annoying and greatly overused. Under no circumstances should they find their way into your resume, cover letter, or interview.

7. Where you live.

Omit your civic address at the top of resume. It’s highly unlikely any employer is going to be sending you anything by mail and it could introduce the risk of economic profiling or an assumption about the length of your commute. It does make sense, though, to include your city and province (or state). You should also include your preferred email address, cell number and LinkedIn page.

8. Political or religious affiliation.

Unless you are applying for a job within a political or religious organization, avoid referencing any involvement you might have with these organizations.

9. Reason why you left previous jobs.

This will inevitably come up during the interview and you should be prepared to discuss it then. If you’re forced to fill in this blank in an online portal, simply list “career advancement” as the reason, unless it was a contract in which case list “contract only.”

10. Salary history.

Any discussion about salary is best left until later in the hiring process, usually after you have interviewed at least once with the employer. Salary is very much a process of negotiation and revealing your salary history too early could put you at a disadvantage in the negotiation process.

11. References.

Providing references in advance means that the employer could call one of your references before you even know if you want the job. This could be embarrassing especially if your references are connected with your current employer. If an employer is interested in you, they will ask for references later. You can even leave out the standard line “References provided upon request.” Everyone knows that already and saying it is just a waste of space.

12. Lies, exaggerations and embellishments.

Pretty much everything you state on your resume can be verified. If you are hired and it is later discovered that you were deliberately untruthful on your resume, you could be fired “for cause,” which usually means you receive no notice or severance pay.

To share your thoughts on this blog post, please write me at walsh@geraldwalsh.com


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 15,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.