You put so much thought into what should go on your resume—from your best, most impressive accomplishments down to the perfect, classy-but-modern font.
But to make sure all that effort is put to good use, it’s just as important to pay attention to what shouldn’t be on there. From overused buzzwords that make you look just like everyone else to “creative” touches that do more harm than good, there are plenty of resume elements that annoy—and even turn off—recruiters. And because we want your resume at the top of the pile, we’ve pulled them all together in one complete guide.
For the best chances of landing that interview, grab your resume and make sure it’s free and clear of these 45 things.
- A Career Objective: That boring boilerplate “I am a hard working professional who wants to work in [blank] industry” is a bit obvious—why else would you be submitting your resume?—and takes up valuable space. Instead? Make it crystal clear why you’re so interested in each specific position you’re applying to in your cover letter.
- A Skills-Based Format: Current recruiter wisdom says to stick with the good old reverse chronological (where your most recent experience is listed first) in almost every occasion. If your most recent experience isn’t what you want to highlight or you’re re-entering the workforce after a long hiatus, top your resume with an “Executive Summary” section that outlines your best skills and accomplishments, or create two experience sections: One specific one, such as “Business Development Experience” or “Editorial Experience,” followed by a more general one.
- Photos or Other Visuals: A recent study showed that “such visual elements reduced recruiters’ analytical capability and hampered decision-making” and kept them from “locating the most relevant information, like skills and experience.”
- Mega Blocks of Text: Studies show that recruiters look at resumes pretty quickly—a minute at best, the blink of an eye at worst—so your goal is to make yours as easy to skim as possible. That means keeping your text short and sweet, and in bullet points, not block text.
- A Second Page: If you have less than 10 years of experience, having more than one page can be a deal-breaker for some recruiters. So why risk it? And with a little formatting prowess, we promise you can get it down to one page.
- All Those Fonts: Stick with one—maybe two, if you have some design skills. Any more than that and you risk the hiring manager getting distracted.
- Orphan Words: (They’re those single words left on a line by themselves.) Instead, see how you can edit the previous line so they can fit—making your resume look cleaner and opening up extra lines for you to fill with other things.
- “References Available Upon Request:” At worst, it makes you look presumptuous, and even at best, you can use the extra space to add a detail about your abilities or accomplishments.
- Your Address: If you’re not local, recruiters might not look any further. And if you are? Recruiters may take your commute time into account and turn you down if they think it would be too long, explains AvidCareerist.
- Your Work Email Address: (And, yes, we see it happen all the time.) Do you really want your future employer to know that you’re job searching on your employer boss’ time and email server?
- Your “Creative” Email Address: (And yes, we see this happen, too.) “I can’t actually share any here without giving away someone’s personal contact info,” says Ryan Galloway of The Hired Guns. “I will say, however, that if you’re a grown person applying for a Director of Marketing gig, the word “Belieber” has no place in your email address.”
- Your “Creative” Hobbies: As Career Coach Jenny Foss of JobJenny puts it, “Unless you are applying for jobs that will specifically value these interests (or they’re flat-out amazing conversation starters), leave them off. Decision makers will judge the heck out of you if they spot hobbies that fly in the face of their own personal beliefs or seem odd.”
- Your Birthdate, Marital Status, or Religion: Since it’s illegal for employers to consider this when looking at your application (at least in the U.S.), they can’t request it (and offering it makes you look a little clueless).
Work Experience and Education
- A Regurgitation of Your Job Description: In most cases, recruiters care less about what you did day to day (like answer phones and email) and more about what you accomplished over time (like increased customer satisfaction 20%). Here are a few tips for turning your duties into accomplishments.
- Bullet #8: As a rule, stick to just six to seven bullets for each section—even if each accomplishment is seriously killer, the recruiter’s probably not going to get through them all.
- Positions Irrelevant to Your Current Job Goals: Unless you need it to fill a gap on your resume or showcase your skills, there’s no law that says you have to include your six months at Burger Shack on your resume.
- “Unpaid:” Who needs to know whether your internship was paid or not? If you got great experience, let that stand on its own.
- Your Parenting Experience: If you took time out of the workforce to raise kids, don’t list your parenting experience on your resume, à la “adeptly managed the growing pile of laundry” (we’ve seen it). “While parenting is as demanding and intense a job as any out there, most corporate decision makers aren’t going to take this section of your resume seriously,” says Foss.
- Your GPA: Unless you’re applying to a management consulting job, or you’re coming straight out of college (and it’s amazing). Even then, it might be better to simply include any academic accolades (like graduating summa cum laude) than the actual number.
- Your Graduation Year: Recruiters only really want to know that you got a degree, and you don’t want them to inadvertently discriminate based on your age.
- Anything High School-Related: Unless you’re a year out of college, really need to bulk up your resume, and did something highly relevant (and awesome) during your high school years, no need to include it on your resume.
- Skills That Everyone Has (or Should): Think Microsoft Word and “the internet.”
- Unnecessarily Big Words: Why “utilize” when you can “use?” especially when the former takes up more precious space on your resume. “Run the ‘would I ever say this in real life?’ test on every phrase and sentence in your resume,” says Foss. “If you find words or statements that don’t read like something you’d say? Change ’em up.”
- Industry Jargon or Buzzwords: You might know what GIA requests are, but the executive, assistant, or even recruiter first reading your resume might not. Make sure everything you include is understandable to the average person.
- Words With a Negative Connotation: Even if you mean them in a positive way, like “met aggressive sales goals,” research has shown that words like problem, mistake, and fault can have a negative impact on a recruiter’s perception of you.
- Vague Terms: (Think professional, experienced, and people person.) They’re chronically overused, and we bet there’s a better way to describe how awesome you are. (Need help? Here are a few great cliché-free ways to show off your soft skills.)
- Any of the Words in CareerBuilder’s Survey of Resume Words Recruiters Hate: Seriously, why annoy them right out of the gate? The list is topped with “Best of breed,” and followed by:
- Think Outside of the Box
- Go-to Person
- Thought Leadership
- Value Add
- Results Driven
- Team Player
- Bottom Line
- Hard Worker
- Strategic Thinker
- Self Motivated
- Track Record
And OK, Because We Had To
- Typos: But don’t rely on spell check and grammar check alone—ask family or friends to take a look at it for you (or get some tips on how to edit your own work).
- Anything That’s Not True: Just, don’t. If you’re not sure you have the experience to qualify for your dream gig, don’t manufacture it—go look for ways to get it.
Photo of person typing courtesy of Shutterstock.