When you’re searching for a job, it’s easy to spot a good position and just go through the motions of submitting a resume and cover letter without even thinking. But when it comes to making yourself stand out among all the qualified candidates, being on auto-pilot only hurts you. After all, just one little blunder can turn a recruiter off.
To avoid that from happening, we’ve identified five pretty common—but surprisingly harmful—pieces of information that most of us are guilty of including in our job applications. Next time, leave them off—and focus on the information that’ll really make you shine.
1. Irrelevant Work Experience
Related experience is usually the number one factor employers use to determine whether you’re qualified for the position. So any previous experience that’s irrelevant will only distract the recruiter.
What does “irrelevant” mean here? If the skills you learned at your previous position aren’t transferrable to the new role you’re applying to, they shouldn’t be taking up space on your resume. As job search expert Angela Smith explains, “If you’re applying for a position in marketing, but your experience is a combination of marketing and sales, tailor your resume to focus on your marketing experience and skills, and minimize—or even remove—the sales information.”
If removing those details leaves your resume looking sparse, read through this article on resume tips for people with no relevant experience.
2. Potentially Controversial Personal Information
Unfortunately, you could be putting your application in the “no” pile if recruiters are turned off by the personal details you share. And, yes, this is illegal, but as Muse writer Lily Zhang explains, “as an applicant, you’re also not exactly in the position to ensure every company you’re applying to is following the law.” So for now, it’s best to keep your religious beliefs, political affiliations, and anything else that might be seen as controversial out of the application.
There’s one exception, though. Zhang suggests that if a piece of information is “so important to your identity that you couldn’t imagine working in a setting in which even one person might judge it in a harsh light,” then include the information and use your application as a test to find an accepting employer.
3. Your Address
I never thought that including my address in a job application was a big deal, until I learned that it could hurt my chances of landing a dream position. If I’m not a local applicant, then hiring managers have every reason to move onto the next candidate—even if I’m willing to relocate.
If I am a local applicant, sharing my address could still be disadvantageous because employers consider my commute time. As writer Donna Svei of AvidCareerist explains, “In-house recruiters know that people with long commutes have more stress and often eventually quit ‘because of the commute.’” And, “if your commute would be longer than what’s known to be tolerable long-term, your resume often finds its way into the ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ pile.”
Sometimes, of course, an address is required as part of your application. But if not, it’s OK to leave it off your resume and cover letter and list your phone number, email address, and link to your LinkedIn profile instead.
4. Awards From a Long, Long Time Ago
A quick scan of a few of my LinkedIn contacts’ profiles, and I’m surprised to see the number of college graduates who have listed their high school awards, and the number of mid- and senior-level professionals who have listed their college awards. And yes, I will admit that as of five minutes ago, I also had two awards listed under my high school education.
The point is, we write about our past achievements more often than we’d think. And it makes sense: You created your LinkedIn profile and wrote your first resume a long time ago. But that doesn’t mean recruiters will be impressed by an accolade you received 10 years earlier. If anything, it looks like you haven’t accomplished anything impressive since.
5. Filler Lines
“References available upon request.” “Please see my enclosed resume.” “Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.”
Every line counts in your cover letter and resume, and you’re just wasting space by writing out anything that’s inherently implied by applying to the position. Instead, use any additional room to make it crystal clear why you’re the perfect fit for the position.
What are other common items we put in our job application that are actually hurting our chances of landing our dream job? Let me know on Twitter!
A board member of Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs, Kat is either hosting inspiring founders or trekking across cities (Silicon Valley and London, anyone?) to discover the hottest startups. And, when she’s not putting together large-group gatherings for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Kat is planning food excursions to discover the best Taiwanese beef noodle soup in NYC. The only thing she loves almost as much as crafting content as an Editorial Intern at The Muse is studying content as an English Major at Columbia University. Say hi on Twitter @katxmoon.More from this Author