We all talk a fair game about what needs to be on your resume, but there’s also plenty of stuff that should be removed. The fluff. The blabber. The full-on oddities. And even some of the details you think are important.
Here’s the thing: If you want a shot at grabbing your target audience and showing them what you’re made of, every section of your resume needs to be thoughtfully constructed, and every word carefully placed.
So, let’s all get out our big red markers; we’re going to start marking that baby up. Here are seven things that you absolutely must drop-kick from your resume.
1. An Objective
The vast majority of resume objectives say nothing. Oh, so you’re seeking a challenging position with a growing corporation that will allow you to make a positive contribution, are you? How groundbreaking.
Craft an executive summary or “Who I Am” section that showcases your overarching value proposition (or, as I call it, your “So what?”) and speaks directly to the stuff you know the target audience is going to care the most about. This is your chance to make it clear you’re a strong fit.
2. Weird or Potentially Polarizing Interests
Do you practice witchcraft, preside over your local gun club, or spend endless hours practicing your extraordinary mime routine? Terrific. But 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.
Include interests only if you feel they support your overall professional message and brand. If you’re a dietician who maintains a recipe blog for fun, yes. If you’re an accountant who enjoys photographing people’s feet, absolutely not.
3. Third-Person Voice
The fastest way to sound like a pompous goof is to construct your resume in the third person—à la “John raised more than $70,000 for the organization.” Every single time I read a resume in which the author does this, all I can think of is someone sitting around in a smoking jacket, with a pipe, pontificating on and on about himself. Don’t do it.
When you write a resume, your name and contact information are at the top of the page. For this reason alone, the receiver will most assuredly deduce that the document he or she is receiving was, indeed, from you. So write the resume in the first person, minus the pronouns (e.g., “Raised more than $70,000”).
4. An Email Address From Your Current Employer
Nothing says, “I job search on company time” quite like using your current work email address on a resume. Unless you own the company, it’s poor form to run your job search through your company’s email system.
Easy–use your personal email for all job search business. And, ideally, your own time.
5. Unnecessarily Big Words
Why “utilize” when you can “use?” Why “append” when you can “add?” It’s not “analogous;” it’s really just “similar.” Using non-conversational words doesn’t make you look smart; it makes you look like someone who spends too much time in a thesaurus.
Run the “would I ever say this in real life?” test on every phrase and sentence in your resume. If you find words or statements that don’t read like something you’d say? Change ’em up.
6. Tiny, Unimportant Jobs From 15+ Years Ago
Your resume is not an autobiography of every job you’ve held since you graduated; it’s a marketing document. So, unless something you did more than 12-15 years ago is vital for your target audience to know about, you don’t need to list the entry-level job or internship you held in 1994. It’s totally OK to leave some of the life history off.
For each former job, think about what you did or achieved that will be required (or will hold significant value) in your next role. Showcase only that stuff. If your first job out of college does nothing to support this overall message? It’s probably not needed.
If you’d like me to, I’ll launch into the story about the field engineer I worked with who was this close to landing a great job—until the employer conducted a degree verification and discovered that, while he’d taken courses at that university, he didn’t graduate. The kicker? He didn’t even need a degree to qualify for that job. But because he got caught in a lie, he didn’t get it.
Strategize. (In this case, I would have suggested that this engineer load his education section with professional development courses and certifications, which would have made an equally great impact.) Whatever you do, do not lie.
Editing a resume can be tough. People tend to be quite attached to the things they’ve done or accomplished professionally, and passionate about their outside interests. But the bottom line is this: You need to have everything working for you on your resume. Be brutally objective, cut the fat, and for goodness’ sake, leave off all details of your vast collection of clown figures.
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