What to Leave Out of Your Resume
by Catherine Jewell, author of “New Résumé, New Career”
Once upon a time in the ’70s, I saw a résumé with a full-length photo. It was for a vibrant, 20-something account executive in advertising. I envied her the chutzpah to include her photo. It made the résumé come alive. You could see her eagerness and professional demeanor.
That was then. So much has changed. Employers want to avoid any chance of discrimination about age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, marital and parental status, and ethnicity. The less you say on the résumé, the more likely you make the cut. Each word, phrase and sentence needs to be carefully selected to prove that you are the right person for the job. Specifically, here are some things to take off your résumé:
1. Graduation dates
Include your degree, major (if it is relevant) and the institution. But take off the date. Age discrimination is a concern for many people looking for work. Avoid tempting reviewers to do the math to discover your age.
2. Irrelevant experience
If you are applying for sales and you have substantial experience in IT project management, downplay the irrelevant experience and create new achievement statements that support your experience with customers. Make your non-sales experience sound more like sales. Shorten job entries that don’t support your sales message.
3. Jobs in the dim, dark past
The rule of thumb is to include your last 10 to 15 years of experience. If you need to prove expertise you gained long ago, you might use the title “Other Relevant Experience” and describe your achievements, without the dates of employment. Baby boomers should be careful not to include 30 years of experience. Why give hiring managers a clue you are over 50 until they meet you in person?
4. Personal section
Résumés of the past often included personal information such as marital status, family members and even church membership. All of that information is illegal to collect, so don’t include it. Also eliminate references to hobbies, clubs and political views. A “Community Work” section can show your leadership skills, but stick with noncontroversial organizations such as Rotary, Lions, the Chamber of Commerce and recognized nonprofits.
5. Gaps in history
Eliminate gaps in your work history by filling in with short, truthful statements. “Homemaker sabbatical” will explain a five-year work hiatus and allow the interviewer to focus on your history. You can also fill gaps with part-time jobs, direct sales positions or consulting projects.
These may not be on your résumé, but once a potential employer has your full name they might as well be. Polish all social networking profiles and remove any unprofessional or embarrassing photos. Ask your friends to clean up social networking profiles for you, too. If you are gray or balding, you might consider removing your photo during your job search.
Your résumé is designed to present the professional you. Write it with a job description in mind, avoiding any details that might detract from your single-minded pursuit of that job.