When you write a resume, you’re essentially building an argument for why you're the ideal candidate for the job. That said, hiring managers and recruiters may only spend a couple of minutes (or less) making their assessment, so your resume needs to be clear, to-the-point and relevant.
Despite this, many people – even seasoned professionals – include irrelevant or unnecessary elements in their resumes that can mean they get passed over for a role. Here are seven common culprits to avoid:
1. Personal details
Your resume should have very few personal details about you that aren’t work-related. Your hobbies, your goals, your star sign – these are all better left out of your professional resume – along with details like your age, race, marital status, sexuality, gender, or political leanings. These things are rarely relevant and could potentially lead to profiling or discrimination.
If a particular hobby or interest of yours pertains to a job you’re applying for, you can try to find somewhere else for it. For example, if you are applying for a media position and you have an interest in photography, there could be a way to work this into your cover letter.
2. Your academic transcript
Detailing your education should be restricted to your achievements – majors, awards, diplomas, fellowships and any relevant extra-curricular activity. Don’t get bogged down in the details of every subject or class you ever took; just focus on the most important parts. Most employers aren’t interested in your grades, but they are interested in the end result. List your academic achievements chronologically, and date them.
3. Poor or inconsistent grammar
While anyone can spell-check their resume before sending it off, there are some mistakes that are harder to catch, such as colloquialisms and unclear, rambling sentences. A few bullet points succinctly describing your work experience should suffice.
Above all, whatever grammatical style you chose for your resume, keep it consistent, so watch out for discrepancies like using personal pronouns in one section and then dropping them in the next, or switching between tenses.
4. Bad news
There’s no need to include negative things on your resume – jobs you were fired from, incidents from university, even run-ins with the police. Your resume is there to sell you as an employee, so be positive and enthusiastic. If there is something in your past that you know will be a red flag for a hiring manager, make sure you have an explanation ready to go so if it comes up in an interview so you aren’t caught off guard.
5. Too much text
Having huge sections of text on your resume can be overwhelming. There is no way to know how many other applications a hiring manager might receive, but it’s a good idea to assume they’re going to be looking through dozens of resumes.
Your job is to tell a potential employer as much as possible in as little time as possible, so use short sentences and bullet points where applicable. By making the text easier to read, you make yourself easier to hire.
6. Dishonest statements
While you should tailor your resume to the job description and include relevant keywords, it’s important not to be dishonest. Misleading statements and incorrect information can quickly catch up to you at the interview stage, so avoid embellishing and instead focus on how your genuine skills and experience apply to the role – even if you don’t meet all the criteria.
Unless you’re in a creative field where visuals are expected on your resume, avoid taking up valuable real estate with images such as headshots or other graphic design elements. As a general rule, stick to formatting that is professional and contemporary without being flashy.
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