How to Quit Writing Bad Resumes

A good resume is like a great piece of jazz music — what you don’t say is just as important as what you do.

Too often, we cram our resumes full of content that we think will make us look more valuable. And in the process, we end up diluting the accomplishments and qualifications that are most relevant to the position we’re looking for.

To help you make smart decisions about crafting your resume, we asked a panel of experts to share their advice. Below is a list of 13 things that you should remove from your resume right now.

1. References available upon request: I’ve been on several search committees doing the hiring as well as worked in the industry as a career counselor for years. The number one thing I tell all my clients is to eliminate the phrase, “references available upon request”. What a waste of space! Anyone who really wants you knows to ask, so they don’t need reminding. - Flore Dorcely

2. Unrelated interests: I once had a job seeker who claimed to be a “pig wrestling champion” on his resume, which is a great accomplishment, I’m sure. But it had nothing to do with the job he applied for, and it distracted me from the rest of his qualifications. - Sara Sutton Fell, FlexJobs.com.

3. Excessive experience: Start by eliminating anything more than 15 to 20 years of experience. This does not mean that you are being duplicitous: most people can do the math and figure out whether you’ve been working longer than 15 years. But the convention now is to illuminate those more recent, and usually relevant, years. If there’s some older experience that would be very aligned with the position for which you’re applying, you can allude to it with a line such as “Prior experience includes…” -Anna Ranieri

4. Irrelevant Experience: Leave off any job history that isn’t relevant to the position the job seeker is applying for. Just because they worked a job recently, does not mean it needs to be on the resume the submit for an open job. Instead, a candidate will want to include all relevant job experience they have over the years that relates to the skills/experience the open job position requires. - Katja Wald, Aquent

5. Long Blocks of Text: Realistically you’ll get 15 seconds to sell yourself, if you haven’t captivated attention within this time frame, your resume will probably get put off to the side or in the circular file. So use bullets and make each one count. Feature your accomplishments, enumerate your goals met and/or exceeded, demonstrate the value you provided such as higher revenue produced, products brought to market on budget and on time, cost cutting results, etc. - Anna Mathieu, Redfish Technology.

6. Excessive Details: Job hunters should be aware that recruiters, HR people and hiring managers have lots of resumes to read through, and they don’t have all day to do it. Anyone who fills up all the space on two or three pages is not considering this. It is too much of an investment of time. The thing to do is this: shorten the experience you’ve had early in your career to a line that describes the scope of the job. If it’s more than ten years ago, it’s not even necessary to explain it. Don’t explain every single thing you did at every job. The best thing to do is write about the things you did which are similar to the things that are in the job description. Anything that is far removed from what is in the job description is not relevant. If there is too much in the resume that is not relevant to the job, then you are saying too much and it will hurt more than help.

It’s often hard to convince people of this because they are proud of their work history, and that is understandable. But they’ll get the opportunity to talk about it in the interview. To make sure you get that interview, apply: “less is more”. - Sandy Charet, Charet.com

7. Objectives: Objective statements are no longer catching the eyes of hiring managers. Most people who review resumes, skip right over them. They say that it takes 10-15 seconds for someone reviewing a resume to make a decision. Their goal is to understand your skills and experience and decide if you are a fit for their position in a split second when they have thousands of resumes to review. Honestly, with that goal in mind, the objective doesn’t provide a lot of value for them.

A shift has taken place over the last few years where a summary is much more efficient, relevant and on trend than an objective. Let’s be honest, don’t we know what the objective is for most job seekers? To get the job they are applying to! It’s also an opportunity for candidates to make easy mistakes and get ruled out of the process by accident. I can’t tell you how many resumes come in to companies that have the wrong company name or position in the objective and unfortunately, that will force that resume into the ‘no thanks’ pile before they even know what you can offer them.

There are certain situations where having an objective on your resume may make sense – entry-level candidates, internship positions or some kind of unique role like applying to the Peace Corps are a few that come to mind. In those cases, a specific and targeted objective may be helpful and help set you apart from other applicants. But as a general rule, particularly in Corporate America, most recruiters and hiring managers want to see a summary at the top of the resume that can help them make a quick decision – do they want to talk to this person or not? A summary is the perfect forum to use on your resume to hook hiring managers. Space is so limited on a resume, job seekers should take full advantage of it by using a summary to help spell out exactly what you do, how you can help the company and get their resume to the top of the list. Joy Soudant

8. Too Much Formatting: Keep your resume simple so recruiters can read it quickly and easily. Don’t use bold, italics, and underlines all at once. Don’t use more than 1 font, and be consistent in the way you present information. Bulleted lists are much easier to read than paragraphs. - Sara Sutton Fell, FlexJobs.com.

9. Excessive Qualifications: Eliminate anything beyond a summary of qualifications; a chronological or functional accounting of your work experience; education and training; additional skills (chiefly technical skills or foreign languages); and, if appropriate, community involvement (volunteer activities).

No longer do you need to include hobbies or athletics. If you are an older job candidate, and want to demonstrate that you’re still mentally and physically active, save it for the interview. That’s where you can casually mention that you’ll be running another marathon next weekend or that you finish the New York Times crossword puzzle every morning. - Anna Ranieri

10. Tedium: Many think resumes are supposed to be mini-biographies that detail our work life to-date. They list everything they’ve ever done, task-by-boring-task, like a job description. Leave off the tedium; no one cares — and no one will read! Instead, focus on quantifiable statements and achievements that demonstrate significant contribution. Show how you can — and will — solve the employer’s problems. – Mark Babbitt, YouTern.com

11. Personal Information: Personal information should be omitted unless there is a specific reason for including it, e.g., if the applicant’s hobby demonstrates interests and skills that apply to the specific job, or the hobby is shared by the hiring manager. - Joan Mullinax, EddinsCounseling.com

12. Irrelevant Education: When it comes to education, do not list your grammar school, it is not necessary. Include your high school details if this is your highest attained degree, or if you happen to be in your first years of college. But once you obtain your college degree, it’s a good idea to remove your high school info. - Deidre Pannazzo, InspiredResumes.com

13. Salary History: Resumes don’t typically include a salary history, so candidates who include it come across as naive. And by sharing that information unbidden, you’ll also compromise your negotiating power later. - Darnell Clarke, author of Employmentology

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