Literally millions of words have been written about that document that has long been the centerpiece in the typical job search, the résumé. (From time to time over the years I’ve written a few of those words myself!) Normally, résumé articles/blogs focus on what to make sure to include in your résumé. In this post I am going to take a slightly different approach. I’m going to tell you FIVE things you should leave out of your résumé, as well as one thing you may leave out of it, if you so desire, usually with minimal risk.
First, the FIVE things you should leave out of your résumé
1. Career Objective
Rare indeed is it that a résumé doesn’t prominently feature (usually at the top) a “Career Objective” statement. It’s in this section that you briefly outline the type of career opportunity you are seeking, what in effect it will take to make you happy in a new job. But you know what? At this very early stage in the job-hunting game, when you are likely to be among hundreds (perhaps even thousands!) of other candidates simply throwing their hats in the ring, the last thing a hiring professional is usually considering at this point is what will make you happy!
If you actually become the candidate of choice later on in the process, and negotiations begin in earnest to hire you, then and only then will most hiring professional become interested in what is going to make you happy. Until that point, the hiring professional is usually concerned about just one thing: Finding the very best candidate(s) for a position (or positions) he or she is trying to fill!
You would be far better served to include an “Executive Summary” of what you can specifically offer a hiring company in place of a “Career Objective.”
2. Irrelevant/Out-of-Date Work Experience
While you of course want to avoid having any significant employment “gaps” in your résumé whenever possible, that does NOT mean that you will want to include every single job you’ve ever held since entering the workforce. Nor is it necessary to include, say, jobs held briefly outside your area of professional expertise, if you were perhaps blindsided during The Great Recession and had to take a temporary (or part-time) position to survive!
Remember, we hiring professionals are human too and we understand that a lot of bad things happened to a lot of good people during the recent recession!
Normally, it is entirely acceptable to include, say, the last ten or 15 years of relevant experience for the new position being sought. If the hiring professional becomes genuinely interested in you as a candidate, he or she certainly will ask you to explain any “gaps” in your résumé that may be of concern.
3. Any Phraseology Employing the Word “I”
While it may seem counter-intuitive to try to explain a particular job function or significant career accomplishment without employing the word “I,” you are nonetheless strongly advised to avoid using this personal pronoun in your résumé. Why? Because such phraseology can easily, and quite unnecessarily, brand you as somewhat of a self-serving prima donna, someone who is more of a grandstander than a team player. Many companies today actively seek team players and tend to avoid individual “stars,” and as the saying goes, “there is no ‘I’ in team.”
To illustrate this point, consider two very different ways you could express a significant accomplishment in your current position. Here is one way:
I was responsible for increasing total revenue in my department by $1 million in fiscal 2013, while at the same time, reducing overall expenses by nearly $500,000. . . .
Here is another, better way of saying the same thing, while positioning yourself as a true leader who highly values a teamwork approach:
Led a team that was recognized companywide for increasing total department revenue by $1 million in fiscal 2013, while at the same time registering an overall reduction in expenses of nearly $500,000. . . .
A subtle distinction without any real difference? I think not, and most other hiring professionals will have the same attitude and opinion.
4. Any Statement/Claim That “Stretches” the Truth
There was a time—long, long ago, it now seems—when résumés were pretty much taken at face value. If a candidate “stretched” the truth about something in his or her work experience, chances were pretty good that it wouldn’t be discovered because many companies simply weren’t all that diligent about checking the veracity of each and every claim made in a résumé. You should know that time has long since passed.
Today, with many companies still extremely cautious about adding new staff, you can be assured that, if you become a serious contender for a position, virtually each and every significant claim you make in your résumé is likely to be verified.
Best advice: Stick strictly to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!
5. “References Available”
This is another one of those résumé elements that have become standard over the years, primarily because of perpetual usage by most job seekers. Today, it has largely become just unnecessary “noise” in a résumé. If you are seeking a professional-level career opportunity, let me assure you that the hiring professional automatically assumes you will have references. That does not mean, however, that you won’t need to provide references at some point in your job search. It just means you don’t have to indicate that you actually have them because that is presupposed.
And now for the “bonus” element that you may leave out of your résumé, if you feel the need
If you are someone who has relatively long tenure in the workforce, you may have a genuine concern about including dates of graduation in your résumé. Perhaps you fear that including these dates may unnecessarily subject you to possible age discrimination, which even though illegal and substantially ill-advised, nonetheless remains a fact of life.
So, the question often becomes: Is it “safe” to leave out dates of graduation? Some hiring professionals strongly argue for always including them, while others (like me) believe that including them or not including them is extremely unlikely to significantly affect your candidacy—provided the remainder of your résumé strongly positions you as a candidate highly deserving of a “second” look!
If you would like to learn more about the elements, the approaches, that make up a job-winning résumé, check out my Kindle single entitled, “Résumé Writing Made Easy!” on Amazon.com. Included are SIX fully editable résumé “templates” you can download to your desktop, laptop or tablet and begin turning your run-of-the-mill résumé into a job-winning WOW! résumé.
This post is a modified excerpt from Skip’s latest book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets Career Development/Management publications series, Career Stalled? How to Get Your Career Back in HIGH Gear and Land the Job Your Deserve—Your DREAM Job!
For a “Sneak Peek” at the first THREE Chapters of Career Stalled?, email Skip’s editor, Michael Garee, at [email protected], and put “CS? Three FREE Chapters” in the subject line. NOTICE: Offer ends Oct. 8, 2014!