15 Things to Avoid Putting on Your Resume

By Maddie Lloyd - Oct. 19, 2017

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You know that rush of excitement you feel when you find a job listing that perfectly fits everything you’re looking for? Something that could very well be your dream job? Well, for every job listing an employer posts, about a million other people get that same euphoric feeling.

Employers get about a million resumes for every job opening they post online. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but still — they get a heck ton of resumes. No one has enough time to thoroughly read through every single resume they receive, so employers typically end up spending about 30 seconds or less glancing over your resume before they decide if you go in the trash pile or not.

If you want to impress hiring managers within that window, you need to highlight your experiences and qualifications so they can see that you’re an ideal candidate. Try not to stuff your resume full of useless information that makes it difficult for employers to read about how awesome you are without knowing your entire life story.

Hiring managers look for reasons to screen out applicants to narrow down a list of people to interview. If you include the wrong information, you could sabotage your own job search. Let’s not do that.

If you want your resume to have a lifespan longer than 30 seconds, try to keep these things to yourself.

1. Your Age

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Employers want to know what strengths and qualifications you have that can help their company succeed, not how long you’ve been able to stay alive. Try to avoid including:

  • Professional experience that is more than 15 years old
  • Your graduation date
  • An exact number of years of experience in a job area, i.e. “Executive assistant with more than 20 years of experience in…”

Providing information about your age invites age discrimination. Age bias works both ways — you don’t want an employer to throw your resume in the trash because they think you’re too young or too old.

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2. Personal Details

There’s really no need for employers to know personal details about your life — in fact, it’s actually illegal for interviewers to ask you questions about:

  • Marital Status
  • Race
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Religion
  • Age or Birth Date
  • Citizenship
  • Social Security Number

Other personal information that is unnecessary to put on your resume include stuff like:

  • Height or Weight
  • Political Affiliation
  • Unrelated Hobbies or Interests — Unless it’s related to the job you’re applying for, it’s a waste of space and time. And honestly, no one cares. Instead, include a section of your resume that goes into your skills that are relevant to the job.

Employers don’t need to know any personal information aside from your name, city, state, and a way to contact you. Including personal information is a good way to make yourself out to be a scrub, and just like TLC, no one wants a scrub — unless you happen to be a janitor.

3. Irrelevant or Outdated Work Experiences

Don’t list every single job you’ve ever had on your resume. Only list jobs, graduations, or certifications that you’ve gotten in the last 10 – 15 years, unless an earlier job really shows off qualifications related to the job you’re applying for. When you start listing really old jobs, you start to lose the employer’s interest.

Everything on your resume should show employers that you’re the best person for the job. Leave out anything that doesn’t relate to the job you’re applying for, unless it would put gaps in your employment history. If you have a limited job history, try to only include slightly unrelated positions and demonstrate how they’ve prepared you for the job at hand.

4. Inconsistent Formatting

Your resume’s format is just as important as its content. Stick to a format that makes it easy for employers to skim through and easily find your experience, skills, and career goals. Once you find a format that works for you, stick with it throughout the rest of your resume. Here are some formatting mistakes to avoid:

  • Unnecessary Headers, Footers, Tables, Images, or Charts — these fancy embeddings, although beautiful, are distracting. Keep it simple.
  • Outdated Fonts or Fancy Fonts — You want your resume to look sleek and easy to read. Curly-tailed fonts might seem to be a classy choice, but they’re not the easiest to skim.
  • Long Paragraphs Without Bullets — Employers might glance over sections of your resume and overlook your qualifications if your paragraphs are too long.
5. Salary Information

Don’t address your desired salary in your resume, unless the employer specifically asks. Salary is a topic that you will discuss with employers later on if you make it to the interview process or if you’re offered the job.

Your resume is meant to show off why you deserve the job, the topic of salary will come up later on.

6. Typos, Errors, Goofs of all Sorts

Unfortunately, the world is not An Extremely Goofy Movie. Make sure your resume is free of all goofs like typos, misspellings, grammatical mistakes, or factual errors. That’s just embarrassing.

Your resume is the first impression employers will get of your writing skills and how close you pay attention to detail. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

7. Blatant Lies and Opinions

Don’t lie about past experiences or accomplishments. If you don’t have all of the qualifications listed in the job description, talk about what you can offer instead of making stuff up.

Employers want you to list facts, not opinions. Phrases like “excellent communicator” or “highly motivated” are opinions of yourself — they’ll decide if you are these things if they decide to interview you.

8. References

If employers want to speak to your references, they’ll ask. It’s generally assumed that someone applying for a job will have a list of references available. Including a section about them on your resume is a waste of prime resume real estate.

You can use a separate document to list your references and provide them when asked to by an employer.

9. Objectives

Instead of writing a resume objective that says what you hope to gain from a job, write a career summary that highlights what you can offer the employer and their company.
Only provide an object if you’re in a unique situation, such as changing industries.

10. Unnecessary Words, Company Jargon, or Annoying Buzzwords

  • Using the words “phone” or “email” to label your phone number or email address is unnecessary — those things are self explanatory. Avoid using empty language like “outstanding” or “interesting.” Every word on your resume should be specific description of your skills or accomplishments.
  • Company Specific Jargon — Companies often have their own internal names for things like customized software, technologies, and processes that are only known within that organization and not by those who work outside of it. Be sure to exclude terms on your resume that are known only to one specific organization.
  • Annoying Buzzwords — Avoid using buzzwords or phrases like “synergy,” “think outside the box,” “people pleaser,” “go getter,” etc. These terms are pretty meaningless. Employers prefer to see terms like “achieved,” “launched,” “resolved,” etc. — but only if they’re used in moderation or can be backed up.
11. Anything Negative

Your resume is a professional document that is meant to promote you as a candidate. Everything on your resume should be positive, so don’t include any negative experiences or try to explain them. There’s also no need to list why you left a position on your resume. If an employer is interested, they’ll ask.

Try not to mention things that you haven’t yet done or accomplished, and instead focus on what you’ve already done or are in the process of achieving, i.e. if you didn’t graduate college, list the dates you attended instead of mentioning that you dropped out.

12. Lists of Tasks or Duties Without Results

Your resume should do more than just list what job’s you’ve had, it should show off the results of what you’ve accomplished and what skills you used to achieve results.

Employers care about results, so show them. Instead of just saying that you “organized the company’s filing system,” say something along the lines of “Increased team productivity by 30% by organizing the company’s filing system.

13. Names and Information About Current or Previous Employers

This is just dumb. Don’t include your current employer’s name on your resume unless you’re okay with a potential employer contacting them.

Unless your current employers are aware of your job search, if potential employers call you at your current place of work, you could potentially be fired or charged with theft of services. Yikes. Just leave the business info off.

Leave off the names and contact information for former employers. Instead, include them on your list of references, and make sure to check in with them before listing their information.

14. Time Off and Short-Term Employment

Don’t include time you took off to travel or raise a family on your resume. I’m sure it was very personally fulfilling, but employers don’t care.

Don’t list a job on your resume if you only held the position for a short amount of time, and especially don’t include ones that you were fired from or hated. It’s going to be hard to explain what you gained from a job you had for a month that made you want to tear your hair out.

15. Unprofessional Email Addresses and Social Media URLs

If you’re currently using your old school email address like pbr4ever@aol.com or pinkisthebestcolorever666@yahoo.com, it’s time to make a more professional one.

Don’t include links to your opinionated blogs, Wedding-centered Pinterest pages, or your instagram account dedicated to detailing the life of your dog. This is just a waste of space and a good way to land yourself in the trash pile.

On the other hand, feel free to include relevant URLs, such as your LinkedIn account or links to a professional online portfolio. Again, anything you include on your resume should be directly related to the job you’re applying for.

Other Things to Leave Out of Your Resume
  • Photographs — Unless you’re going for a modeling or acting job, this is just awkward and tacky. Employers prefer that you don’t include photographs because they don’t want to be accused of discrimination.
  • GPA — Once you’re out of school, grades don’t matter so much. Unless you’re a recent college graduate and your GPA was 3.8 or higher, go ahead and leave it out.
  • High School — Only include your high school diploma if it’s your highest degree or if you’re still early in your college career. Once you graduate from university, it’s time to get rid of it.
  • Criminal Record — If you have a criminal record, it’s probably a good idea to leave it out. If you get hired, the company may search your background record, but it doesn’t need to show up on your resume. It the topic comes up once you’re being considered for a job, you can discuss it with the employers.
  • Personal Pronouns — Don’t use words like “I,” “me,” “my,” etc. It goes without saying that everything on your resume is about you. Let’s try not to look like a rookie.

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Maddie Lloyd


Maddie Lloyd

Maddie Lloyd was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog focused on researching tips for interview, resume, and cover letter preparation. She's currently a graduate student at North Carolina State University's department of English concentrating in Film and Media Studies.

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