10 Things Not to Include When Writing a Resume

What you leave out is almost as important as what you put in

Businessman with resume

You know the basics of writing a resume - how to format it, the general order and how long it should be. But are you aware of the things you should not include? What you leave out is almost as important as what you put in. Here are 10 things that don't belong on a winning resume.

1. Typos and grammatical errors. Even the smallest typo - a missing word or the wrong form of they're/their/there - can kill your chances of advancing in your job search. A clean resume, on the other hand, opens doors. Take advantage of spelling and grammar-check software. Then ask a grammar-savvy friend, teacher or colleague to proofread your final version.

2. Personal information. Your age, marital status, whether you have children, religion, sexual orientation and political views - potential employers need to know none of those things. In fact, hiring managers are legally bound not to ask you those questions. If it's not directly related to the job, leave it out.

3. A photo. Unless you're looking for a modeling or acting job, don't send a photo of yourself. You may wonder, what's the harm in letting human resources know what you look like, especially in this age of online searches? However common the practice is in other countries, the majority of hiring managers in the U.S. still frown on this practice because they don't want to risk being accused of discrimination based on appearance.

4. Your keen sense of humor. Unless you're applying to be a writer for "Saturday Night Live," save your wit for after you get the job - not before. Verbal cleverness and outlandish summary statements don't come across well on paper, and busy hiring managers don't have time for, well, funny business. No matter how hard you want to stand out from the dozens of other applicants, it's not worth writing a clever resume.

5. All your jobs and responsibilities. Unless you're really desperate to show any work experience, leave off your summer job as a lifeguard or stint operating rides at the state fair. Include only what's relevant, which can include volunteering and internships. The same goes for job responsibilities: Instead of listing each and every task you did, state only skills that are pertinent to the job you're applying for, and then get specific. When writing a resume, it's far more important to demonstrate your problem-solving skills than to have an exhaustive list of your role in every single job.

6. Meaningless words. Steer clear of overused buzzwords, business-ese and esoteric acronyms. Jargon doesn't add meaning and can turn off hiring managers. So please, don't say "leverage synergies" unless you're trying to elicit an eye roll.

7. Reason for leaving. This is never expected. It interrupts and detracts from a strong narrative about your strengths and how you can apply them with a new employer. If hiring managers want to know why you left a certain job, that question will come up during the interview where you will have a better chance of explaining yourself.

8. Hobbies. Don't cram the "Other Information" section with activities that don't overlap with the job description. Translation: Do include community service, such as if you're an IT professional who teaches computer skills to seniors. That's relevant. Your bobble-head doll collection is not.

9. Salary requirements. When writing a resume, it's presumptuous to mention the minimum you'll work for. It's also a poor tactic. If the number is too high, your may not make the short list. If it's too low, you could be paid less than what the employer is willing to offer. If the job post asks for a salary requirement, don't give a number or even a range. Instead, include something like this in the cover letter: "My salary requirement will depend on a variety of factors, including the benefits package."

10. "References available upon request." Resume real estate is valuable, and this is a line that means very little. Of course you'll provide references when asked - what job candidate wouldn't? Pat phrases like this annoy hiring managers to no end.

When writing a resume, make every word on those one to two pages work for you. Aim for a chronological and easy-to-read format, use active words and drop any extras. Let your resume wow hiring managers and get you interviews - not harm your chances of getting a great job.    

This Is An Ideal Resume For A Mid-Level Employee

Step one: Don't try to squeeze everything in

Businesspeople with resume

By Jacquelyn Smith and Skye Gould

Having a ton of experience under your belt doesn't necessarily mean you have an "impressive" resume.

"You can have all the experience in the world - but if your resume doesn't stand out, if you don't present that information in a well-organized manner, or if it doesn't tell your story, nobody will take the time to look at your resume closely enough to see all that experience," says Amanda Augustine, a career expert at TheLadders, an online job-matching service for professionals.

 To get a clearer picture of what makes a resume stand out, we asked Augustine to create a sample of an excellent one for a mid-level professional.

While your resume may look different depending on the industry you're in, the one below should serve as a useful guide for job seekers with about 10 years of experience:

What makes this an excellent resume for a mid-level professional? Augustine outlines the following reasons:

1. The job seeker didn't try to squeeze everything into one page.
"At this point in your career, you've earned the extra resume real estate," says Augustine. "Spend more space elaborating on your most recent work, assuming it's most relevant to your current job goals." Include your header at the top of the second page as well, she says, so your name and contact information are always "top of mind" for the reader.

2. A list of the job seeker's core competencies is featured at the top.
Alex's resume contains a list of his core skill sets, usually referred to as, "Areas of Expertise" or, "Core Competencies." "This list serves two purposes," she says. "One, it allows a reader to quickly scan the top portion of the resume and get a good sense of Alex's capabilities; and two, it helps Alex's resume get past the electronic gatekeepers known as Applicant Tracking Systems."

3. Each role is split into responsibilities and key achievements.
Under each job title is a short description that explains Alex's responsibilities in that particular role. "Underneath the description is a set of bullets that highlight his most noteworthy and relevant contributions," Augustine explains. "Be specific and clear when describing your accomplishments and contributions."

4. Information is quantified wherever possible.
Include numbers whenever possible, whether you're describing the size of your budget, the number of events you helped organize, or the number of people you managed.

5. The job seeker used his work experience to show progression.
"Alex's work experience is listed in reverse-chronological order, starting with his current position," she points out. "More space is dedicated to the details of Alex's recent roles and achievements, as employers are most interested in this information and it's directly tied to his current job goals. Even when the job titles are the same, Alex is demonstrating how he's progressed in his career by taking on larger projects, bigger budgets, and more people."

6. The "Education" section was moved to the end of the resume.
Once you've been in the working world for three years, your education section should shift towards the bottom of your resume. "When you first graduate, your new degree is one of your best selling points," Augustine says. "Now that you've been in the workforce for a while, your experience and the skills you've developed should take center stage."

How To Write A Great Resume

Highlight your strengths and trim the fat

Young writer

Wondering how to write a great resume that will show off your skills and experience and get you interviews? Here's a beginner's guide to how to craft a resume that will catch a hiring manager's eyes.

Your resume should be composed of the following sections:

Contact info. This is pretty straightforward – this is the header for your resume, and it's where your name, address, phone number, and email address go. It's fine to add a link your LinkedIn profile or your website if you want to, but don't clutter this section up to much.

Profile or highlights. This section is optional, but profiles or highlight sections have replaced objectives at the top of modern-day resumes. This is a quick list of the highlights of your strengths and accomplishments, summing up in just a few bullet points who you are as a candidate and what you have to offer. The idea is to provide an overall framing for your candidacy, setting the hiring manager up to see the rest of your resume through that lens.

Experience: This is the meat of your resume. You should list each job (from most recent to least recent) – where you worked, what your title was, and the years you worked there. Underneath that, you should have a bulleted list of what you achieved while working there. And this is crucial: These bullets should not be used to just explain your job duties. Instead, you should focus on accomplishments – things you achieved that weren't simply fulfilling the basis duties of your job. For instance, instead of "managed website," it's far stronger to say something like, "increased Web traffic by 15% in six months" – in other words, explain how you performed, not just what your job was.

When you're deciding what to include, give yourself permission to remove things that don't strengthen your candidacy. You don't need three lines explaining boring, basic job duties – especially if these responsibilities are going to be implied by your title. Similarly, you don't need to include that summer job from eight years ago, or that job you did for three weeks that didn't work out. Your resume is a marketing document, not a comprehensive listing of everything about you, so include the things that strengthen your candidacy, and pare down the rest.

Education: For most people, this section should just be a line or two, explaining where you went to school and what degree you graduated with. And note that generally your education should go beneath your work experience, because generally employers are most interested in what work experience you've had. Leading with your education just buries what will make most attractive to an employer.

Optional other sections: After that, you might include some additional optional sections, like Volunteer Work (or Community Involvement), Skills (if not obvious from the experience section), or Miscellaneous. Fleshing out your skills and experience in these sections can demonstrate a passion for the work that your work experience can't always do. For instance, if you're applying for an I.T. position and you run an online software discussion group in your spare time, mention that. Or if you're applying for a teaching job and you review children's books for your website, that's important to mention too. These types of details help paint a stronger picture of you as a candidate.

Things not to include: Your resume is for experience and accomplishments only. It's not the place for subjective traits, like "great leadership skills" or "creative innovator." Smart employers ignore anything subjective that applicant write about themselves because so many people's self-assessments are wildly inaccurate, so your resume should stick to objective facts. Additional no-no's: Don't include a photo of yourself, information about your age, any mention of high school, medical conditions, or family members.

Overall formatting: In all of the sections above, you should be using bullet points, not complete sentences. Hiring managers will only skim your resume initially, and big blocks of text are difficult to skim. An employer will absorb more information about you with a quick skim if your information is arranged in bullet points rather than paragraphs.

Length: As a general rule, your resume shouldn't be over two pages (or one, if you're a recent grad). The longer your resume is, the less likely an employer is to see the parts you want them to see. The initial scan of your resume is about 20 seconds - do you want that divided among three pages, or do you want it focused on the most important things you want to convey? Short and concise means that employers are more likely to read the parts you most care about. Plus, long resumes can make you come across as someone who can't edit and doesn't know what information is essential and what's less important.

Design: Avoid unusual colors or untraditional designs. All most hiring managers want from a resume: a concise, easy-to-scan list of what you've accomplished, organized chronologically by position, plus any particularly notable skills, all presented in a format that they can quickly scan and get the highlights.