Your resume is the most valuable tool you have in gaining employment. It has one job and one job only: to impress a hiring manager enough to ask you to come in for a job interview.
The best way to understand a resume and it's purpose is to compare it to an advertisement. When you see a print ad, or watch a commercial do you see every detail about the given product? Of course not. You see what the advertiser wants you to see.
When you write your resume, the details you don't include can be just as important as the details you do include. Below is a list of 7 Things to Leave Off Your Resume.
1. No Personal Data Except Contact Information
Name, address, phone and email- that is all the contact information you should include. Do not put multiple phone numbers (cell, home, work etc.). Make contacting you simple and straightforward. Also leave off any other personal details like gender, marital status and children.
2. No Physical Characteristics
The big mistake I tend to see is clients wanting to include a photograph on their resume header. This should never be done. Not only does it open you to unintentional discrimination (we all make snap judgements about people based on looks- it is human nature) many companies do not want a photograph so they can adhere to the Equal Opportunity Employer Legislation.
Along with the no pictures rule you should also avoid listing any physical characteristics at all. No height weight, eye color etc.
3. When it Comes to Education- College Only
No one really cares where you went to high school (or middle school- yes I have seen resumes with both grammar and middle schools listed), or whether you happened to be captain of the soccer team while you attended. Employers want to know what degree you have and what your expertise is.
4. Below a 3.5 GPA
Most people are understandably proud of their GPA, even when it isn't necessarily, well, great. But GPAs can be tricky. Someone will always have a higher one than you, and do you really want that to be a deciding factor in whether or not you land a job interview? I tend to recommend to my clients that they leave off GPAs altogether, but if they must include it, then make sure it is above a 3.5.
5. Unrelated Work Experience
Including unrelated work experience is by far the biggest issue I see on client's resumes. Most people tend to want to turn their resume into a work history rather than a targeted advertisement. First of all, you should keep work history current. By this I mean positions held within the past 10 - 15 years. Second, most jobs older than 15 years ago will most likely be in a different field, or at least in a vastly different responsibility level from what you are now hoping to interview for. Employers want to see what you can do now, not a decade ago.
6. No long Lists of Hobbies
Just don't. People think this will help them stand out. It doesn't, and employers just are not interested. Save your valuable resume real estate for things that help you stand out professionally.
7. Reference Information
There are two different but related issues here. The first is the more common. Do not put "references available upon request." Again, resume real estate is premium. Don't waste the space. Everyone knows you'll need to supply references, so it doesn't need to be stated. The second mistake in this area is to list references and their contact info on the resume itself. This should never be done. If an employer wants references up front then dedicate a separate sheet to this purpose.
Remember, your resume is your personal advertisement, selling your most valuable asset: You.
Steve P Brady is an executive resume writer who blogs on resume writing and career development.