Your resume is essential to helping you get a job – you’re unlikely to get far without it. As a record of your achievement, it (ideally) lays out for an employer exactly what you have done and therefore that you can do the job for which you’re applying.
Sounds simple enough, but occasionally people slip up when they think about their resume as a reflection of who they are. At times, as any hiring manager will tell you, there’s definitely a tendency for some people to overshare and, it seems, to put down anything that enters their mind when they happen to be putting together this document.
Where the professional and the strictly personal overlap, let’s take a look at what you should leave out to avoid a CV TMI!
1. Gaps in work history
It’s a fact that sometimes even strong candidates have periods when they were not working. And while this may sometimes be due to unemployment, there are many perfectly good reasons why gaps may exist on the resume. Of course, being unemployed isn’t always a sign of a dubious candidate, though this assumption can sometimes be made.
Employers like to see where all your time went for at least the last few years. If gaps exist, you may need to add a little context, by noting, for example, that you were caring for an ill family member or taking time to travel, or whatever the case may be. You could also choose to provide only years of employment rather than months in order to hide the breaks in work history.
2. Social media links
It’s not uncommon, especially among the more tech-savvy generation, to include a link to one’s Facebook or Instagram profile to help the employer get to know ‘the real me’. This is so rarely a good move that it’s not even really worth considering. More or less the only circumstance in which including a social media profile might be a good move would be when submitting a creative portfolio – in these cases, you might link to a professional Twitter or a creative site such as Behance.
Otherwise, it demonstrates a poor understanding of work/life divide and might backfire if your would-be employer discovers those Friday night selfies you’d rather they didn’t.
3. Your photo
While in some cultures, it’s acceptable or even expected to include a photo with a resume, this isn’t always the case. Notoriously, those applying for unskilled work in Los Angeles are often required to include a headshot, so that employers can weigh the odds of their new employee getting acting gigs and leaving the business in the near future. Elsewhere, including in France, Germany and Scandinavia, it’s seen as a good idea to include a photo.
Nevertheless, most other cultures, including the UK and most of the US, certainly don’t expect it, and it may come across as inappropriate and naïve to the general business culture. Apart from anything else, employers aren’t allowed to discriminate, positively or negatively, based on factors such as race and age, factors that your picture would likely reveal.
4. False information
Many of us would understand the urge to fudge the details of the resume a little, especially as weeks of unemployment pass and the situation starts to get desperate. It would seem so easy to expand that three-month internship into a year-long position, or fabricate a project or two.
But this can lead to problems down the road in all kinds of ways: at interview, these applicants can expect to be quizzed on experience they don’t have, and their references won’t be able to back them up. They might even find they can’t do the job in question as it requires experience that they lack.
Of course, to lie on a resume is also morally wrong and it tends to hang over people for years to come – as they can be exposed at any time. Stick to the truth and tell your true story as best as you can.
It’s very common to include references with an application, but this isn’t actually the right stage at which to do it. If an employer wants to get in touch with your former colleagues, they will ask you for contact details but this normally doesn’t happen until after at least the first interview.
Other applicants reel it in a little by stating ‘references available on request’ at the end, but why does this need to be included? It’s taken as a given that references will be available, and to mention this now can, unfortunately, make you come off as green.
6. Empty adjectives
Are you hard-working, honest, successful and intelligent? All fine qualities, but unfortunately they don’t mean much on your resume. Anyone can throw these adjectives out there, but the recruiter who has to sift through all these documents doesn’t know whether you’re making it up, whether you falsely believe it to be true, or whether it is in fact true. Employers much prefer statements that are actually backed up and proven with some kind of evidence.
So rather than saying you’re a ‘natural leader’, say you ‘headed up a team of twelve, increasing departmental productivity 40% within six months of my appointment.’ It’s measurable, specific and can form a natural connection in the reader’s mind to how you could bring the same success to their organisation.
7. Too long
If you’re a job hopper, or have had a particularly long career, your resume could potentially go on for several pages. That’s a big turn off to recruiters under pressure however, who really don’t have time in the day to read novel-length resumes from every candidate.
Some trimming will be necessary if your resume is longer than two pages of A4. You don’t need to provide full details of every job you’ve had going back decades – just short summaries will do. All education before undergraduate level, and the less significant or recent roles, can be cut altogether. (Does your employer need to know about a two-month gig in a different industry in the eighties?)
8. Too short
At the same time, of course, a resume really should cover at least an A4 page…even for somebody just starting their career. Any less than that, and the recruiter will feel they really don’t know you at all.
Avoid the temptation to pad the document out with double spacing or large font or margins but instead focus on making the content go as far as possible without relying on filler.
If you’ve just left high school, consider how the skills and experience you developed will help you in the workplace. You might also include a personal statement – though it’s often discouraged at a higher level – as it’s not yet clear to employers what you want out of a career. This should help clarify your worth to an employer.
Author: Liam Coleman is Co-Founder and Joint Managing Director with online recruitment agency Blue Octopus Recruitment in Leeds, UK.