Many jobseekers tell me that they struggle with deciding on what information they should remove from their résumé and what information they should include.
I’ll try to clear up some of the confusion and focus on the top things that you should REMOVE from your résumé and what to do instead.
#1: Remove anything that does not directly align with the target position
There’s no point in including information in the résumé that isn’t at least 80% relevant to the position you are applying to.
When I say “relevant”, I mean that what you include should address the key job requirements.
This is precisely why you MUST tailor the résumé for each application which involves removing information, adding new information, and modifying information that’s already there.
And of course with every rule, there’s always the exception.
For instance, if you are a recent grad or at the beginning of your career and don’t have much applicable work experience, then it might be a good idea to include the work experience you have and then showcase transferable skills, knowledge, and accomplishments.
This would be a strategic move meaning, there would have to be good reason for it.
Adding things in your résumé that have nothing to do with the target position can actually prevent you from getting the interview which is why you want to avoid doing this.
Irrelevant information is a total turn off for the reader
Think about it for a second.
The Hiring Manager is looking for A and you’re giving them B. They are confused and annoyed as to why you’re giving them the “wrong” information which creates an immediate disconnect.
The danger is that the reader will quickly “zone out” and probably skip to your competitor’s résumé which is exactly what you don’t want to happen!
Add information that helps “connect the dots” for the reader
You have to make it EASY for the Hiring Manager to understand WHY you are a potential fit. Therefore, the information you include must matter to them by answering these two questions that are running through their head:
“How are you going to help me?”
“Why should I care that you have this or did that?”
Irrelevant content takes up too much valuable real estate
The résumé is a key career marketing document and should be reserved for important information that shows you have the desired supporting qualifications, experience, and qualities that address the target employer’s needs.
You run the risk of creating “information overload”
By leaving information in the résumé that doesn’t need to be there, the reader will get overwhelmed and reject your résumé altogether. Even if they continue reading, they will likely miss critical information that could have helped you get the interview.
Too much information (and the wrong kind) will detract from your value message
Your résumé should communicate the kind of value you can bring to the table (i.e. Unique Value Proposition) in a way that’s clear, concise, and compelling.
By keeping things in the résumé that are not directly related to the target position, they are not going to support your UVP, and the reader won’t be motivated enough to reach out to you.
What you need to do is add skills, knowledge, background, experience, personal qualities (soft skills), and key contributions that show that you have the supporting qualifications the employer is seeking and have produced specific positive outcomes that would be of interest to them.
#2: Remove anything you are too emotionally vested in for no good reason
If you’re proud of something, like an accomplishment or a specific job you held, and it’s addressing a key requirement of the target position, then it’s probably fine to keep it, provided it doesn’t push your résumé onto an additional page (less is more!).
However, I’ve had many clients who were stubborn about keeping information because they were emotionally “attached” to it and not because it was relevant to the job.
Now, I understand why it’s hard to cut out these proud moments, but if they are totally irrelevant and not supporting your value proposition, it’s usually better to keep them off the résumé for reasons I’m covering off in this article.
#3: Remove anything that could be used to discriminate against you
Let’s face it – humans can be very judgmental. Anyone looking at your résumé could interpret a piece of information in a negative way and disqualify you immediately despite the fact that you are “perfect fit” candidate.
There could be a valid concern with “cultural fit” or it could be someone making a decision based entirely on their own personal beliefs which has nothing to do with the organization’s value system.
Be careful about including anything that gives clues about your age, sexual orientation, political/religious beliefs, mental/physical disability, fitness status, ethnicity, national origin, marital status, financial situation, and even if you have kids or not.
For instance, I know of a candidate who included information about a side hustle that was perceived by the HR Manager as something that would distract him from the job in question, so he was rejected despite being a strong fit for the role.
The sad thing is, the Hiring Manager might not have had a problem with his part-time gig, but the résumé never made it past HR.
The safest thing to do is to focus entirely on your professional work experience and activities and either eliminate anything of a personal nature that could be misconstrued OR be very selective as to what you include.
#4: Remove anything that makes you look “behind the times”
Technical experience is critical in virtually every industry, so employers are typically looking for candidates who have skills that are up-to-date and not from the Paleolithic era.
If you have skills in obsolete computer software, systems, or business processes and methodologies, please remove them from your résumé. By including them, you are dating yourself and will either be perceived as too old and/or not “current”.
Even something as seemingly innocent as an AOL email address can be suspect. Use a gmail account instead.
You want to look like someone who is comfortable with technology and who also knows how to use social media. Make sure to include your Linkedin url and other social media accounts that might be appropriate for your job search.
Unless the job posting specifically asks for basic computer skills such as word processing and using an internet browser, you don’t need to include these because employers will assume that you have those competencies.
I recommend that you review the job description to determine the terminology and technology skills that you should include in your document.
#5: Remove anything that makes you look “too old”
As far as I’m concerned, “too old” is subjective. What’s “too old” to one company might not be to another. Generally speaking, it refers to workers who are 50 years and older.
Even though age shouldn’t be used as selection criteria, it will be.
Right or wrong, there is a perception that “older” workers are not comfortable with technology, are not willing to learn, are resistant to change, can’t take directions from younger workers, don’t have the energy to keep up, and other misconceptions.
Depending on the type of role, industry, and employer you are targeting, you might need to remove some dates from your résumé and not include all of your work experience.
Eliminating dates from the résumé
In order for your résumé to be properly scanned, scored, and ranked by the computer ATS, you must attach employment dates to each position that you show.
This is where you would need to decide how far back you are going to go before you start looking “old” for the target job and your résumé loses readability.
While you can’t show your work experience without showing employment dates, you could remove dates from other information such as your degree/diploma and other education and professional development or anything else that might immediately “age” you.
But here’s the thing…..
By NOT showing dates in certain sections of the résumé, you are in effect bringing attention to the fact that you could be “old” even if you are not. That being said, the reader won’t be able to make a calculation and figure it out that easily.
Once again, to remove or leave dates is a judgment call and must be done on a case-by-case basis.
#6: Remove anything that’s “ancient history”
The thing you have to keep in mind is this – the older the experience, the less impact it has on the decision to interview and hire you.
Employers tend to put more emphasis on the more recent experience which might be only the last 5 to 10 years, depending on the position.
The only reason an employer might want to see all your experience is to see career progression, route out career red flags (work gaps, job hopping, lack of progression, etc.), AND to figure out how old you are.
But the fact is, no one really wants to read 20+ years worth of someone’s experience – they don’t have time.
Which brings me to this point….
Remove really old jobs
The general rule of thumb with a résumé is to include about the last 10 to 15 years of experience. There are exceptions to the rule depending on your specific situation.
For instance, if you are targeting a very senior level leadership position that requires specific skills, knowledge and/or experience some of which you had a long time ago, you might have no choice but to go back 20 years or even more to show that you have what the employer wants.
This might be totally fine because someone who would qualify for a senior level role is a more experienced (a.k.a. “older”) worker, so you probably aren’t risking anything.
That being said, you still need to be strategic about this and include the LEAST amount of information possible while still delivering your value messaging. It’s a balancing act.
Removing old information just doesn’t apply to the jobs you held, it would apply to anything you include in your résumé, so you should be looking at all of the sections and not the employment section.
I highly recommend you retain the services of a career professional to help you with creating your résumé. Including and/or eliminating the WRONG information can get you disqualified from the running. Feel free to contact me here.
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Hi! I’m Diana.
I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.
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