You NEVER get a second chance to make a good, first impression.
Nothing is truer than with a job search. If your résumé is like the 90%+ that cross my desk, some of the facts and content you’ve included can expose yourself to potential discrimination or at the very least, make recruiters and employers roll their eyes and immediately hit the delete button.
What you don’t include on your résumé is just as important as what you do include.
To avoid jeopardizing that critical first impression, I recommend you take some time to eliminate the most common résumé no-no’s I see on a regular basis.
Here are the 7 deadly résumé sins you need to avoid
1. Objective Statement
The traditional Objective Statement is vague and focuses almost exclusively on what the candidate wants. Saying something like “Progressive Accountant seeks a mid-level accounting position in the banking industry” is a cookie-cutter strategy that can actually hurt your job search.
Firstly, it makes you look like all you care about is what you want from the employer as opposed to what you can offer the employer. There’s a huge difference.
Secondly, an Objective Statement is considered an outmoded practice, so using one doesn’t make you look “progressive” at all.
Thirdly, just pointing out what your job function is says nothing about how you’ve contributed to positive outcomes.
Use a professional profile
What I recommend you do is replace the Objective Statement with a short paragraph that is known as a Professional Profile (among other things). This is essentially your 30 second elevator pitch that highlights the kind of value you can offer the employer.
While it’s perfectly okay to mention a specific position you are applying for in a Professional Profile, it still needs to showcase your area of expertise, key contributions, and achievements which are relevant to the position by addressing the job requirements.
2. Questionable email address
Something as seemingly innocuous as a simple email address could sabotage your job search if it comes across as being the least bit inappropriate, unprofessional, or hints at things that could be discriminating.
The solution is to come up with an email address that’s generic and dare I say, boring, as not to elicit any kind of negative response. That means, don’t give any clues about your age, sexual orientation, political/religious beliefs, health status or any other personal information that could be taken the wrong way (see #3: Personal Information below). Avoid anything that’s too cutesy, silly, or “clever” because it could backfire big time.
The best email address is a combination of your first and last name. If you need to add one or more numerals, make sure that it isn’t an obvious date or year that could be mistaken as your age, birth date, or year of graduation.
3. Personal information
You should never include any personal information that could be compromised as well as expose you to discrimination. This includes a long list of things such as your:
- Birthdate and/or age
- Physical characteristics (weight, height, etc.)
- Social insurance/social security/passport/driver’s license number
- Sexual orientation
- Religious and/or political affiliations
- Marital status and if you have children
- Health status
- Criminal record
In 99% of the cases, personal information shouldn’t be included but there might be an instance when highlighting a specific personal fact might be a strategic move, but only if it’s relevant and you’re confident it will give you an advantage over your competition.
4. Hobbies and interests
The problem with sharing your personal interests and/or hobbies is that you’re never sure how someone’s going to take it.
An employer might think that you’re, well, weird because you’re into Kundalini yoga or transcendental meditation. Or they might be concerned that you won’t focus on your job if you list numerous extra-curricular activities. Even a part-time “side hustle” can tip the scales in your favour or kill your chances depending on the situation.
Unless your interests and activities strongly complement the position you are applying for, I advise you don’t include them on your résumé and any other job search documents.
5. Job references
My advice has always been to never include your references in your résumé or cover letter. Your referees’ contact information is confidential and should be given to a potential employer only at the appropriate time which is typically close to the offer stage.
Because you have no idea which of your referees will provide the most compelling endorsement, you need to contact them before the employer does to determine who would provide the best references for each situation and then prep them so they can tailor their responses appropriately.
What you want to avoid is the referee getting called out of the blue and then being vague, not remembering important details, or coming across as being less than enthusiastic. That wouldn’t make for a good reference.
On a final note, there’s no need to put “references available upon request” on your résumé. This is stating the obvious and just wasting space.
6. Too much dense copy
Nobody has time to wade through dense blocks of copy. It’s a huge turn-off for the reader who might reject your résumé on the spot for an easier-to-skim document.
To improve readability, you need to ensure that there is plenty of white space throughout and that the information flows logically from one section to the next.
Be prepared to do a few major edits and cut out anything that isn’t necessary, using as few words as possible. Use bullet points (instead of full sentences), make sure your margins are wide enough (to allow for room to make notes when the résumé is printed out), and use fonts styles and sizes that are easy to read on a screen and on paper.
7. Buzz words, clichés, and jargon
The language you use and the content of your résumé can make or break your job search success. While you want to grab immediate attention of the employer, don’t take up valuable real estate by using words or terms that are over-used, verbose, cliché, or just plain silly. Some of the words that fall into these categories are:
- Hard-working/Hard worker
- Rock star
Relying on words like these don’t communicate your unique value. You need to find ways to express how you are “results-driven”, what makes you a “hard worker” and where you have demonstrated you are “detail-oriented” and “self-motivated”. As for “well-seasoned” or “rock star”, unless you are a steak or a musician, don’t use them. Ever.
The general rule of thumb is to “show” and not just “tell”. By focusing less on descriptors (adjectives) and more on strong action verbs, (e.g. “spearheaded”, “designed”, “eradicated”, “quadrupled”), you will paint a clearer picture of your contribution. You should also avoid using industry “jargon” which only the hiring manager might understand.
Stick to plain language, since it’s often not the hiring manager who is the first person to pre-qualify your résumé. You don’t want to have the reader not “get” your value and then reject your résumé for one they can understand.
Hi! I’m Diana.
I leverage over 10 years recruitment and sales/marketing experience to create attention-grabbing résumés, cover letters, and Linkedin profiles that help job seekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired. You can learn more about my story here and about how I can help you here.
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