What NOT to Put on Your Resume

By Scot Feldmeyer – BarryStaff of Cincinnati 12/13/2011

Here at BarryStaff we see a lot of resumes. Since most people are not professional job seekers they are also not professional resume writers. So many of the resumes we see need a little help, reorganization, or “tweaking.” But every now and then we see a resume that goes into our file of very special resumes. This is the file that makes us smile when we need a lift. It’s the file of resumes that are so bad that they are unintentionally hysterical. So with those resumes in mind, let me offer this list of things that should NOT be on your resume.

1. A Picture of Yourself
You may be an incredibly good-looking person. In fact, your looks may have helped to land you jobs while you were in high school. But really, they have no place in a professional resume. My favorite was the resume we received with the guy’s picture of himself on the front page. He was wistfully looking out a window while shirtless but still flaunting a collection of gold chains that would have humbled Mr. T. We agreed that his beard was also pretty patchy and he should have shaved before posing for his resume headshot. Please, just give us the pertinent information unless you are applying for a modeling job.

2. Exaggerations (Lies)
It’s not at all unusual to spice up a resume with some statements that make you sound a little more important at some job than you really were. But saying you worked someplace that you didn’t or that you held a title that you never did could backfire on you once you are in the interview process or if someone actually calls and checks (which we regularly do at Barrystaff). We recently had an applicant tell us that he had worked at a place for 4 ½ years. We called them to verify his employment and they told us that he was off by about 4 years. He had worked for them for six month and it was 4 years ago. Once we find out that you’ve lied to us, you get on our DO NOT USE list for all time. The same holds true for making up college degrees and educational credentials.

3. Personal Details About Your Life
We once received a resume from a Mechanical Engineer who had an impressive background but then at the end of his resume he added a half a page of information on his favorite books, favorite TV shows, his hobbies, charities that he supported, his married life, his kids and their soccer teams, etc. It was all stuff that had nothing to do with his ability to do the job. The danger with this stuff is that you might turn off the employer with some little nugget from your personal life. You may be all about rooting for the Cleveland Browns in your spare time but if the hiring manager is a Steelers fan, you just shot yourself in the foot by putting that information on your resume.

4. Jobs you had as a kid
Okay, maybe you did get promoted to Assistant Manager of the DQ when you worked there part time after class in college. But unless you are applying for another job in food service now, leave it off your resume. Those first jobs did teach us responsibility and how to count change but most of them were not positions aimed at helping to launch a career. It was just a way to earn date and gas money while in school. The one exception for this rule is if you are right out of school and just entering the workforce. Then it helps to show that you do know how to drag yourself out of bed and get to a job on a regular basis.

5. Confidential Stuff
If you previously worked for a company and had access to “confidential” information, keep it confidential. It has no business on your resume. Giving the names of key customers, or inside information shows that you can‘t be trusted and it could not only get your resume tossed in the garbage but get you into legal trouble with your past employer.

6. An Objective
The “objective” statement at the top of a resume is a waste of paper, ink, and time. Your resume is sales tool to sell yourself to an employer. Your “objective” is a statement of what you are trying to do, which is GET A JOB. Who cares? Hiring Managers really aren’t interested in what you want. They want to know what you can do for them. Instead of an objective at the start of your resume, give a summary of who you are and what you can do. Have it be the commercial that entices them to read the rest of the resume. And use bullet points so it’s easy to read. But be careful. If you mention some skill or accomplishment in the summary, make sure they can find it in more detail in the body of the resume.

7. Too Much Detail
I read, or rather I saw, a resume the other day that was 6 pages long. Of course I didn’t read the whole thing. Who would? It went on and on about everything this person had done since kindergarten including playing second chair flute in the junior high band. Nobody wants to read your autobiography under the guise of a resume. Make it easy for some tired and busy HR person to skip through and glean the highlights. And use bullet points! Keep the sentences and paragraphs short!

8. Don’t Oversell
We all like to try and put ourselves in a favorable light when writing a resume, but don’t oversell yourself. You might like to say that you were a superstar at your last job, but describing yourself as key management in your first year out of school seems a little pretentious. Most good resumes show a line of progression with early jobs having entry-level duties and accomplishments and then a steady increase in titles and responsibilities. Keep it real.

9. Keep it Positive
Here is an actual excerpt from a resume we received.
“At that position there was a lull in the work and my supervisor was off shooting the bull with another employee and had not directed me what to do next. So I sat down and unfortunately fell asleep. Then he had the guts to fire me when it was all his fault.”
First, it’s never good to bad-mouth a past employer. Second, it’s an even worse idea to point out your own flaws or mistakes in your resume. Your resume should just be about your good side and the positive things you have done. If it comes up later in an interview, go ahead and explain why you were released but don’t let your negative resume derail your chances to get that interview.

10. I, Me, and We
Resumes are not letters to your mom. A resume is a written description of your abilities and achievements for an employer to consider. You should never write a resume in the first person. Saying, “Well first I did this and then I did that,” is a conversational way to write an informal communication or letter. It’s fine for your cover letter but is out of place on a formal resume. Instead start sentences with powerful words like, demonstrated, accomplished, built, managed, organized, improved, or the like. Your spelling and grammar checker on your computer might not like incomplete sentences but they are often okay on a resume. Again, use bullet points and make it easy to read.