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What to Include in a Resume: 6 Things to Remove Right Away

Hiring managers and recruiters are very busy people.

CareerBuilder estimates companies receive 75 resumes for every open position. For companies with more than 100 openings every year, this equals close to a thousand resumes. Common sense tells us it’s impossible for recruiters to read every single page they receive. Actually, human resources officers only give resumes a six-second glance before deciding if your resume has potential.

When facing a six-second crunch, it’s important to remove information that will distract the hiring manager and hide your true qualifications. But how do you decide what to include in a resume or delete? This dilemma plagues every job seeker. They want to give the entire story, failing to understand that this hurts rather than helps.  

No worries, knowing what to include in a resume is not as hard as it seems. First step is to admit that your resume has a problem and needs to be corrected. Once you are ready to remove some outdated, mundane or irrelevant information from your resume, it is easier to find what fits and what fails. Here are six items to remove from your resume right away.

1. Career summaries are the new objective statements.

Objective statements were once the king of resume formats. Professional resume writers gave them the pink slip and replaced them with a new candidate – career summaries. Hiring managers cringe at bland statements telling them what you want. Of course you want the job. Why else would you apply? Career summaries provide a more condensed introduction to skills, experience and key areas of competence.

If your introduction reads like a date advertisement – “Eligible Executive Assistant seeks position with strong company” – you are in trouble. Remove these lines and replace it with:

Innovative, detail-oriented Executive Assistant with 15+ years of experience helping C-Level leaders optimize their schedules, maintain professional office appeal and restructuring team contribution to improve overall administrative functions. Proven team leader with expertise maintaining executive administrative staff of 10 and coordinating cross-functional teams. Collaborative communicator focused on building cohesive relationships with team members and clients.

2. Pick an appropriate email address.

This is not college anymore. You may think “smarty_girl405@hotmail.com” is clever. Trust us; your potential employers will not find it as amusing. The same is true for family accounts. “SmithFamily2013@gmail.com” is not professional; save it for personal communication. Create a custom email address for your professional life and job search. The best usernames mimic your own name or initials.

Choosing the best provider is just as important. Using domains (@) ending with aol.com, hotmail.com or other 1990s service providers come across as dated. The hiring manager may assume you are older or unwilling to adjust to current technology. Sign up for a Gmail account. These are professional, safe and free to create and use.

3. Leave the personal details out.

Telling the hiring manager more about yourself is a good thing. But moderation is the key to success. Resumes are not the place for personal details, unless they are crucial to your career. For example, lawyers looking for a career with the major law firm shouldn’t list racquetball and watersports as hobbies. On the other hand, showing your athletic engagement is a plus if you’re applying for a job with a school’s athletic department. If you’re not sure what to include or leave out, go with the safer option – leave all personal information out of the resume.

On a side note, certain identifiers should never be included on a resume, regardless of position or industry. There’s no need to include social security number, marital status, nationality or spiritual beliefs. Employers cannot legally ask questions about these topics. Also remove street addresses, headshots, birthdates and driver’s license information.

Editor’s Note: If you are applying for an international job, these rules change. Different countries have laws allowing personal questions. It is not uncommon for European resumes to require personal details.

4. Save your references for later.

As with the objective statement, attaching references to your resume is a thing of the past. Unless the company requests your references, remove them from the resume and save as a separate document. There are two reasons for this. Hiring managers don’t have time to research references during the first few phases. They wait until the last two stages to call your previous employers. Listing reference contacts only gives the recruiter one more thing to read and another reason to throw your resume in the trash.

5. Correct formatting and ATS issues.

Most large corporations forego human eyes for a more sophisticated approach. They use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to weed out undesirable and under qualified applicants. While these platforms save valuable time and resources, they come with a few flaws. Resume design variances is one of the most common reasons for rejection. ATS systems are unable to read special fonts, colors, program specific headers and footers, tables and other design elements. The best format for ATS systems is Rich Text Format (.rtf). Most word processing software has the ability to save documents in this format. Other areas to optimize include:

  • Removing tables and graphs
  • Using standard fonts (Times New Roman, Calibri and Cambria)
  • Creating your own headers
  • Removing colors and clipart
  • Deleting images and photos

6. Delete unrelated and outdated information.

Unrelated and outdated information is a distraction to human eyes and may be rejected by computers as well. Compare our resume to the actual job posting. Look for key identifiers and keywords in the requirements and qualifications section. These are the areas you should focus on. Remove any information that does not correlate with the description. One easy way to do this is deleting all hard skills not listed in the job ad. Ask yourself “Would the hiring manager find this information valuable or say ‘Big deal’?”

Outdated information is just as dangerous. Recruiters are interested in your most recent experience and abilities. They also look for ways it ties into their position. Remove all pre-college employment and routine jobs (cashier, stocker, etc.). If you are a recent college graduate (within five years), leave your internships and college employment directly related to the position. Information older than ten years also should be removed. Limit your resume to the last ten years, as it relates to the job.

Keep your resume updated.

It’s no fun sifting through more than twenty years of experience of downsizing a 10-page resume to a more manageable two pages. Take proactive steps to keep your resume updated on a regular basis. Each time you attend training classes or seminars, add it to your base resume. Or keep a list of ongoing professional development. Did you move up in the world? Add your promotion or new position early. Remove the last item on the list when you add a new one. Now that you know what to include in a resume, and what to leave out, pick a date each year to review your resume. Add it to your calendar. Taking early steps to keep your resume clean and fresh prevents missed opportunities and stressful nights preparing for the job search.

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TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!