On average, hiring managers get 75 résumés per position they post, according to a study from CareerBuilder.com — so they don’t have the time or resources to look at each one closely, and they typically spend about six seconds on their initial “fit/no fit” decision.
If you want to pass that test, you need to have some solid qualifications — and the perfect résumé to highlight them.
Here are 31 things you should never include on your résumé.
Vivian Giang and Natalie Walters contributed to earlier versions of this article.
1. An objective
If you applied, it’s already obvious you want the job.
The exception: If you’re in a unique situation, such as changing industries completely, it may be useful to include a brief summary.
2. Irrelevant work experiences
Yes, you might have been the “king of making milkshakes” at the restaurant you worked for in high school. But unless you are planning on redeeming that title, it is time to get rid of all that clutter.
But as Alyssa Gelbard, career expert and founder of career-consulting firm Résumé Strategists, points out: Past work experience that might not appear to be directly relevant to the job at hand might show another dimension, depth, ability, or skill that actually is relevant or applicable.
Only include this experience if it really showcases additional skills that can translate to the position you’re applying for.
3. Personal stuff
Don’t include your marital status, religious preference, or Social Security number.
This might have been the standard in the past, but all of this information is now illegal for your employer to ask from you, so there’s no need to include it.
4. Your hobbies
If it’s not relevant to the job you’re applying for, it’s a waste of space and a waste of the company’s time.
5. Blatant lies
A CareerBuilder survey asked 2,000 hiring managers for memorable résumé mistakes, and blatant lies were a popular choice. One candidate claimed to be the former CEO of the company to which he was applying, another claimed to be a Nobel Prize winner, and one more claimed he attended a college that didn’t exist.
Rosemary Haefner, chief human-resources officer at CareerBuilder, says these lies may be “misguided attempts to compensate for lacking 10o% of the qualifications specified in the job posting.”
But Haefner says candidates should concentrate on the skills they can offer, rather than the skills they can’t offer.
“Hiring managers are more forgiving than job seekers may think,” Haefner explains. “About 42% of employers surveyed said they would consider a candidate who met only three out of five key qualifications for a specific role.”
6. Your age
Another surprising way your résumé could give away your age: double spaces after a period.
7. Too much text
When you use a 0.5-inch margin and eight-point font in an effort to get everything to fit on one page, this is an “epic fail,” says J.T. O’Donnell, a career and workplace expert, founder of career-advice site Careerealism.com, and author of “Careerealism: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career.”
She recommends lots of white space and no more than a 0.8 margin.
8. Time off
If you took time off to travel or raise a family, Gelbard doesn’t recommend including that information on your résumé. “In some countries, it is acceptable to include this information, especially travel, but it is not appropriate to include that in the body of a résumé in the US.”
If your employers want to speak to your references, they’ll ask you. Also, it’s better if you have a chance to tell your references ahead of time that a future employer might be calling.
If you write “references upon request” at the bottom of your résumé, you’re merely wasting a valuable line, career coach Eli Amdur says.
10. Inconsistent formatting
She says the best format is the format that will make it easiest for the hiring manager to scan your résumé and still be able to pick out your key qualifications and career goals.
Once you pick a format, stick with it. If you write the day, month, and year for one date, then use that same format throughout the rest of the résumé.
11. Personal pronouns
Your résumé shouldn’t include the words “I,” “me,” “she,” or “my,” says Tina Nicolai, executive career coach and founder of Resume Writers’ Ink.
“Don’t write your résumé in the third or first person. It’s understood that everything on your résumé is about you and your experiences.”
12. Present tense for a past job
Never describe past work experience using the present tense. Only your current job should be written in the present tense, Gelbard says.
13. A less-than-professional email address
If you still use an old email address, like BeerLover123@gmail.com or CuteChick4life@yahoo.com, it’s time to pick a new one.
It only takes a minute or two, and it’s free.
14. Any unnecessary, obvious words
Amdur says there is no reason to put the word “phone” in front of the actual number.
“It’s pretty silly. They know it’s your phone number.” The same rule applies to email.
15. Headers, footers, tables, images, or charts
These fancy embeddings will have hiring managers thinking, “Could you not?”
While a well-formatted header and footer may look professional, and some cool tables, images, or charts may boost your credibility, they also confuse the applicant-tracking systems that companies use nowadays, Augustine tells Business Insider.
The system will react by scrambling up your résumé and spitting out a poorly formatted one that may no longer include your header or charts. Even if you were an ideal candidate for the position, now the hiring manager has no way to contact you for an interview.
16. Your current business-contact info
This is not only dangerous; it’s stupid. Do you really want employers calling you at work? How are you going to handle that? Oh, and by the way, your current employer can monitor your emails and phone calls. So if you’re not in the mood to get fired, or potentially charged with theft of services (really), then leave the business info off.
17. Your boss’ name
Don’t include your boss’ name on your résumé unless you’re OK with your potential employer contacting him or her. Even then, Gelbard says the only reason your boss’ name should be on your résumé is if the person is someone noteworthy, and if it would be really impressive.
18. Company-specific jargon
“Companies often have their own internal names for things like customized software, technologies, and processes that are only known within that organization and not by those who work outside of it,” Gelbard says. “Be sure to exclude terms on your résumé that are known only to one specific organization.”
19. Social-media URLs that are not related to the targeted position
Links to your opinionated blogs, Pinterest page, or Instagram account have no business taking up prime résumé real estate. “Candidates who tend to think their personal social media sites are valuable are putting themselves at risk of landing in the ‘no’ pile,” Nicolai says.
“But you should list relevant URLs, such as your LinkedIn page or any others that are professional and directly related to the position you are trying to acquire,” she says.
20. More than 15 years of experience
When you start including jobs from before 2000, you start to lose the hiring manager’s interest.
Your most relevant experience should be from the past 15 years, so hiring managers only need to see that, Augustine says.
On the same note, never include dates on education and certifications that are older than 15 years.
21. Salary information
“Some people include past hourly rates for jobs they held in college,” Nicolai says. This information is completely unnecessary and may send the wrong message.
Amy Hoover, president of Talent Zoo, says you also shouldn’t address your desired salary in a résumé. “This document is intended to showcase your professional experience and skills. Salary comes later in the interview process.”
22. Outdated fonts
“Don’t use Times New Roman and serif fonts, as they’re outdated and old-fashioned,” Hoover says. “Use a standard, sans-serif font like Arial.”
Also, be aware of the font size, she says. Your goal should be to make it look nice and sleek — but also easy to read.
23. Fancy fonts
Curly tailed fonts are also a turn-off, according to O’Donnell. “People try to make their résumé look classier with a fancy font, but studies show they are harder to read and the recruiter absorbs less about you.”
24. Annoying buzzwords
CareerBuilder asked 2,201 US hiring managers: “What résumé terms are the biggest turnoffs?” They cited words and phrases such as, “best of breed,” “go-getter,” “think outside the box,” “synergy,” and “people pleaser.”
Terms employers do like to see on résumés include: “achieved,” “managed,” “resolved,” and “launched” — but only if they’re used in moderation.
25. Reasons you left a company or position
Candidates often think, “If I explain why I left the position on my résumé, maybe my chances will improve.”
“Wrong,” Nicolai says. “Listing why you left is irrelevant on your résumé. It’s not the time or place to bring up transitions from one company to the next.”
Use your interview to address this.
26. Your GPA
Once you’re out of school, your grades aren’t so relevant.
If you’re a new college graduate and your GPA was a 3.8 or higher — it’s OK to leave it. But, if you’re more than three years out of school, or if your GPA was lower than a 3.8, ditch it.
27. An explanation of why you want the job
That’s what the cover letter and interviews are for!
Your résumé is not the place to start explaining why you’d be a great fit or why you want the job. Your skills and qualifications should be able to do that for you — and if they don’t, then you’re résumé is either in bad shape, or this isn’t the right job for you.
28. A photo of yourself
This may become the norm at some point in the future, but it’s just weird — and tacky and distracting — for now.
29. Opinions, not facts
Don’t try to sell yourself by using all sorts of subjective words to describe yourself, O’Donnell says. “I’m an excellent communicator” or “highly organized and motivated” are opinions of yourself and not necessarily the truth. “Recruiters want facts only. They’ll decide if you are those things after they meet you,” she says.
30. Short-term employment
Avoid including a job on your résumé if you only held the position for a short period of time, Gelbard says. You should especially avoid including jobs you were let go from or didn’t like.
31. Generic explanations of accomplishments
Don’t just say you accomplished X, Y, or Z — show it by quantifying the facts.
For instance, instead of, “Grew revenues” try, “X project resulted in an Y% increase in revenues.”