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What do employers absolutely not want to see on a résumé? | NSA CONNECT
Harry Wardrop

Working in a recruitment agency in the Automotive industry in the UK I see a LOT of CV’s, approximately 150 a day, some are fantastic, some not so (seriously, I’ve seen a CV that was literally a paragraph which basically said ‘call me to find out my experience’, that is not the way to sell yourself at all.) So here is my take on what not to put on your CV…

Overused Buzz Words/Phrases

Whilst you should definitely put ‘key words’ into your CV (this is how recruiters find your CV on databases) try not to make it too general and cliche. Try to think of phrases that will describe your achievements, e.g. ‘Influencer’ or ‘skilled negotiator’ this will really show off your skills, and then relate it back to yourself with a real life example.

Complicated/Snazzy formatting

With an average of 250 CV’s per role and recruiters spending an average of 5-7 seconds looking at your CV, your CV needs to be clear, concise and easy to read, else you might get overlooked! (Unless you’re applying for a marketing or design role, then be as snazzy as you like!)

Irrelevant information

I love animals, but do I really need to hear about your Dog/Cat/Hamster/Goldfish/Gazelle on your CV?

The mind set to have when typing your CV is ‘will this be relevant and will the employer need to know this information?’ Tell your Gazelles life story once you’ve got the job!

A really in-depth explanation of the three jobs you had in your late teens or whilst you were at university.

So you worked in that coffee shop as a barista, a super cool bar as a, erm, member of bar staff and a clothes shop as an assistant; to make a bit of extra cash whilst studying.

Unless a recruiter has just landed on the planet from Mars, chances are they will know what these jobs will entail, you do NOT need to write paragraphs about these roles, they will take up extra space that you could use to explain more about what you are doing now and what your career aims are, just simply list them.

Paragraphs about your personal interests.

Definitely include your personal interests on your CV, it really is a great way for recruiters/employers to have a glimpse at what kind of person you are and brings out your personality across to the reader of your CV.

You may be really proud of winning that pool tournament with your pub team in your twenties and being the youngest person to ever win the village water polo championship whilst wearing a full suit of armour, however, chances are, a recruiter and employer are not that interested at the CV stage, save that for the interview or the office water cooler!

It’s important to always go back to the basics when writing a resume and keep in mind what a resume is for. From a job seeker’s perspective, its main purpose is to present a candidate’s qualifications in the most persuasive way possible in order to land a job interview. From an employer’s perspective, it’s to screen the best candidates for the opening.

So, what do employers absolutely don’t want to see? Anything that doesn’t help them towards that goal or that complicates the process, such as:

  • Irrelevant information. You should have enough judgment to decide what to include on your resume so that you don’t put forward irrelevant information. It’s just a waste of time for a recruiter to read things he doesn’t need to know. Tailoring your resume to each position is important.
  • If you’re an experienced or mature job seeker, you can omit dates beyond the last 20 years, unless you have a good reason for including them. Again, it’s about keeping your resume relevant, “fresh”, and not exhaustive.
  • Vague language. Be precise when you write. Words that don’t mean anything because they are so vague are not worth much.
  • High school diploma or unfinished degrees. Unless you have a good reason to do so, you don’t have to include any pre-college education or unfinished programs.
  • Your photo. In North America, you should not include your photo (although people can still check you out on LinkedIn — and if you happen to be on LinkedIn, make sure to have a professional photo).
  • Your hobbies, unless they are somehow relevant to the position you’re seeking.
  • Unclear sentences. Your resume should be easy to read the first time. If someone has to read a sentence twice (or more), that’s not clear enough. Keep your sentences short and to the point.
  • Bad grammar. This is a given, but still too prevalent.
  • Lies. It’s one thing to sell yourself. It’s another to lie outright.
  • References. It’s just not necessary at this stage. Regardless, before you give someone’s name, you should give them heads up. Here’s a good article on this: Good and Bad Practices When Asking Someone for a Reference.
  • Bad resume layout or structure. It’s important to have a good resume layout. Your resume layout doesn’t need to be fancy. It can be very simple. The key is consistency, clarity and focus, so that the layout shines light on key aspects of your candidacy. Regarding structure, make sure to put the important information at the top of your resume.
  • Not paying attention to details. Yes, they may be “details” but damn do they matter.

A study by job-matching service TheLadders revealed that recruiters spend just six seconds reviewing a resume before deciding whether or not a candidate is a good fit for the job they are trying to fill. Ans what to do they look at during those brief six seconds?

It turns out that 80 percent of that time–or an even briefer 4.8 seconds–is spent on these particular data points: name, current title/company, previous title/company, previous position start and end dates, current position start and end dates, and education.

Many companies use applicant tracking software to make the initial selection and they do that in a split second! So, what are they looking for and what should you avoid mentioning? You have to try and get inside the typical recruiter’s mindset, which will reflect what is in the job description. If you can do that, you can enormously improve your resume. Here are some things that will guarantee your resume ends up in the trash:

  • HISTORY:- Many applicants want to present a comprehensive resume and include all sorts of irrelevant information. For example, you might include summer jobs which are of no real interest to the recruiting manager. The solution is to include information about experience and skills which are closely related to the job you are seeking. If the company is looking for someone with marketing skills, the manager will be looking for lots of relevant examples and successes in your marketing. If these are not prominent, then your resume is headed for the bin.
  • Pictures:- Generally, the photo on the resume is superfluous. Also, the hiring manager does not want to be influenced by gender issues. Why should she waste one second of those precious six viewing your stunning beauty? As we live in such a visual age, your photo is going to pop up sooner or later, for example on your LinkedIn page. The best thing to do is to make sure that your page does actually have your photograph!
  • Vague objective:- Writing about your rather vague objective of gaining more skills and experience is a real turn off for the hiring manager. A classic one which cuts no ice at all is, “Seeking a challenging position that offers professional growth.” Focus instead on this job. Concentrate on listing your experience and skills which will help you to land the job. Read the job description again and again to make sure you have matched up the requirements with what you have to offer.
  • Irrelevant personal details:- Let us suppose that your church and sporting activities are not applicable to the job you are seeking. If that is the case, they are superfluous and should not be on your resume. The same goes for marital status and other personal details. Most of these are, in fact, illegal for a hiring manager to ask during an interview. So why include them in the first place? If, on the other hand, you were managing public relations for a charity in your spare time and are applying for a job with a similar profile, then by all means, mention this.
  • Gap in your resume:- As many people have already talked about this. Courses, lay offs or even getting fired can result in a gap in your resume. Maybe you went freelance for a while? Employers and managers are familiar with this and there is no problem with a gap. When you are not prepared to explain the gaps or put a positive spin on them, then there may be an issue. If the courses or freelance jobs improved your skills in certain areas, then by all means include them and relate them to the skills required for this new position.
  • Fancy fonts or creative formats:- Did you know that many tracking systems strip out all the fancy stuff and the actual viewing format a manager sees is in plain text? This means that, in many cases, your creative talents will go unnoticed and are a waste of time. If the manager is actually reading the hard copy or attachment, then creative formats may be a distraction and a hindrance. The solution is to keep it simple, clear and concise. I have seen many people with different fonts in the same resume, colorful and stylish monotype corsiva, we are not here to know about your knowledge of beautification, until unless your job profile is based on some creativity.
  • Resumes written in the first person:- Yes, they know it is YOU who is applying so there is no need to overuse the word ‘I’. Most applicants start with ’Responsible for’ which is another way of saying ‘I was responsible for’. The best approach is to make it much more action oriented and start the sentence with ‘Managed…’ ‘Co-ordinated…’, ‘Designed….’, Cut costs….’ Resolved issues……’ and ‘Led a team of 10…..’.
  • References:- Did you know that 99% of applicants write a line stating, “References are available on request”? This is a waste of a line because space is precious when you have to keep your resume to a maximum of two pages. A much better idea is to leave that out and have a list of reference names ready, should you be asked for them at the interview. Make sure that you have already contacted them so that they are ready to give you a reference, if requested.
  • One-size-fits-all resume:-You apply for lots of jobs and you always send the same resume. This is a grave error because each job is different requiring particular skill sets, experience and so on. Remember that each recruiter is looking for a resume that matches their company profile and the skill set for a particular position. A one size fits all resume can never do that.
  • Interests section:- Companies doesn’t focus on interest or hobbies, still we are including in our resume, because we all are following the old trend or lamb walk.

At I Got Hired we go one step further than a ‘No Lying’ rule – one of our key rules that applies from start to finish in the job hunters process is;

‘Don’t Speak With Authority About Things You Know Little About’

Now, this is where most people fall over.

The majority of us have some sort of a ‘moral compass’, and therefore most of us know that lying is just wrong. However, ‘exaggerating’,’embellishing’, ‘pushing the boundaries a bit’ – that’s kinda fair game isn’t it? That’s what people do in Resumes and Interviews isn’t? ….. No harm in that surely.

Apparently more than half of us think like that!

My favourite study found that 60% of people can’t even get through a 10-minute conversation without embellishing the truth in some way.

Those conversations were at the University of Massachusetts and took place between people meeting for the first time, who’d been told to get the other person to like them or see them as competent.

Sounds like an interview to me!

But be warned, both with resumes and interviews, it is highly likely that your words are being read, or heard, by an expert; and an expert who is likely to have been trained to spot the BS.

Sooner or later your resume will be read by someone who knows more about your specialist subject than you. If you are lucky, they are going to be called ‘your boss’ in the not too distant future, and they know what they are talking about.

Once they spot your little exaggeration, or suspect that you are embellishing your skills or experience, everything else on your resume counts for nothing and you will find your self filed in that little round filing cabinet in the corner of their room before you know it.

Yes, of course, focus on all of the really good advise that is in the other 15 answers – get your format right, tighten up your structure, write a killer Intro Statement – BUT ALWAYS KEEP YOUR CONTENT HONEST AND ACCURATE

Don’t forget, everything else becomes somewhat irrelevant if you are caught lying.

Good Luck and Happy Job Hunting


Founder & CEO of I Got Hired

If you are in the process of writing your resume you may find my recent blog ‘How Painting By Number Can Color Your Resume’ helpful. Find it at: http://igothired.net/painting-nu…

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