What you omit from your resume can be just as important as what you include. Here are seven things to leave off:
- Your photo. Seriously. Stop. It's unprofessional and makes you look naive. Interestingly, more men do this than women. What is this about? (If anyone knows, please tell me. It freaks me out.)
- Subjective descriptions. Your resume is for experience and accomplishments only. It's not the place for subjective traits, like "great leadership skills" or "creative innovator." I ignore anything subjective that an applicant writes about herself, because so many people's self-assessments are wildly inaccurate and I don't yet know enough about the candidate to have any idea if hers is reliable or not.
- The objective statement you clearly wrote for a different company. In fact, leave an objective off altogether. I've never seen one that made a candidate more appealing, and often they're so unrelated to the job being applied for that they cause harm.
- A third page. If you're in your twenties, your resume should only be one page--there's not enough experience to justify a second one. If you're older, two pages are fine, but you go over that limit at your own peril. Hiring managers may be spending only 20 or 30 seconds on your application initially, so extra pages are either ignored or they dilute the impact of the others. Yes, you have much impressive experience, but the resume is for highlights. Cut that thing in half. Speaking of which ...
- Two versions of your resume. You have to pick just one. I understand that you're torn between the chronological version and the functional version (hint: pick the chronological), but (a) I'm not reading both, and (b) this is a time when you want to demonstrate the ability to make decisions.
- Your abilities to type and to use Word. It's assumed you can do both of these things.
- Extra documentation. Unless the company has specifically asked for something other than a cover letter and resume, don't send it. Sometimes candidates include unsolicited writing samples, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and so forth. In most cases, sending these extras without being asked won't help you, and in some cases it can actually hurt. For instance, when a candidate attaches an unsolicited 20-page writing sample, it looks naive and makes me think she doesn't understand the hiring process.
Alison Green is chief of staff for a medium-sized nonprofit where she oversees day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. She is working with the Management Center to coauthor a book on nonprofit management. Her writings have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Maxim, and dozens of other newspapers. She blogs at Ask a Manager.