Ask LH: What Should I Exclude From My Resume?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m looking for a new job, and I want to make sure my resume is shipshape. What should I leave off my resume to make sure I don’t torpedo my chances at an interview? A really old internship, or maybe that job I got fired from? What should I avoid mentioning, even if it’s relevant? Thanks, Job Seeker

Dear Job Seeker,

When it comes to your resume, less is more. But what should you skip? If you ask a dozen career counsellors what to include and what to leave off, you’ll get a dozen long-winded answers. Here are some things we think you should definitely omit if you want to get your foot in the door.

Long, Unnecessary Objective Statements

The statement of your career objectives is dead. Seriously — if you’re tweaking every copy of your resume for each job you’re applying for, then your objective should be “To get this job”, not some generic, vague statement about the type of job or opportunity you want. Remove this from your resume and use that space for more relevant details about your work experience or accomplishments that will help you land the job you’re actually applying for. Photo by marshillonline. [clear]

Every Single Job You’ve Ever Had

If you’re applying to be a systems analyst at a technology startup, the HR department doesn’t care that you were a delivery guy for Domino’s when you were in university. Keep irrelevant details and jobs off your resume — especially if they have no relevance to your entire field, much less the job at hand.

While there’s no absolute rule on how long your resume should be, try to keep it compact. You may be tired of hearing that line, but a good rule of thumb is to only include details that are important for your field, then do another pass and make sure your details are critical to the job you’re applying to. If your resume is three or four pages long (or more — I saw a resume that was 18 pages once), you need to trim it.

Long Lists Of Irrelevant “Special Skills”

Remove all of those “special skills” that everyone has and just aren’t important for your job. Things like “Microsoft Office (all ver.)” or “Windows and Mac Operating Systems” are not only assumedfor any job that requires use of a computer, they take up space you could use to make a real impact. Think in terms of what the hiring manager for your specific position wants to see. Photo by kafka4prez. [clear]

“References Available Upon Request”

Taking up a line on your resume with “references available upon request” is a waste of space. It started off as a way to imply that you had referees who were willing to talk about you, but at this point it’s just blather. If the job ad asks for referees or references, include that information. If not, leave it out.


We shouldn’t have to tell you this, but don’t lie or grossly embellish on your resume. Everyone likes to put their best foot forward, but don’t — especially if you’re depending on references from one of those old jobs — put your referees in the uncomfortable position of having to lie for you. Remember, you often won’t know who’s already working at your potential employer, and if you’re staying in the same field, chances are other staff members have worked for your current employer. In any event, you don’t want to be called out on a skill your resume says you have but that you can’t demonstrate.

Optional: Jobs You’ve Been Fired (Not Laid Off) From

This is a tricky one. Some people say you should always leave jobs where you were dismissed for some infraction or disciplinary action off your resume. At the same time, you run the risk of leaving a huge gap in your employment history on your resume which you’ll have to explain that away. You’ll have to decide which option is best in your particular case, but whichever route you choose, make sure you have a rock-solid explanation ready. We would generally suggest leaving the job on the list; if a potential employer wants to know why you left, you can just point to differences with the management or something else relatively innocuous. You won’t arouse suspicion unless you specifically tell them not to contact that company. Photo by Charlotte West.

Remember the golden rule: when looking at your resume, think like the person who is hiring and trim off anything that would be useless to them. Write like a reader, and try not to use the same resume for every single job you apply for — consider your resume a template you should tweak for each job you really want. If that sounds like a lot of work, you’d better start now. Good luck!


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