When you made the first version of your resume, you probably aligned it with the advice of whoever was helping you at the time: your college professor, your parents, a friend, or the wisdom of the internet. As norms for job seekers have changed throughout the years, most of our resumes haven’t kept pace as we’ve been preoccupied with actually living life and not keeping up with resume trends. You might have tweaked your resume here and there, but it’s likely that you’re still carrying around extra information and details that you don’t need anymore.
If it’s been a while since you last updated your resume, there are probably at least a few things you can afford to remove to free up space, keep the focus on what makes you awesome, and avoid bias.
Details to delete from your resume
Your home address
Including your home address on our resumes is a relic of when companies used to reject applicants via physical mail and needed to know where to send the letter. At this point, getting rejected via snail mail is pretty rare, so there’s no need to include your full street address in your resume anymore. It’s also just generally good practice to not attach your home address to documents that you’re submitting frequently through online portals.
Instead of adding your full address, just write down the nearest city or metro area — something like New York, NY or Dallas-Forth Worth, TX. If you’re applying for remote jobs, your location typically won’t matter that much beyond what state you’re in for tax purposes, and if you’re going for in-person or hybrid roles the main consideration is your commute from your area (versus from your literal front door).
Things like being a strong communicator or working well in a team are great qualities, but most of the time someone reading your resume will assume you have these qualities. The space on your resume is better spent highlighting hard skills like the technology you know how to use: Salesforce, Python, or Greenhouse are all skills that are usually material to a job, and you can clearly point to your mastery. Anyone can claim they’re “very organised.”
Specifically calling out soft skills can sometimes even backfire if you’re dealing with a particularly tough resume reviewer who might wonder if you don’t have more relevant skills to highlight. I tend to think of it as if someone told you they’re a great kisser — sure, they might be, but it’s kind of weird they would even say that.
If you’re not already familiar, skill dots are usually 5-10 little dots (or sometimes coloured in bars) people use to signify how good they are at a given skill. I read a lot of resumes with skill dots, ostensibly put there to show me what you’re really amazing at and what you’re not-so-good at. I have a desperate vendetta against skill dots.
When using a dot system to signify how skilled you are at something, it’s unclear as an outsider what separates two dots from three. Maybe you’re four dots good at Microsoft Excel, but only three dots good at Google Slides, but as a stranger reading a resume, I don’t know what the difference means and only invites me to wonder why you aren’t five dots good. Using such visual cues also naturally draws the eye to the things you’re not good at, instead of focusing on the good.
If you’re good enough at a skill to include it on your resume, leave it at that and don’t caveat it with an arbitrary series of dots or bars. Likewise, if you really don’t feel confident in a skill, it’s better to leave it off and be honest about the things you still have to learn.
The types of computers you’ve used
At this point, it’s assumed that you can operate on a Mac or a PC, so there’s no need to call it out on your resume. Back when computers were new, this was a much more relevant skill to call out, but at this point it’s akin to just saying you’ve used a computer before. If you’re applying for a technical or IT job, it becomes more important, but if you’re an average computer user then you don’t need to waste space on it.
Your age, race, or religion
It’s illegal for an interviewer to ask questions about your age, race, or ethnicity, or religion, so don’t volunteer that information. People are barred from asking those questions based on the propensity for bias, ageism, and racism — all the things that can sway a hiring decision away from focusing on the actual skills needed. Most hiring processes take steps to eliminate bias wherever possible, so we want to do the same when it comes to your resume.
Let these details come up naturally if you choose to share them, but don’t risk someone passing over your resume just because of an assumption about your religious affiliation or your ethnicity.
While I understand the impulse to include your photo on your resume, upload that great photo to LinkedIn or Instagram instead. For one thing, trying to integrate a photo into a document almost always poses formatting issues, and your photo ends up taking up lots more space than it deserves, or so small that it’s barely worth including anyway. On top of that, the majority of photos tend to make a recruiter feel OK at best and uncomfortable at worst. Let your interviewer focus on your achievements, not your bone structure.
Including your photo can also open you up to bias for the same reasons you shouldn’t include your race, age, or religion. People make snap decisions based on the way another person looks, often without even realising it, and we don’t want that to get in the way of someone being able to focus on your accomplishments.
Unless you just graduated from university, your GPA is not relevant to anyone looking to hire you (unless maybe it’s a university). When people have no professional experience, we lean on the GPA to try to draw conclusions about what kind of worker they might be. But once you’ve had at least one job outside of school, that’s much more valuable than your grades in school.
If your GPA wasn’t amazing, including it can also backfire and give someone an excuse to reject you based on less-than-stellar grades — even if your grades aren’t material to the job. It doesn’t take up much space, but still, it’s best to err on the side of removing it once you’ve landed your first job.
The classes you took in college or high school
Similar to the situation with your GPA, classes are only useful if you don’t have any other professional experience to speak of (and even then, you should focus more on projects or recognitions versus just noting that you attended a class). You can always bring up particularly interesting classes during your interview, but you don’t need to spend time listing them out on your resume.
Clubs or study abroad semesters from high school or college
Your study abroad semester in Spain is cool, but once you’ve been out of college for a year or two it doesn’t need to appear on your resume anymore. If you had job or internship during that period, you can definitely still include that, but list the job under your work experience instead of listing the semester with your education section. If you, like me, were mostly getting drunk and being annoying while studying abroad, you can remove this from your resume since it’s not adding much to your relevant professional experiences. You can always bring up your time abroad to add texture during an interview, but you don’t need to take up space on your resume by writing it down.
One caveat: if you participated in Greek life and want to keep your sorority or fraternity listed on your resume, feel free. Since Greek life is so widespread and people build close associations with their sorority or fraternity, you might catch the attention of a fellow member if they’re reading your resume. That said, only keep this if you have room to spare on your resume. If you’re deciding between listing your sorority or recognition you earned in a job, pick the recognition.
Any details from high school
Whether or not you attended college, people will typically assume you completed high school, and there’s no need to include it on your resume. Even if you didn’t complete high school, take advantage of the assumption. It’s a better use of space to highlight your college education or professional experience rather than noting where you went to high school. Especially if you’ve had a few jobs under your belt, your high school experience is pretty much irrelevant to the skills you possess today.
The year you started high school or college
Even if you’re fresh out of college, the only detail that’s relevant for someone reviewing your resume is what year you graduated. Whether it took you four years or six years to get your diploma, what matters is that you graduated, so remove the details about exactly when you started your education. If you’re currently pursuing a degree, put the year you expect to graduate — even if that ends up changing as time goes on, no one reading your resume is going to be tracking things that closely.
We can also apply the same principle if you transferred schools in the middle of your studies. Instead of listing both schools and the years you attended, you can reduce down to just the school you got your degree from. Similar to other things on this list, you can always mention a transfer or an extended timeline during an interview, but you don’t need to feature it on your resume.
Many companies will check references as part of your interview process, but almost none of them check references immediately. While it’s nice to know you’ll be able to supply references, this is another one of those things where most people will just assume that you can supply references later and don’t need it confirmed on your resume. If you still have “References available upon request” written on your resume, you can cut that too. Keep those references handy, but save them for when your recruiter actually asks for them.
Anything explicitly negative about your previous employer
It’s OK to note that you were laid off or that the culture at your past company wasn’t a fit for you, but avoid smack talk about your previous employer — especially on your resume. I’ve seen resumes that noted all the bad things a former company did to someone or called out their former leadership team for being evil people, and while it’s certainly possible these things are true, it’s still not a great first impression. Focus on you and your accomplishments, and don’t waste space or energy talking about why your last company sucked (even if it did).
Non-work related social media
Unless you would be excited about a potential employer looking at your social media, leave it off. If you have a portfolio or a personal website, those are totally reasonable and relevant things to keep linked on your resume so a reader can dig deeper into your work if they choose. LinkedIn is another common profile to link since you usually explicitly set it up as a professional profile, and you might even use your Twitter or Instagram for work if you’re a writer or a photographer. But if you mostly use your social media for dog pics and memes, it’s probably best to leave it off your resume. This is especially true if you haven’t used your social media in a while or if your profile is private. Most resume readers will believe you’re a real person without needing to see the Twitter profile you haven’t used since 2011.
How much you can bench press
While I’m sure you worked really hard to PR, it doesn’t belong on your resume. Yes, I have read resumes that included how much they could bench, and no, it wasn’t even that much weight. It’s up to you whether you want to include an “Interests” section on your resume listing the non-work stuff you like to do, but if you do include it, it’s best to keep things general and brief so your resume remains focused on what makes you an awesome candidate and not the specifics of your hobbies.