We don’t need to tell you that the internship or job hunt is scary. And with so many qualified collegiettes (and collegents) applying for the same positions, you’ll want to include as much information in your resume as possible to make you stand out from the crowd… right? Not so fast—not everything should be on your resume! In fact, some information could actually hurt your chances, not help them. Get ahead of the curve; check out HC’s tips on what NOT to include on your resume and you’ll get that call back for an interview in no time.
Everything you’ve ever done, ever.
We know, we know—you worked so hard nannying that one summer, and you were employee of the month at your local grocery store two months in a row. But if you’re applying for an entry-level marketing position, the hiring manager doesn’t need to know all of that. “Do not add other jobs just to fill the page; go for related experiences,” says Carol Spector, director of career services at Emerson College. Tailor your resume for each internship or job you apply to so that only experience relevant to that position is listed—a resume from a college student or recent grad should never be longer than one page. Although it’s tempting to include every part-time job you’ve ever held, every award you’ve ever gotten, and every club you’ve ever been a part of, put only the highlights of your experience on your resume. After all, as Christy Walker, assistant director of University Career Services at UNC-Chapel Hill, points out, you’ll want to have something left to talk about at an interview! “The resume is only supposed to be… something to entice the person’s interest so that they can interview you and find out more,” she says.
After you’ve decided what experience is relevant to the position you’re applying for, make sure your descriptions are concise. Use bulletpoints rather than paragraphs to describe your experience. Tom Dezell, a certified professional resume writer and author of the book Networking for the Novice, Nervous, or Naïve Job Seeker, advises: “Don’t make your résumé too long by listing the full details from all of these jobs that have no bearing on the skills required for jobs or internships. Most employers would view a multi-page résumé from a college student or grad as filled with fluff.” Dezell says that a concise one-page resume will be much more impressive than a two-page resume full of descriptions that may not be relevant. “What will help you is to focus what you list for these jobs on skills learned at these positions that MAY be relevant to a particular job. This shows the employer you’ve done some research on what a particular job requires, and doing so will make a positive impression,” he says.
Things you did in high school.
If you’re a freshman or sophomore in college, you can still get away with including experience you had in high school on your resume. However, make sure that the high school experience you include is worthwhile. “(Being the) editor of (your) high school newspaper is worth listing. Smaller membership in (a) club—not so much,” Spector says. If you’re a freshman or sophomore who received a prestigious award or accolade in high school, such as being a national merit scholar, you can still put those awards on your resume (however, Walker advises against listing SAT scores, even if they were high).
On the other hand, Walker says for juniors, seniors, and recent grads, if “you have things that you’ve done in high school, it’s time to let that go.” While you may have received impressive awards or accolades in high school, employers want to see what experience you’ve gained in college instead. If you’re a senior whose most important item on her resume is her high school student council position, your resume won’t impress employers. But if you’re an upperclassman whose college experience isn’t chock full of internships and job experience, don’t worry—and don’t fall back on those high school experiences. “Instead of putting high school activities, I would put a relevant coursework section,” Walker says. “You can elaborate more on the projects that you’ve done in classes, and that can kind of help pick up the slack a bit.”
Non-action verbs and personal pronouns.
You were the most hardworking, active worker at your past internships and jobs (right?), so use language that shows that! “You don’t want to say ‘I did this’ or ‘responsible for this and this and this,’” advises Walker. Instead, use action verbs like “managed” and “led”—it’s surprising how big of an impact a little diction change can have on your resume. Also, “you’ll always want to get rid of any kind of personal pronouns,” Walker adds. “‘I was in charge of doing such and such and such,’ ‘in our department we did blah blah blah’—you don’t want to use that.” For example, instead of saying “I was in charge of running the company’s Twitter account,” say “Managed the company’s Twitter account”—the action verb will give your sentence more oomph.
It sounds obvious, but always make sure that your resume is free of typos and grammatical errors. And don’t trust your word processor’s spellchecker—have a friend or career counselor read over your resume to look out for typos that Word might not have found, such as “form” instead of “from,” and the scientific term “activites” instead of “activities.” And with just an “L” missing, your major in public policy can instantly be transformed into something you’d never want a future employer to see (unless you want to be a gynecologist).
“But I really do have good communication skills!” Of course you do, but instead of listing general statements like “good communication skills” or “good organizational skills” under your “Skills” section, write in your “Experience” section what exactly you did that shows the employer you have those skills. Walker says writing general statements is “kind of putting in your resume: ‘I’m awesome.’ Well, show me how you’re awesome. Show me what you did that makes you so awesome. If you can demonstrate how you show that you have good communication skills or good organizational skills within the body of the resume, you don’t have to put that.” A concise list of tasks at your former job or internship that shows how you were organized is a lot more impressive than just saying “I’m organized.”
The same idea goes for the “Objective” section of your resume, if you choose to use one. Dezell says having an objective on your resume is optional, but can be helpful if used effectively. “‘Seeking an entry-level opportunity in the Accounting Field’ is perfect for a newly degreed accounting major. But don’t make a general statement like ‘Seeking an interesting position with a growing company.’ Show me someone who isn’t?” he says.
Photos or personal information.
Girl, that’s for Facebook—NOT your resume. Don’t include a photo if you’re applying for a job in the United States. “(Your) resume is a summary of what you have done and not what you look like,” Spector says. “(It) might be used subjectively before they even meet you.” However, photos are often used in resumes in Europe, so if you’re applying to a job overseas, you may want to include one.
Don’t include other personal information aside from your contact information, either; as Spector points out, employers could make assumptions about you based on the information you include. Dezell agrees: “The only time to list hobbies or interests would be if one had a direct correlation with a job applied to.” For example, Dezell says that if you are applying for a job with a sports apparel company such as Under Armour, “indicating a hobby in sports would be helpful on a resume to them. Similarly, if trying to break into performing arts, you would include that you love participating in community theater.”
Information that was already on the job application.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, your goal should be to make your resume as concise as possible, so don’t be repetitive by using information the employer will already have. If there was a separate application for the position, there’s “no need to include reason(s) for leaving jobs, full addresses, supervisor names and salary information. Employers can get this from you on the application,” Dezell says.
Potentially negative information.
It sounds obvious, but don’t offer any information to an employer that could make you look bad. We definitely don’t advise lying—or lying by omission—but if there’s something optional for a resume and including that information would hurt you, don’t include it. Dezell says that listing your GPA is usually optional, so if yours isn’t exactly stellar, don’t put it on your resume unless the employer asks for it. “In the same vein, even though many students take longer than four years to complete degrees, avoid including dates that reflect this, like high school graduation dates. Once you have a degree, you don’t need high school and its graduation date,” he advises.
Crazy formatting and graphics.
It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when everyone and their mother has a black-and-white resume in 12-point Times New Roman font, but trust us—simpler is better when it comes to resume formatting. “Many resumes will be processed by Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) programs. Excessive formatting like borders and graphics can be a problem for ATS, so keep the formatting simple and basic,” Dezell says. Even though your resume design may look beautiful and innovative on your computer, it could end up looking like a hot mess after it has been processed.
When it comes to resumes, less is often more—less fluff, less creative formatting, and no irrelevant experience. Be concise with your resume, avoid the mistakes above, and go shopping for some professional clothes—soon enough you’ll have an interview to prepare for!