What Not to Put on a Resume: Top 12 Errors (+6 Must-Have Elements to Win)
A well-structured resume is key in your job search journey—it's your initial handshake with a potential employer.
However, its effectiveness lies not only in highlighting your qualifications and achievements, but also in excluding any irrelevant or unnecessary information. Missteps in what you include can deter hiring managers, reducing your chances of landing an interview.
3 key takeaways
- What to keep off your resume
- Key elements you should include in your resume
- How Teal’s AI Resume Builder can help you craft a standout resume
1. Personal Information
Providing too much personal information can not only be irrelevant but may also open doors to potential bias. Stick to the essentials: name, professional title, phone number, email, and city or state.
Here are examples of personal details that shouldn't be on your resume:
- Full home address
- Social security number
- Marital status
- Race or ethnicity
- Date of birth
In order to keep your resume professional looking, limit your personal information to the essentials, just like the following resume header.
The spotlight on your resume and job application should be on your skills and qualifications, not your age. In fact, mentioning your age isn't only unnecessary, it can unintentionally invite biases, including age discrimination.
Instead, let your experiences and accomplishments showcase your value and potential to prospective employers. Remember, it's your capability and fit for the role that employers are interested in—not the number of years you've been around. Keep your focus there!
3. High school details
Unless you're a recent high school graduate, there's no need to include high school details on your resume. As a professional with years of experience or higher education under your belt, your high school accomplishments fade in importance. Keep your resume focused on the most relevant and recent experiences that showcase why you're the right fit for the job.
You might have heard the phrase "References available upon request" and considered it a must-have on your resume. However, times have changed, and this phrase has become redundant. Employers assume you'll provide references if they request them, so using precious resume real estate for this is unnecessary. Save the details of your references for later in the hiring process when they're specifically asked for.
5. Your exact street address
While it was once standard practice to include your full address on your resume, privacy concerns and the rise of remote work have made this detail obsolete.
In most cases, the city and state, or even just the region, are enough for employers to know your general location. This information is usually only required to gauge your commute or relocation needs if the role is not remote. Remember, it's your professional expertise they're interested in, not your postal code.
6. Irrelevant and outdated work experience
Your resume should be a focused showcase of your relevant skills and experience, not an exhaustive autobiography. Including every job you've ever had can dilute your relevant experience and make your resume overly long and tedious to read.
Keep your work history relevant to the job you're applying for, and as a general rule, limit yourself to the last 10-15 years of experience.
Instead of a comprehensive employment history, focus on roles and experiences that demonstrate transferable skills, significant achievements, or career progression related to the job you're applying for. A tailored approach means a more effective resume and a higher chance of catching the recruiter's eye.
Here’s how to effectively include a “Work Experience” section on your resume:
7. Pictures or graphics
A picture might be worth a thousand words, but on a resume, it could cost you a job interview. Unless you're applying for a role in a creative industry that requires a portfolio or visual demonstration of your work, steer clear of including a headshot or unnecessary graphics.
These elements can distract from your skills and experience and may distort your resume format when it’s scanned by digital filing systems.
8. Career objective
Resume objectives, also referred to as career objectives are a bit old-fashioned and often filled with fluff. Instead of stating what you hope to gain from the job, show employers how they can benefit from hiring you.
Replace the objective statement with a succinct, compelling professional summary, or short professional bio. This should be a two- or three-sentence elevator pitch highlighting your experience, skills, and what makes you the ideal candidate for the role.
9. Lies or exaggerations
Honesty is always the best policy—especially on your resume. Misrepresenting your skills, experiences, or qualifications is a definite no-no. It can lead to embarrassment, damaged reputation, or even job loss if discovered later.
Stay truthful and focus on your actual achievements and skills. A genuine representation of your abilities will lead you to a role that's truly a good fit.
10. Negative comments about a former employer
Your resume is a platform to showcase your professional achievements and strengths, not to air grievances or share negative experiences. Speaking poorly about past employers can be seen as unprofessional and a potential red flag for hiring managers. No matter your past experiences, it's important to maintain a positive attitude and focus on what you learned and accomplished in each role.
11. An exclusive list of soft skills
While soft skills are undoubtedly valuable, including a standalone list on your resume might not convey the full picture, and it’s one of the biggest mistakes people make in their resume. Why? Because most hiring managers and recruiters are looking for a combination of hard and soft skills.
Prospective employers also need context. Instead of simply stating you're a "team player" or "good communicator," weave these soft skills into your job descriptions. Demonstrate how you've used these skills in practice, like successfully leading a project team (team player) or streamlining office communication (effective communicator).
If you’re looking to create a standalone skills list, be sure to include complementary hard skills to give a high-level overview of your capabilities and demonstrate versatility.
12. Passive language
Active language makes your resume more dynamic and engaging. Avoid passive constructs and use resume action verbs to add energy to your descriptions. These verbs showcase your role in achieving results, making your contributions clear and impactful. Here are a few examples:
- Spearheaded a team project that increased efficiency by 20%
- Revamped the company's outdated filing system
- Collaborated on a marketing campaign that boosted sales by 15%
- Managed a team of six in the delivery of a complex software project
- Presented quarterly reports to upper management and stakeholders
Miscellaneous items to omit from your resume
As you continue to refine your resume, there are a few more items that often pop up—even though they might not present you in the best light. It's time to shed some light on these often-overlooked details that you're better off leaving out, including:
- Unprofessional email address: Keep it professional. An email address from your high school days like "firstname.lastname@example.org" may not create the best impression.
- Salary information: This isn't something you should be discussing until you're in the interview stages. Keep your resume focused on your skills and experience.
- Overused buzzwords: Avoid buzzwords or cliche terms like "synergy" or "go-getter." They don’t tell employers much about you and can seem insincere or outdated.
- First-person language: Use action words to describe your resume achievements instead of overusing first-person language ("I," "we," or "me"). Recruiters already know it's about you, so focus on highlighting your accomplishments with strong, dynamic language.
- Basic computer skills: Today, basic computer skills are more of an expectation and don’t need to be highlighted. Showcase your advanced technical skills to truly stand out from the competition.
- Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes: Errors, even if they’re small, can make your resume appear unprofessional—which isn’t a great first impression for hiring managers. Run your resume and cover letter through spelling and grammar checkers, and if possible, have a friend read through it as well to make sure you catch typos before hitting “submit.”
What should be included in a resume?
Just like a brilliant piece of art, a great resume involves a thoughtful balance of ingredients. It requires just enough detail to highlight your qualifications and yet maintains a level of brevity that keeps hiring managers engaged.
Now that you’ve learned about the pitfalls let's discuss the key elements you should include in your resume.
This isn’t just about listing your details, but doing it in a professional and organized manner. Your name should take center stage, followed by your phone number and a professional email address (email@example.com is a great format). Also, add a link to your LinkedIn profile if it's up-to-date and professional.
You no longer need to include your full home address due to privacy concerns but mention your city and state if you're applying locally. If you have a personal website or a portfolio that's relevant, don't hesitate to include it. And finally, ensure that this section is easy to find, usually at the top of the page above a resume headline or professional bio.
This is your elevator pitch, a compelling snapshot of your professional journey. It needs to be concise, usually about three to five lines, and tailored to the job you're applying for. What value can you bring to the potential employer? What are your key strengths and achievements?
Start with a strong resume adjective to describe yourself (like 'dynamic,' 'experienced'), followed by your job title and years of experience. Mention your key skills and how they align with the job role.
If you can, include quantifiable achievements (like 'boosted sales by 30%' or 'led a team of 15 members') to make your case stronger. This section should immediately tell the employer why they should continue reading your resume.
You can easily create multiple, customized versions of your professional summary using AI integration within Teal’s AI Resume Builder.
Relevant work experience
Your resume isn't just a summary of everything you've done in your career—it's a marketing tool that should showcase your most relevant experiences that align with the job you're applying for.
To effectively detail your resume work experience, mention your job title, the company's name, location, and the period of employment. For each role, focus on achievements rather than duties. Use action verbs like 'led,' 'managed,' and 'developed,' and quantify achievements where possible (for example, increased productivity by 20%).
If you've had many roles, focus on the most recent and relevant ones. There's no need to detail that part-time job from 10 years ago if it doesn't support your current career narrative. If you're early in your career and don't have much experience, consider including internships, part-time roles, or even substantial volunteer work that demonstrates your skills and initiative.
Even though experience often trumps education in the job market, detailing your highest level of education is still crucial, especially for those in the early stages of their careers. List your degrees in reverse chronological order, with the most recent one first. Include the name of the institution, its location, the dates of attendance, and your degree.
If you've recently graduated and your GPA was strong, you can include that as well. However, as you gain more experience, the education section should get smaller, and your work experience be front-and-center.
This section is your opportunity to shine, especially if you're in a field where certifications are seen as proof of expertise. List any relevant certifications along with the granting institution. If the certification is well-known, you can use the acronym (like PMP for Project Management Professional).
Your hard skills and soft skills are a representation of your abilities, knowledge, and personal qualities.
When it comes to the skills section on your resume, highlight those that align with the job description. Avoid vague terms like 'hard-working' and ‘good communicator’ and opt for specific skills like 'Python programming,' 'project management,' cross-functional collaboration,’ 'content creation,' etc.
Build a powerful resume with Teal
Navigating the job market isn't always straightforward, but with the right tools and guidance, you can create a stand-out resume.
Remember, a well-curated resume excludes irrelevant information, showcases your most significant skills and achievements, and reflects your professional persona. But you don't have to do it alone.
Teal's AI Resume Builder can simplify the process. It helps you tailor your resume and cover letter to each job you're applying for, aligning your skills and experiences with what the employer is looking for. Plus, with Teal's Job Application Tracker and Contacts Trackers, you can manage your job search efficiently, ensuring you never miss an opportunity and stay on top of communications with leads.
Take your job search to the next level: Get started with Teal today!