July 19, 2024
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The Dangers of Resume Overkill
by Robert Belcher

Nearly everything written about resume design concentrates on what you should put in.  But let’s look at what should be left out, or at least minimized.

Item #1:    Salary History or Salary Requirements
I’ve never heard one good reason to mention your past, current, or expected salary.  If you see a classified ad that says, “Only resumes with salary history will be considered,” don’t believe it.  If your resume is strong enough, you’ll be contacted.   Once contacted, be forthright.

Item #2:    Objective
Use of a stated objective is commonly included atop a resume.  Also, a stated objective gives you the advantage of targeting your employment goals.  Nonetheless, it can also work against you.  A hiring manager, Human Resources professional, or internal company recruiter who is lacking in imagination or who’s hard pressed for time will often overlook a resume with an objective that doesn’t conform to the exact specifications of a position opening.  That means that if your objective reads “Vice President of Finance position with a progressive, growth-oriented company,” you may limit your options and not be considered for the job of Director of Finance for a struggling company in a mature market—a job you may enjoy and be well suited to.

Bottom line:  If you’re pretty sure of the exact position you want in the field or industry you’re interested in, state it in your objective.  Otherwise, broaden your objective or leave it off the resume.

Item #3:    References
Avoid listing work-related or personal references on your resume.  In fact, it’s best to not even include the often used phrase, “References Available Upon Request.”  It’s redundant—not necessary at all.  It’s already assumed that by submitting your resume, you will be prepared during or after an interview to submit contact information of work-related references.  A minimum of two work-related references are preferred, and the most recent contacts are better.

Item #4:    Superfluous Materials 
When submitting a resume, avoid enclosing such items as your thesis, photos, diplomas, transcripts, product samples, newspaper articles, blueprints, designs, or letters of recommendation.  These are props you can use during your interview, but not before.  The only thing other than your resume that’s acceptable is your business card.

Item #5:    Personal Information
Leave out anything other than the absolute essentials.  Do not include personal information, such as “Married, two children, excellent health.”  And by listing your Masonic affiliation, save-the-whales activism or codependency support group, you could give the employer a reason to suspect that your outside activities may interfere with your work. 

Not long ago, I received a resume from a candidate who felt the need to put his golf handicap on his resume.  The person must have thought that kind of information might improve his chances of being interviewed.  Given the choice, would I show his resume to an employer?  Not a chance.

Remember, the greater the relevancy between your resume and the needs of the employer, the more seriously your candidacy will be considered.  Say what you need to get the job—and nothing more.

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