In my six years of recruiting experience, I have placed candidates at major companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft. But I didn't always know what a good resume looked like.
In 2013, after struggling to find work after college, I decided to hire a resume writer. It didn't turn out as planned: $650 later, I had a six-page resume for less than two years of experience.
The turning point came when I walked into a local sports station with my new resume in hand, and the receptionist bluntly asked me: "Would you want to read a six-page resume on top of everything else you had to do?"
That night, I went home and reworked everything myself. It was so consistent in landing me interviews that my friends asked me to write their resumes. When they all got jobs, my consulting service, Jupiter HR, was born.
One of the most common questions I get asked by clients is what I never want to see on a resume. Here's what I tell them:
1. A personal summary
These are a waste of valuable resume real estate and usually contain information recruiters would find reading other parts of your resume or your cover letter.
Recruiters and hiring managers tend to skim or speed-read resumes. This means that the first half of your resume has a much bigger role in making a first impression than your second half, and you want your most important and impressive qualifications up top.
Instead of including a personal summary, use the top space to jump right into your experience or a list of your skills and certifications.
2. Stuffed keywords
There's a false perception among job seekers that Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) auto-reject resumes without relevant keywords. As a result, some people awkwardly pack their resume with words from the job description.
But that's not the reality. An ATS is used to integrate with other company internal systems and keep applications and reports organized. It's the humans who do the rejecting. So only include keywords from the job description when they have true purpose and align with your experience.
3. Outdated experience
It's easy to go overboard and put too much detail into each role you've held. But it's not necessary to include everything. In the tech world, for example, anything you did more than three years ago is considered outdated.
Focus more on your last one or two major positions and how the skills you used there will make you a great fit for the role. This may mean the more recent jobs on your resume have more bullet points under them than the older ones, and that's perfectly fine.
You want someone's first impression of you to be of your skills — not your looks or your personal style. Avoid bias by leaving out your headshot or any graphics you designed.
Even a basic graph or line chart can work against you. You never know how someone will read a graphic representation of your skills. You may give someone the impression that you're more or less competent with a particular skill than you actually are.
Instead, write out your accomplishments in a list form and demonstrate how you've used them in your experience section.
If you're applying to a creative role, there are other ways to show off your skills. Ninety-nine percent of resumes are viewed on a computer, so use that to your advantage. Link to your portfolio or blog in your header near your name and contact information.
5. Filler roles
Although I see it most often with first-time job seekers, even career veterans make the mistake of adding irrelevant positions to their resume just to prove that they've been working.
But your interviewers will verify your experience during the background check. If you have years of experience, there's no need to list every job you've ever had. This only clogs up precious space.
Your resume should demonstrate you're the perfect candidate for the specific job you're applying to. So only include experiences that relate back to that job. The best way to make your resume impactful is to contextualize and support your achievements through numbers and percentages.
Numbers allow you to paint a before and after narrative, clearly showcasing your positive impact on your working environment. Maybe you increased sales by 50% or increased email clickthrough rates by 500%. Either way, you made a real, measurable, positive impact.
Jermaine L. Murray is a career coach and founder of JupiterHR. He specializes in helping companies diversify their hiring pipelines with talent from marginalized communities. Follow him on Twitter @JermaineJupiter.
- An Amazon applicant who Jeff Bezos hired ‘on the spot’ shares 5 ways to ‘instantly impress’ during the job interview
- I’ve been interviewing for 20 years—and these are the 3 best resume examples, based on experience level
- 4 ‘ballsy questions’ everyone should ask in job interviews—but most don’t, says hiring CEO of 10 years
Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter