Your resume isn’t an autobiography of your career. Resumes are marketing tools intended to take job candidates to the next step in the hiring process, which is to get interviewed by the hiring manager. To market yourself strategically requires presenting potential employers with a value proposition that aligns with the position they need to fill. An effective resume focuses on what hiring managers need to know; that means you should leave these details off your resume.
When space is taken up by non-essential information, the reader doesn’t focus on the important details. As a human resources executive, I read thousands of resumes and can attest to how easy it is to lose track of what I wanted to learn about a candidate because every unnecessary word is a distraction.
Leave these details off your resume:
- Physical addresses: employers communicate with candidates via email or phone, so providing a street address is unnecessary. Be certain to include your personal (not company) email address as well as the URL to your LinkedIn profile
- Past and current employer locations: where a company is located doesn’t impact your value proposition. If it’s important for employers to know that you worked for a company in another region or country, include that in the summary of your qualifications. Otherwise, it won’t affect your candidacy
- Descriptions of each employer: your resume is meant to market you, not your employer (s). It’s usually obvious from the bullets detailing your responsibilities what type of company you worked for, if that actually matters, and it usually doesn’t. What may matter is the size of the company, and whether or not it has a global footprint; you can weave this information into the bullets that describe your responsibilities and your accomplishments in each role
- Academic coursework: Listing courses taken while earning a degree or certification tells employers nothing about your abilities; it only speaks to your attendance. Neither does a GPA, which only demonstrates that you were a good student. Even if you are a recent college graduate, a better strategy is to write about a group project, a case study you wrote or a hypothetical model you built while in school. These types of details demonstrate to employers what you are capable of far better than a course list or GPA
- Employment history over 15 years in the past: anything you did that long ago is likely done differently today, especially in technology fields. If you want employers to know that you worked for a prestigious company a long time ago, you can mention it in the summary section of the resume or add a parenthetical “earlier employment at XXXX” at the end
- Graduation dates: ageism is tough to avoid, so don’t make it easier for employers to guess know how old you are until they’ve learned about your expertise. Leave dates for the job application used for the inevitable background check. You should also leave off your school’s location. If you attended a university outside the United States with a name that is not recognizable to U.S. employers, you can put the country name in parentheses after the name of the school
- Employment that doesn’t align with your current or future profession: if you’re a math teacher who is taking steps to become a data analyst, writing about your classroom experience doesn’t help employers assess your abilities to work with data. Mention that you were a math teacher as your prior career, but focus the resume on what was covered while earning certification in data analytics
Just as marketers can’t create a demand for products that are no longer relevant, you can’t successfully market yourself to future employers if your resume doesn’t demonstrate what makes you qualified for their open position. What you leave off your resume matters, as it clears the way for hiring managers to hone in on why they should arrange an interview.
A version of this article was published in The Wall Street Journal.
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