One of the first steps I take when writing a client’s resume is to strip away anything that doesn’t add meaning in explaining that individual’s value proposition. So if you’re wondering what constitutes unnecessary detail in your resume, read on.
A professor who taught a graduate program in writing gave our class excellent advice. She said, “when writing, pretend you’re on a diet, and every word has 100 calories. Which ones can you eliminate without sacrificing good nutrition?” I follow her advice each time I evaluate a resume. What’s in there that doesn’t add anything to the client’s candidacy?
Often, clients are so concerned with filling out their resume that they think that more is more, but not necessarily. More is only more if the detail will resonate with the recruiter or hiring manager. And the problem with using irrelevant detail in your resume is that it doesn’t allow the reader’s eye to focus on the words that really do matter. People who read resumes all day get weary, so it’s smart to make their lives easier by giving them only as much information as they really need.
So here’s my list of unnecessary detail that you can get rid of in your resume:
Employer’s location: what on earth difference does it make – and how does it say anything about you – that you worked for one company in Des Moines, and another in New York City? If you want future employers to know that you’ve worked internationally, just mention it in your summary of qualifications.
The months you worked at each job: The years are important, but you can save listing the months for the job application, where such details matter!
Descriptions of each employer’s business: This is YOUR resume, not marketing collateral for your past employers. Some clients push back, saying that recruiters want to understand what their prior companies do in order to understand what they did there. That’s nonsense.
Descriptions of responsibilities at earlier roles when you were promoted internally: Here’s what matters – that you were promoted. So just say it under your title. For example, I often write parenthetically, “promoted twice to positions of increased scope & responsibility.” But describing those junior roles is unnecessary detail in your resume because after all – do you plan on going back to those tasks? However, examples of success in any role belongs on your resume. I feature those in a section at the top.
Multiple listings at the same company: This is related to the previous comment. It’s confusing when candidates list each role at the same employer separately. It forces the reader to scan the document to realize that you had been promoted. I’ve actually seen resumes that repeat the employer’s name, a description of the employer, AND its location. Over and over.
Early education: If you have an undergraduate degree, then your high school does not belong on your resume. One client had attended a prestigious NYC high school where admissions are very competitive, so he proudly listed it. But seriously, if you have to go back to age 14 for indicators of your career success, that’s not a good thing. If you earned an Associates degree and then continued on to Bachelor’s degree, then the Associates degree is an unnecessary detail. However, if you earned a graduate degree, then both the Master’s and Bachelor’s belong on the resume.
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