What not to include on your resume: Quick guide

Charlotte Grainger
Charlotte Grainger

8 min read


Your resume is a powerful marketing tool. Writing it well is the difference between getting an interview and getting instantly rejected. So, the details you choose to include do matter.

The golden rule is that your resume should be either one or two pages long. Now, that doesn't give you a massive space to convince the hiring manager that you’re the right person for the role. If you’re looking for some advice on how to get this right, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we will take a look at what not to put on a resume.

1. Too much personal information 

When we talk about what not to put on a resume, here’s a huge one. Filling the page with details of your personal life is a mistake. The hiring manager does not need to know what your marital status is, what religion you are, or what political party you support. These nuggets are irrelevant. Leaving them out saves space for more important information. 

Your resume needs to focus on landing you a specific job. For that reason, everything that you share on the document should add value to your application. When you’re considering adding a certain detail, ask yourself why the hiring manager should care about it. 

2. Salary expectations or details 

You don’t want to include your salary expectations in your application unless you must. Keep your cards close to your chest at this point in the hiring process. So, when writing your resume, you should not outline how much cash you want to take home. There are two main reasons for leaving this piece of information out.

First, overshooting (or, indeed, undershooting) this number may mean that the hiring manager rules you out entirely. Secondly, since the employer has not specifically asked for your salary expectations, this move can appear pushy. Simply don’t bother with it.

3. References 

Back when you were in high school, you learned to include the phrase “references available upon request” on your resume. Don’t make this mistake. It is obvious to the hiring manager that you will supply references should they ask for them. When it comes to what not to put on a resume, this tired, old phrase can go. Save the space for other things.

4. Your age or date of birth 

Of course, hiring managers will be well-versed in avoiding any form of age discrimination. However, you can ease this process by not including your age or date or birth on your resume. This information is irrelevant — it has zero bearing on whether you can successfully do the role. So, the hiring manager does not need to know it when you apply.

5. Details about your hobbies 

You might be an avid climber, a stamp collector, or a part-time singer. However, unless your hobby provides you with transferable skills you will use in the job, you can leave it out. As you consider what not to put on a resume, think about what each addition brings to the table. The reader doesn’t need to know how you spend your free time. They aren’t trying to figure out exactly how interesting you are, just whether you’re a good candidate. 

6. Every job you have had 

Let’s say that you’ve been working for more than a decade. Chances are, you’ve racked up a whole load of work experience. However, not all of it will be relevant to the job for which you’re applying. You don’t need to cover the part-time job you had during college. As a simple rule, only list experience from the past 10 years, or three-to-four job roles. 

7. Irrelevant qualifications 

Every qualification that you include on your resume needs to align directly with the job. For example, you don’t need to include a piano qualification when you’re applying for an accountancy role. That’s a given. Equally, you shouldn’t include details of your high school education, unless it is the highest qualification you have. If you went to college, simply include information about your degree — or degrees. 

8. Passive language 

Passive language can make your resume sound boring. For example, saying that you were “tasked with” a duty sounds like you had no choice. Instead, you can say that you “oversaw” a certain task. You are the protagonist of your resume, after all. Passive language makes it sound as though things happen to you and you have no control. Active language, on the other hand, draws the focus to you and the role that you played here.

9. Spelling mistakes 

Spelling mistakes — even just typos — can reduce your chances of landing an interview by 18.5%. If you’ve worked hard on your application so far, you don’t want to fall at the final hurdle. For that reason, you need to make sure that you thoroughly proofread your resume before you send it to the hiring manager. Try reading the document aloud. Doing so forces you to focus on each word and will help you pick up on any obvious mistakes. 

You can also use a program, such as Grammarly or Hemingway app, to check your content. Copy and paste the details from your resume and put them through these systems. You will soon see whether you have missed any typos or silly errors.  

10. Grammatical errors 

It’s not all about spelling either. When writing your resume, you should not overlook the importance of proper grammar. The hiring manager will be scouring this document to see whether you are the right candidate for the job. Should they notice any niggling grammatical mistakes, it will slow down the pace of their reading. That stumbling block could have a bigger impact than you might expect. To prevent this from happening, you can use the programs we just outlined or ask a trusted friend to give your resume a read.

11. First-person language 

Resume real estate is highly valuable — make sure that you don’t waste it. Within your profile summary and work experience, you may be tempted to use phrases starting with “I”. For example, you could write “I was responsible for” or “I have a proven track record.”

You can save yourself some space by leaving the first-person language out completely. So, instead of saying “I was responsible for” just say “responsible for.” Rather than stating “I have a proven track record,” get straight to the point and write “proven track record.”

12. Reasons for leaving roles

Whether you were fired or left a specific role to pursue your passions, it doesn't matter. You don’t need to include this information on your resume. If the hiring manager has any questions about your previous employment, they will bring it up during the interview. The only details you need to provide is the company, your role, and the dates of employment.

If you really want to share details of why you left a role, you can do so in your cover letter. This document gives you more space to wax lyrical about your experience. However, keep in mind this is not strictly necessary and could work against you. Proceed with caution.

13. Any inaccuracies  

By this point, you already know what not to put on a resume. But before you submit any application, there’s one thing that you need to do. It’s vital that you check your resume for any possible inaccuracies. Mistakes happen — but you don’t want them to destroy your chances of landing your next role. Take the time to make sure that all of the dates, places, and names are correct. This final check could be make or break for your application. 

14. Too much text 

Do you have a whole lot to say? Sharing a solid wall of text with the hiring manager is unlikely to win you any points. Review the tips above and make sure that you fully understand what not to put on a resume. You must ensure that this document is easy to read. Hiring managers only spend seven seconds reviewing each resume. It’s your job to help them get all of the information that they need in that short space of time. Don’t overwhelm them. 

Final thoughts 

Every detail you include on your resume needs to support your application. Packing this document with irrelevant information and additions won’t help you land an interview. Take the time to consider what not to put on a resume and what to include. It may be a case of returning to the document several times and editing out the unnecessary parts. However, you can rest assured that your hard work will be worth it when you get the job. 

Ready to start applying for jobs? Before you hit “send,” make sure your application hits the mark. Check out our free resume review tool and upgrade your application. No matter what career path you choose, the review will help you create a resume that wins over the hiring manager. Give yourself the competitive edge now.

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Charlotte Grainger

Written by

Charlotte Grainger, Editor & Content Writer, Charlotte Grainger, Editor & Content Writer

Charlotte Grainger is a freelance writer living and working in Sheffield, UK. She has a passion for career development and loves sharing tips and advice. Follow her on Twitter

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