I was recently having coffee with a friend who was in the process of hiring. He was telling me about resumes he’d reviewed.  It was interesting to hear someone discuss the hiring process from the other side – I’ve always been on the applying end. This was his first hiring experience and he seemed amazed at the resumes that had piled up on his desk, and not always in a good way.

Far from professional protocol, he revealed some amusing and disheartening anecdotes. People with more experience than he has were applying for positions that would report to him – positions that would surely pay less that what the applicant was currently making.

Other applicants were highly educated but had no experience in the field to which they were applying. I’ve heard this from other friends who’ve received resumes from, for example, lawyers, applying for a horticulture position because they no longer want to deal with the office grind. A career change is a great idea, but you have to prove you have some knowledge or experience in your new chosen field.

Some rather interesting resumes included attached photos of friends and family, irrelevant information such as their sexual preference and declarations that should go without saying, like: “I like to work hard; or I like to try to do a good job”. These statements should be evident from your past experience. Your resume should highlight your achievements, so there is no need to blatantly tell someone you work hard and try to do good work.

It’s not necessary to state your sexual orientation in your resume – this doesn’t have an impact on your abilities to do a job. As for pictures – leave them out unless you’re applying for a position where a photo is required. Also leave out religious and political beliefs. Again there are caveats (eg. you’re in politics or applying to be a priest).

While it’s terrific to switch careers, or move to a position that requires less responsibility, be prepared to explain yourself. It might be worth acknowledging this in your cover letter and briefly provide some reasons. You want people to ask questions for the right reasons. Answer any questions in your cover letter that might be red flags to a prospective employer, and make them want to know more about you – in person.

Here are few other items to leave off the resume:

1. Social Insurance Number (SIN):  Perhaps this is an obvious exclusion, but it does happen. Your SIN is the key to all of your personal information. When sending out your resume you never know who might receive a copy, or pick up a discarded copy. Don’t compromise your privacy when applying for jobs.

2. Physical descriptions: Your resume isn’t a classified ad. No one reading your CV needs to know what you look like. Your experience should be judged on its own merits. Even if you think you should be a contestant on Canada’s Next Top Model, your physical appearance is not a working highlight.

3. Jobs that you held a decade ago – or that have no relevance to the position you’re applying for. Very few employers will be motivated to hire you based on reading a description of your high school paper route.

4. Spelling and grammar mistakes: Probably another obvious point, but it’s truly amazing how many resumes are sent out that clearly haven’t been spell checked. A spelling mistake may take your resume from the top of the pile straight to the trashcan. Make sure you’ve used your spell check and then have a friend or colleague review, just to be certain.

5. “References available upon request.” – It’s assumed that you will provide references when a potential employer requests them, so this statement isn’t necessary on your resume.

Remember, your resume is your first impression. Make it count!


See also:

How to tailor your resume to any job posting

How to optimize your resume for the 10-second skim

Should you put a picture on your resume?


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