Top 10 Things to Leave OFF of Your Resume

A while back I posed this question on Twitter and LinkedIn, "What should job seekers leave OFF of their resume?"  It generated dozens of great responses from recruiting, career, HR, and resume professionals and hiring managers.  The number one thing that was suggested to leave off of your resume is something that most job seekers simply put on there because that's how it has traditionally been done.  I'm talking about the Objective at the top of your resume. 

These days, if your resume is not laser focused on the job for which you are applying there is a good chance it will not make the cut.  An ambiguous Objective statement right at the top of your resume does nothing for that focus.  Career coach Ann-Marie Ditta suggested leaving off  "An objective that states "looking for a growth oriented opportunity where I can use my skills and experience" So what, it says nothing to the hiring manager other than you are desperate, self focused, or need a career coach. Avoid cutesy email addresses. "
Veteran recruiter Michael Kelemen, (AKA the Recruiting Animal) concurred with nixing the Objective, "I would leave off the OBJECTIVE or SUMMARY if they are just filled with hackneyed stuff like telling me they're results-oriented, time-sensitive workers. I've actually asked people for evidence of these claims. They tend to be shocked and angered by the question - again because they just mindlessly put down what some ancient resume book tells them to."

David Graziano, Darryl Dioso, Michael Keane, Andy Lester, Eric Thomas, Courtney Wunderlich, Tiffany Skoog, and Mike Avillion all agreed on eliminating the Objective.  There were only a couple of respondents who disagreed.  One caveat may be for a new grad for whom it's not obvious what they are seeking in a career.  But in general, I think if you are going to put anything in that top spot, it should be something of a positioning statement that speaks directly to the job description and includes every keyword in the employer's requirements.  If you don't have the background to back that up, you may not be a fit for the job.  Absolutely do not put anything there that is ambiguous.  When in doubt, leave it out.
The other main suggestion that was conveyed by the respondents is that job seekers should leave anything off of their resume that does not directly relate to the job at hand.  I think that is clear enough and covers quite a bit.  Less is more.  Bill Vick, author, and founder of ExtremeRecruiting.TV, suggests even that the resume itself is one of the smaller tools in a successful job search.    
"I think what should be included is as important to look at as what should be left off.

Too often smart, brainy and talented people forget what brought them to the party in the first place and spend so much time dinking around with their resume they seem to forget people hire people - not resumes.

Like driving your car glance in back of you as you drive down that road to your next job but concentrate on what's ahead and tell 'future' stories of what you can do - not what you have done. Telling is not selling and ultimately over 70% of all hires are done because of a reference or relationship. Focus on those, not your resume."
Thank you to all those who responded to this question, making this great list possible.

The top 10 things to leave OFF of your resume. 

10. Religious or Political Affiliations

9. Toastmasters

8. Hobbies

7. Photos


5. Compensation

4. Family Info (Marital Status, Children, Pets)

3. References Available Upon Request

2. Anything not relevant to the position for which you are applying

1. Objective

What's your opinion?  Would love to hear your comments.

View additional comments at the posting of this article:


  1. Good stuff. I agree with all the experts! And laser-tuned focus is essential to a resume. The key information should jump off the page, not be lost in a sea of uselss information. Just ask yourself, what is it that the reader needs to know to make a good decision about your qualifications. How does knowing your age, weight, SAT score, and hobbies help in this process? Simply said: it doesn't.

  2. Nice post. I've helped several recent grads revise their resumes. Most are too long and just have too much information. I'd say anything that looks or feels like filler should be removed, immediately. Just that, and focus on specific examples that translate to great stories for interviews and follow-ups.

  3. Great list, just the thought about leaving off long gaps of time or things that Dwight Schrute from The Office would do. I think your comment of keeping it relevant is best.

    Dwight: For your convenience, I've broken it down into three parts: professional resume, athletic and special skills resume, and Dwight Schrute trivia. Of course martial arts training is relevant.

  4. I agree with almost all of this. EXCEPT: if someone is recently out of school (2 years or less) I want their major gpa listed. Also, I always want months of employment. People try to hide work gaps by just listing years

  5. It's been a while since I've written a resume', but I find that I'm in agreement with you list. Especially, in agreement with the number 1 item. Let's face it, what you're looking for is *that specific job* so why not be specific and address how you would be the best fit for it. A resume', like any sales pitch, should emphasize benefits you offer to the employer. Focus should be on meeting the need, not tooting the horn. One would probably benefit more learning from a great copywriter rather than a resume book.

  6. Great comments all. I should stipulate here that there are exceptions to each of these suggestions. Especially the larger list. These are general suggestions. The only thing I can't ever see a need for including in your resume is Dungeons and Dragons :)

  7. This is a good top ten list for anyone currently seeking employment. I receive 3-5 resumes a week right now from people actively seeking work in the technology field and lay-out/content has clearly evolved over the years. Objective statements really are (usually) a waste of valuable space.

    Your point in knowing what to not place on a resume can not be overemphasized enough. A few thoughts came to mind that merit mention as I suspect others in a hiring role may feel the same way:

    1.) Try to use one page resumes. Seldom do I read past the first sheet regardless of experience. 2.) Use bullets instead of paragraphs and provide a quick snapshot for further discussion during an interview instead of long-winded detail. 3.) Show results. In the bullet list, explain how it helped your company with a specific example or use real figures. i.e. Developed new software program that improved productivity in accounting by over 23% and reflects annual savings of more than two million dollars for their operation. 4.) Lastly, don't put down on your resume that you like something when you don't. This happens a lot. Applicants can't be all things to all people and they will be happier focusing on what keeps them excited about going to work.

  8. Interesting that J. recommends a proofreader to Craig. I actually found the content quite easy to follow, and didn't have to reread a single phrase or sentence to make sense of it. As bloggers are rarely going for a Pulitzer prize in literature, and as long as there are no glaring errors that make the content difficult then why go to the trouble? This advice would be more aptly directed at job seekers to apply to their resumes, where spelling errors or poor grammar may count against them in the selection process.

  9. Thanks for the great list, Craig. I am curious (from you and others) about #7: No photos. I have heard this for years...and totally agree. We don't this to become a beauty contest instead of a job search. But I'm hearing so much chatter these days about VIDEO RESUMES and that concerns me. As a "seasoned" professional (that's one of those words we should never use in our resume, btw) I think it sets us up for failure...unless we look like George Clooney in addition to be incredible at what we do. I also think it puts the employer at risk of discrimination...though who would ever know? Any thoughts?

    Bill, in Dallas

  10. Meredith Masse @mpower_successJuly 6, 2010 at 9:21 AM

    Good stuff!  Thanks for sharing.  I remind job seekers to think of their resume as their primary marketing "brochure" and encourage them to think from the perspective of what their target audience needs to hear while remaining true to their Unique Value Proposition.  In this job market it is ESSENTIAL to differentiate from the next resume in the stack!

    Just like a company or product sells itself to consumers by answering "this is how our products/services makes your life/job easier/better," a job seeker's resume must answer "What's in it for me if I hire you?" for potential employers.  I've worked with several client in revamping their resumes from a list of job duties and responsibilities (yawn) to a document rich with accomplishments, selling their strengths in employers' terms and showing value by giving quantifiable results of previous work.

  11. I guess it depends on whether you want to hire robots or people.

    How about this for laser focus?

    Bob Saget - Capable of performing job functions as outlined in listing. Able to align work goals with overall company and departmental strategy.

    That's it...nothing more needed.

  12. ...why go to the trouble? says usesbigwords.

    Because most educated readers are likely to be put off by simple spelling and punctuation errors (not content) proofreaders look for. Such readers are likely to see those errors as indicating further problems: "If he or she can't spell or punctuate properly, what other failings does that suggest, and why should I have confidence in what I'm being told?"

  13. Great comments on objective statements. As a corporate recruiter, the only time the objective statement makes an impact on my decision is if I use it to screen out a candidate. For instance, a resume with the objective of "obtaining a position in accounting or finance management" that is submitted for a sales position gets immediately deleted before I review it. Whether they are a great sales candidate or not, the lack of attention to detail in sending that out without reviewing it more closely is always a negative to me and concerns me that the candidate is broadcasting their resume across any openings they can find.

    And I couldn't agree more regarding spelling and punctuation. Bigger for me is grammar, especially in less formal communications like emails back and forth around scheduling. Maybe not for every position I work on, but the vast majority of positions I've worked on as a coprorate recruiter and agency recruiter require effective communication skills and poor grammar is an embarassment to everyone.

  14. I agree with pretty much all of that but i think if your hobbies can coincide with the job or show you have extra experience then they should be included. maybe not directly under a hobbies heading but if something you do as a hobby could possibly positively impact a decision then it should be in there. myself for example, im a mechanical fitter with 12 years under my belt but my main hobby is cars and have even more experience under a car than in my qualified job so would include that as i think that extra bit of background backs up my mechanical abilities.

  15. Why does it say to leave off Toastmasters? I thought that would be an excellent thing to post since it is all about public speaking.

    Am I dating myself? The group I am in has young and older members who are actively involved.

  16. I agree with most HOWEVER hobbies and sometimes religious affiliations can be appropriate depending on the employer. One may want to pick and chose when to use it. I work in the motorsports field and we love to hire enthusiasts. I was offered a job by one company in the past because the CEO was big in the church and the CFO mentioned to him that I went to noon day bible study every Wednesday. That shot my str8t to the top of the list.

  17. For a minute I thought "well, you'd want to include D&D if you were applying to work at Wizards of the Coast." But on the other hand, maybe "proficient at D&D" is the "proficient at MS Office" of the gaming world.

  18. I am unsure if I agree with this post. However I do believe that it is partially true. Given the prolific use of "Applicant Tracking Systems" today. I myself, have been off work since 2005. This is due to looking after two (now deceased) relatives. And a years travel. That's seven years of not being in the work force. Every skill I now have, is over 10 years old. Due to, that ever ambiguous, "School of Hard Knocks". I am also a Toastmaster. And I was the "Most Outstanding Student" of the College where I studied. Currently I'm 46. And I "HAVE" Circumnavigated Planet Earth". So,,, Riddle me this BatMan. If I leave all of that information off my resume. Then what do I put on it? Because there would be nothing there!!!