We all know that writing well-crafted content in a CV is essential in capturing the attention of employers and selling your qualifications. But are you aware that knowing what to remove from your CV is just as important if you want to stand out? In fact, leaving certain elements in your profile will actually hurt your chances of the first interview and hinder you from eventually landing your dream job. So, let’s go through the list and make sure to remove whatever is applicable so you will have an awesome resume.
Generic, fluffy, overused words
There are certain words that sound nice but they have been so overused that they no longer carry much meaning or impact in a resume. And you’ll know what I’m talking about because we all use them. I’m referring to words like, “motivated”, hard-working, diligent, and other similar cliches that anyone can write without any context or proof. Hiring managers are not interested in seeing those terms.
Instead, aim to focus on hard skills and concrete accomplishments. Instead of just telling people that you are hard-working or detail-oriented or motivated, show them specific examples of what you have done and achieved that demonstrate your abilities and qualities.
Also, include concrete numbers and stats to quantify the results and value of your unique contribution. Another useful tip is to employ more action verbs to describe your experience such as delivered, implemented, spearheaded, increased, etc.
Again, be specific and let your action speak for itself.
Jobs that are too old
For work experience older than 10-15 years, it’s rarely necessary to include much detail. Expanding on jobs you’ve had in the distant past can make your CV unnecessarily long, leaving you with limited space to highlight more recent and relevant experience.
For jobs that go back more than 10-15 years, it’s sufficient to only leave the essential information such as the company name, job title, and employment dates. And maybe just one sentence describing your experience if you’d like. That way, you can dedicate more real estate to your more recent work and keep your cv length manageable.
One exception to this advice is if a specific role from the past is particularly applicable to the position you're seeking. In such a case, clearly, it would make sense to expand on the past role to demonstrate your qualification and relevance.
Contact info & name of your References
There is absolutely no need to include the actual name and contact information of your references in the resume. In fact, you should not do so. You don't want potential employers, recruiters, or anyone else reading your CV to contact your references at their own discretion for whatever reason. This approach is not respectful of your reference's time, attention, and personal boundaries, and it may catch them off-guard or unprepared.
The appropriate time to provide your references is at the end of the interview process when the employer specifically asks for them. Before offering your references' information, always have a conversation with each reference. Ask them if they are comfortable with this request for a particular company and make sure they will speak positively about your contribution and work ethic.
Remember, previous contacts whom you can trust to speak highly of you are valuable assets in your job search, and it's essential to handle their information respectfully and strategically.
Unexplained Experience Gap
If you have any significant experience gap of a few months or more (say more than 4-6 months), you do not want to leave them unexplained. I’m not saying you should not have any experience gaps in your cv. Most times, it’s completely understandable, and it’s becoming increasingly common due to the volatile economy. What I’m saying is to provide explanations.
You do not want to leave the reasons to the hiring manager's imagination. Chances are they will imagine the worst (which is human nature, unfortunately) or move on to other profiles. Instead, by proactively addressing any gaps, you can remove unnecessary sources of confusion and concerns.
It could be due to personal circumstances, career break, the position being moved to a different country, further education, freelancing, volunteering or others. Even if the explanation seems unrelated to the position you’re applying for, it’s better to include it to fill in the gap and provide context.
Just remember to keep it concise and clear. The point is not to provide all the details. It’s simply to address any potential concern, so the employer will focus on the main point of your resume.
100% - Never include salary details in your CV – whether it be your latest salary or your expectation.
It’s neither necessary nor productive because sharing your salary can actually hinder your chances of the first interview. This is especially true if your compensation is lower or higher than their budget.
For example, let’s say your salary is lower than the budget. If you mention this in your CV, the company may use this detail as an indication of your strength or suitability which could be highly inaccurate. Just because your salary is lower than the budget range, it doesn’t mean you’re less qualified. You could be coming from a different industry background or maybe you were underpaid for all your qualifications.
Also, if your expected salary is lower than their budget, you will have committed to a lower number already and it would be extremely difficult to negotiate upward.
On the flip side, if your salary is higher than their budget, the employer may become scared or turned off and decide not to interview. This is a real shame because companies often end up increasing their budget if they find a truly strong talent during the interview process.
Whether you will have an interview or not should only be based on your expertise and experience – not the compensation. So leave the comp details out of the picture until the interview or ideally the offer stage.
Distractions (too many colors, highlights, bold fonts, underlines)
Including too many colors, highlights, bold fonts, etc. usually make your CV look more distracting and appear unprofessional (screen record). The way your resume is presented has an impact on your first impression and it’s imperative that it has a clean look & feel.
Not only that, excessive use of colors and highlights can make the CV visually overwhelming and distract the reader from the actual content.
If you find that you need to constantly emphasize certain content using bold fonts, italics, and underlines, it’s a pretty clear indication that you have too many irrelevant details in your CV that should not be there. Instead, consider removing less important content and leaving only the essential information so that the majority of your CV will shine.
Skills proficiency rating
When I say skills proficiency rating, I’m referring to assigning numerical ratings such as 3/10 or 7/10 to your skills. And while many job seekers believe this is helpful information, there are more drawbacks than benefits.
First these numbers are quite arbitrary and can be interpreted inconsistently by different individuals, leading to confusion and miscommunication. For example, a candidate may consider 7/10 to be an advanced level of proficiency and choose to use this number for their strongest skills. But another person (for example the hiring manager) may perceive 7/10 to be just average. This kind of discrepancy can create a mismatch in expectations and hinder your chances.
Not only that, employers may perceive low scores on your cv as your weaknesses rather than strengths which could deter them from considering you for an interview.
To address this issue, you can either choose to eliminate the proficiency rating altogether. Or if you still wish to include your level of competence, consider using clear descriptors such as “expert,” intermediate or basic. This will provide a clearer representation of your abilities and reduce the potential for misinterpretation.
Unprofessional email addresses
Another crucial piece of advice is to avoid using unprofessional email addresses. Stay away from addresses that are too casual or inappropriate for the professional context such as, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org or I don’t know, email@example.com. While they may be fun and acceptable for personal communications, in the professional setting, they’ll not help you be taken seriously or leave a respectable impression. Chances are, the employer will question your judgment in choosing to use these email IDs for job search.
Stick to a combination of your first and last names. Again, this will enhance your credibility and help to establish a positive perception from the outset.
Careless mistakes (spelling/grammatical errors)
There is really no excuse for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in a resume when we have so many readily available tools to help us identify them. Therefore, when mistakes are present in your CV, it can be seen as a sign of laziness or a lack of care on your part.
Employers may perceive these errors as an indication that you will exhibit the same level of carelessness in your work after joining their organization. Usually, most people are extremely careful about their CVs so when managers come across mistakes in a CV, they may have doubts about your attention to detail and ability to produce high-quality work.
Irrelevant (or less relevant) Experience & Details
This is more of a general principle rather than a specific item you need to remove but it plays an extremely significant role in the overall effectiveness of your CV.
As I always emphasize in my videos and other resources, a CV is not documentation of your entire career whose goal is to be as comprehensive as possible. Instead, your CV is ultimately a sales copy or an advertisement whose purpose is to capture the employer’s attention and lead to your first interview.
What this implies is that your resume should comprise the most impactful and attention-capturing details. It could be your greatest achievements, unique accomplishments, amazing stats, or other directly pertinent experiences. These are the key details that should always be emphasized and highlighted.
However, when we include irrelevant or less important information in our CV, we end up diluting the main message we want to convey. The more unnecessary content you include, the less attention your key qualifications will receive. This is the reason why determining what details to leave out of your resume is just as important as deciding what you will write.
And it is usually the main difference between a decent, OK resume vs an exceptional one that consistently produces more responses and first-round interviews. It’s worth practicing identifying and removing good but non-crucial information from your CV.
Thanks for reading. Happy Job Searching!