What to Leave OFF Your Resume

As a resume writer for more than 10 years, I’ve worked with job seekers and career developers at every career level, from every industry. People come to me because resume writing is a sticky endeavor. All those rules and tricks. And it’s so awkward to promote yourself!

One question my clients frequently ask is what to do with that little blip in their work history. Almost everyone—even those with fantastic, upwardly mobile careers—has that one black sheep job. Maybe a stint in real estate for a couple years before returning to their mainline career. Maybe a startup that dissolved within months. Maybe work as a bartender or retail salesperson before landing a “real” job. Other people have 20+ years of work history that needs to be condensed.

A resume must be 100% honest and accurate, but it’s not a full disclosure document. It’s accepted practice to omit certain items. These omissions are not unethical or dishonest in any way. Instead, they’re smart, strategic, and favored by hiring managers.

So what can be omitted while still keeping within the bounds of ethical and accepted resume practice?

infographic, biggerConsider omitting anything that is–

  • More than 10 years old. Hiring managers base decisions on recent accomplishments. It’s a rule of thumb in resume practice that jobs more than 10 years old are not strong contributors and can be left out.
  • Lasted less than a year. A short-term job that ended for any number of reasons–company was sold, position turned out to be a bad fit, personal issues—can be omitted. Typically, work history is indicated on a resume by years only, not months (such as, 2012-2014), so such omissions are often invisible on the resume.
  • Occurred before graduation. Most people worked retail, did landscaping, waited tables, or filled any number of other low-level, often short-term or part-time positions before launching their career after college graduation. Unless you’re a new graduate who needs to beef up your work history as much as possible, these are not relevant to hiring decisions and can be eliminated.
  • Isn’t on track with your current career goals. You don’t want to leave a gaping hole in your work history. But your stint selling cosmetics, your leadership in a hobbyist association, or your sideline tech support business can be omitted if they do not contribute to your current career goals. Of course, if sales or tech support is your career goal, then leave such items in.

Each person is unique–so is their work history, their skills, and their resume. A great resume balances what’s relevant against what’s superfluous.

If you’d like some expert guidance on what information should be showcased in your resume and what should be trashed, give us a call or drop us a line. We offer free consultations to talk through your situation and give expert recommendations.

And for answers to your own resume riddles or career conundrums, email angela@redrocketresume.com.