Resumes & Cover Letters

4 signs it’s time to take something off your resume

Written by Michael Hoon

Your resume is a timeline of all your valuable work and educational experience, as well as your most marketable skills. However, sometimes all those details that may entice a potential employer accumulate to the point that they become a bit, well, too much. When your resume starts ballooning beyond the standard single page, it may be time to start pruning a few of those fun facts. Here are a few things to keep in mind when deciding which details go and which ones stay.

1. It’s not doing you any favors

Job seekers have a tendency to be completists when creating resumes. If they worked somewhere—anywhere— they are compelled to include it in the Experience section. Some career counselors will even compel clients that they must include every little job to avoid any odd gaps that might suggest a long period of unemployment. But don’t be pressured when deciding which of your past jobs to include on your resume. If the job is not relevant to your current career path, leave it off. No employer is going to hire you to work as a law clerk because you made ends meet as a check-out clerk during your college days.

2. It’s from too long ago

Speaking of your college days, you might want to consider when you held a particular job as you decide to keep it or cut it from your resume. An employer probably won’t be interested in where you were working 20 years ago. A job you performed that long ago would have to be pretty impressive to warrant a spot on your current resume—perhaps a particularly high-level position at a particularly impressive company. Even if it is suitably spectacular, it might be best to just discuss that experience in person during your interview.

3. Your experience is not actually job experience

Employers want to hire well-rounded individuals with an abundance of life experience, but they’re most interested in actual on-the-job experience. You may have performed work relevant to your career path as a student or intern. However, your resume may not be the best place to list such experience, since the focus should remain on where you’ve been employed. Such non-work information is best left to the resumes of those who do not have much experience as an employee.

4. Your experience suggests you’re overqualified

On the flip side of that last point, there are circumstances under which you might not want to appear too experienced. If you’re sick and tired of toiling away as management and would like to simplify your life by getting back into a simpler, lower-level position, indicating you are overqualified on your resume could work against you. A potential employer might decide that there is a more appropriate person for a particular job and that you’d be better off remaining closer to the top of the corporate ladder—even if you’d prefer to slide down a few rungs. So you might not want to include the loftiest experience on your resume when seeking a lower position.

Basically, your resume should not be a roadmap of your life as a worker. You should tailor it to the kind of job you really want now. Thinking about your resume in those terms will help you to make the big decisions when it’s time to decide which details to leave in the past as your career heads into the future.

About the author

Michael Hoon