Are you a 5-foot-7 female who has three dogs, loves skydiving and makes a killer margarita? Unless you’re applying for a job as a dog walker, skydiving instructor or bartender, these details do not belong on your résumé.
Résumés should only include information that is relevant to the position for which you’re applying, was requested by the employer or makes it easy for the company to contact you. Anything superfluous — hobbies and personal attributes for example — should not be shared.
Yet it’s not always easy to decide what should stay and what should go. While every situation is unique, and it’s important to take the job and employer requirements into account, there are some general rules for what does and doesn’t have a place on your résumé. Here is some advice on seven common résumé question marks:
1. Home address: While not everyone is comfortable with sharing such private information, career coach Lavie Margolin recommends including your address. “Not listing your address on your résumé will make things more challenging for you,” Margolin says. “It will be an immediate question mark for employers as to why there is no address listed. They may even perceive it as you not living near the position you are applying for.” Margolin says that while you can still get a job without sharing your address, you’re also more likely to be eliminated for not including it. Just make sure that you’ve done your research on the company to ensure its legitimacy before sharing any contact information.
2. Reference information: “Never include reference information; you don’t want your references being bothered by employers, especially if you don’t know that you want the job,” says Bruce Hurwitz, president and CEO of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing. “Once there is mutual interest, then provide the references.” And remember: Always speak to your references first before sharing their details with prospective companies.
3. A disability: “There is a common and not unfounded fear that revealing a disability on the résumé may lead to not being selected for a position, which makes the disclosure choice a difficult one,” says Barbara Otto, executive director of Think Beyond the Label, a national collaborative to increase employment among people with disabilities. “A résumé is a springboard for you to give details about your skills, experience and the unique perspectives you bring to the table. You should not explicitly state your disability, but you can weave in your professional experience and hobbies that may be disability-related, such as volunteer work or awards received. Then in the interview you can use these achievements to break the ice about your disability if you choose to.”
4. Grade point average: It’s great if you graduated from college with a 4.0, but if you did so 10 years ago, it’s probably time to remove your GPA from your résumé. “A person’s GPA would normally only be listed on the résumé if he/she recently graduated from college,” Margolin says. “If the GPA is below a 3.0, it is usually best to leave it off. Feel free to keep on any special academic status or awards you may have achieved such as Magna Cum Laude.” The exception? Some companies may request a GPA, so read the application before removing it. “In certain circumstances, a GPA would remain on longer … some job listings require a certain GPA minimum.”
5. Objective: A decade ago, many résumés included objectives. Today, most experts agree that they’re just taking up valuable space. “Never put an ‘objective,’” Hurwitz says. “The real objective is to get the job. If it is too generic, it means nothing. If it is not a perfect match for the job, the employer will ask herself, ‘Why is he applying if he wants something else?’ It’s a waste of space and has no advantage.”
6. A photo: If you’re pursuing a modeling career, you’d understandably want to share a photo of yourself with the prospective employer. For most other jobs, leave the photo off. If information isn’t relevant to a job, you wouldn’t include it, so why would you share a photo when your appearance has nothing to do with the position? If you do, you’re putting the employer in an uncomfortable situation, because if you aren’t hired, it could technically lead to potential discriminatory action. The same situation applies for sharing other personal attributes, such as race, age or religion.
7. Quick response code: QR codes — bar codes that can be scanned by smartphones to download or link to information — are growing in popularity as a tool to connect employers with a candidate’s portfolio or LinkedIn profile. If you’re debating about including one on your résumé, consider the type of job for which you’re applying, how you’re submitting your résumé, and how the employer might be viewing it. If you’re submitting it online, skip the QR code, but if you’re handing out hard copies — at a career fair, for example — including one might help you stand out. “QR codes are cool, but unless you’re in a situation where they make sense, give them a miss,” says Beth Campbell Duke, principal at CampbellDuke Personal Branding. And don’t just include a QR code for show — it should link to something interesting and applicable. Connecting the employer to an online replica of your résumé or a poorly written and sparsely updated site won’t score any points.