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5/15/22 - 6 Ways to Clean Up Your Resume and Wow Hiring Managers

by Kathryn Tuggle

Many of us just keep adding to our resume over the years rather than paring it down, and after we’ve been in the workforce awhile, it can be a real jumble. Here’s how to streamline.

Lifestyle guru Marie Kondo has inspired millions of us to clean up our homes and get rid of what’s no longer making us happy—helping many of us enjoy a more streamlined life.

But why stop with an organized sweater drawer? Our resumes may contain things that are definitely not sparking joy for hiring managers when they scan our accomplishments—and we mean scan literally. Thirty-nine percent of hiring managers said they spend less than a minute looking at a resume, and 23 percent spend less than 30 seconds, according to a survey by CareerBuilder. This means that everything on your resume should immediately shout your qualifications from the rooftops—you don’t have long to tell them how amazing you are. This is why cutting out the clutter is so essential. Here’s how to do just that, with a resume clean-up that even Kondo herself would approve:

Many people are too long-winded on their resumes, says career adviser Allison Cheston.

“Think about the impact you’ve made, as opposed to the tasks you’ve performed. A resume that just rattles off a list of tasks performed is not compelling. Hiring managers would much rather hear that you drove sales increases 40% year over year by creating a new system,” Cheston says. Including too much information may also ensure that hiring managers will not pick up on the key pieces you want them to obtain, cautions Claire Bissot, managing director at CBIZ HR Services, a human resources outsourcing and consulting agency. Remember—if your resume only gets a quick glance, you don’t want them to be bogged down in extraneous details.

Take a very close look at your resume. “Do you have words like ‘manage,’ ‘administer,’ ‘responsible for,’ etc., repeated multiple times? If so, find new and more creative ways to describe your job,” Bissot says.

But there’s more than one way to be repetitive—you also shouldn’t individually list out consecutive jobs at the same company, cautions Eliot Kaplan, former VP of talent acquisition at Hearst Magazines, now career coach at (and, full disclosure, the spouse of HerMoney co-founder Jean Chatzky.) Not only does it take up unnecessary space, but someone not looking closely can get the impression that you’re a job-hopper. “You don’t want five consecutive one-year gigs at the same place listed individually, for example. You should combine them into one entry that shows your rapid growth and increasing responsibility at the organization.”

There’s no two ways about it: Photos on resumes are just downright weird, Cheston says. “There’s something creepy about it, and it can give a negative impression. These days, everyone is on LinkedIn, and if someone wants to know what you look like, they can find you there,” she says. Just because we live in a modern era where resumes can feature bold design elements doesn’t mean the traditional rules about using a photo have changed, explains Stephanie Naznitsky, executive director of staffing firm OfficeTeam. “Not only is a picture useless in evaluating if you’re a good fit for the job, it can be distracting.”

This means any crazy email addresses that don’t simply include your name at your email service provider of choice. “And once you’re within one month of graduation, you should also dump any ‘.edu’ email addresses,” Kaplan says. The same holds true for including the high school you attended, a long list of internships or your college GPA. “Your 3.7 is not that big a deal,” Kaplan says. Another big one to eliminate is college clubs, according to Bissot, who says that they should all be eliminated five years after graduation. The same goes for ancient jobs—no employer needs to know you worked at a restaurant one summer when you were 16.

This means you should stop including a section for “skills” like Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, etc. Everyone knows them. “I believe my pet cockapoo knows them as well,” Kaplan says. Also, stop saying anything about references—like “references available upon request.” Everyone understands that references are a part of the job application process, and you’ll provide them when asked. “And guess what—a recruiter does not need your permission to reach out to one of your former employers and ask about you,” he says.

Also, if you have a section for “interests” they must be interesting. “Netflix, cooking, travel are not interesting, Kaplan says. “If you want to include them, you have to be specific: the oeuvre of Alfonso Cuaron, Instant Pot classics or 50-state covered bridge tours.” Lastly, scrap words and phrases like “results-oriented,” “liaise,” “team-driven,” “dynamic” and “proven track record,” Kaplan cautions. They don’t convey any real insight into your abilities or personality, and using them runs the risk of making hiring managers want to yawn.

Hiring managers do not care about what you want from your career in the long term. They want to know if you can perform the job, and what you’re going to contribute to the company, Cheston says. “When people include these things, it’s actually a very self-centered way of writing a resume. With a resume, you’re really telling a company what you can do for them. Why take up space with a section that’s all about your desires?”

Everyone’s resume is different, and that’s as it should be. You have to show off what makes you unique. “If you ask 20 different people to look at your resume, you’re going to get 20 different viewpoints,” Cheston says. “Your resume doesn’t need to fit some cookie-cutter mold—you should always be looking for ways to distinguish yourself.”

And speaking of distinguishing yourself, remember that your resume should never be a one-size-fits-all-jobs document. Smart candidates re-tailor their resumes for every position they apply for, boosting certain keywords or skills, or highlighting certain experiences over others, depending on the job. “Your resume is never one and done. It’s a living, breathing, document that grows along with you,” Cheston says.