A Baker’s Dozen Items NOT to Include in Your Executive Resume


I’ve written a number of articles over the years about information that should appear in your executive resume. For example, see:

Writing an Executive Resume Work History

Writing a Keyword Rich Executive Resume

Hard Skills and Soft Skills in Your Resume

Modernizing Your Executive Resume

and many other posts in this Executive Resumes Blog.

However, nearly as important as knowing what to include is knowing what does NOT properly belong in your executive resume.

The potential list is long, but here are the top ones in my view:

1) A Me-oriented objective

Actually, for most resumes, especially at executive level, the resume objective should be dispensed with altogether.

In its place will go a section that highlights and summarizes what you can offer an employer.

Whether you call this a Summary, Profile, or Branding Statement, its purpose is to pique your reader’s interest by answering the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) question, immediately and quickly. The section itself may or may not carry one of the above titles, and in many instances is topped with a headline indicating who you are (job title) and/or what you do (primary area of expertise), and/or a “tag line” (short branding statement).

2) The actual word ‘Resume’

There is no need to waste valuable resume real estate on the obvious.

3) Information it is illegal for an employer to require

This includes personal data and contact information such as your birth date, sex or sexual orientation, religion, race, political affiliation, etc. You should also leave out your age and the names or ages of your spouse and children.

4) Too much contact information

Give them an email address and phone number where it is convenient to reach you, and do include your LinkedIn profile URL. Don’t overwhelm with 3 or 4 phone numbers or email addresses. And please be sure your email address is proper and professional.

5) Information that could compromise your privacy or identity

In today’s world where privacy and identity theft are a major concern, in most cases abbreviated address info is sufficient (city, state, zip).

Needless to say, do not include your social security or driver’s license numbers! I once received a resume that contained the candidate’s credit card information – no kidding!

As an aside, it is not unheard of when filling out a job application for a potential employer to ask for bank information such as a voided check early on — just in case they hire you (for direct deposit purposes). Do not provide it!

6) A photograph or stats on your physical characteristics

Unless you are preparing a resume or CV for overseas, it is best to omit a photo of yourself. Many companies are legitimately gun-shy about seeing photos on resumes, for fear of violating EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) laws. Exceptions to this in the U.S. would be in professions where appearance is a part of the job requirements, such as modeling or acting.

Similarly, including information on your physical characteristics (height, weight, etc.) can lead to accusations of discrimination against an employer.

7) Irrelevant or unrelated jobs

Include only positions held in the last 10 to 15 (20 years max), and either leave out or very briefly include (so as to avoid gaps) positions that are not pertinent to the type of position you currently seek.

8) Employer or reference contact information

A formal job application is where you may at some point need to provide contact info for your previous and current employers.

References should be prepared on a separate list that you will provide when and if appropriate.

9) Salary history and requirements

These are to be discussed later, preferably much later.

10) Out of date or assumed skills

Do not list obsolete technologies, skills, or knowledge. Neither list things that everyone will assume, such as a basic ability to use computers and standard software/systems like Microsoft Office.

11) Arrests or criminal convictions

You may have to list a conviction on an application, but do not mention it on the resume.

Laws may vary by State on whether you need to disclose arrests or convictions in applying for a job, so be sure to check before disclosing–but NEVER on the resume itself. Likely the employer will at some point run a background check anyway.

12) Confidential or proprietary information

It is important not to violate the confidentiality of information you possess from a current or previous employer. You do not want to let the cat out of the bag about a company’s future plans, financial details, or any pending mergers or acquisitions that are not public knowledge. This may leave a potential employer wondering about how discreet you would be with their information, and could even lead to legal action against you.

13) “References Available on Request”

They had better be! This is stating the obvious and will mark your resume as out of date.