What Not to Put on Your Resume

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

When it comes to your resume, some things are best left unsaid. A resume that’s filled with outdated, unnecessary, and routine information can appear cluttered and cause the reader to lose interest. It can make you look less than professional and drown your accomplishments in a sea of irrelevant data. You’ll help prospective employers focus on what’s really important if you avoid the following:

Personal Stuff
Don’t list your height, weight, or health status. While this is customary in Europe, it’s a no-no in this country.
Don’t refer to your age or marital status. This is protected information under current employment laws.
Don’t list personal activities like sewing, reading, and skiing. While some readers may say if gives them insight into your personality, most recruiters consider it too folksy.

School Stats
Don’t list where or when you attended high school. It’s irrelevant.
Don’t list your GPA unless it was a 4.0. Even if that’s true, list it only during your first year out of school. After that, it is no longer current information.
After you’ve been out of nursing school for about a year, school-related activities and awards are no longer germane. Your work experience, not things like being named to the dean’s list or serving as a student council member, is what counts now.

Work Generalities
Don’t list routine duties, such as delivering patient care, picking up physicians’ orders, and administering meds. This is understood.
Don’t clog up your resume with a laundry list of continuing education classes. List a few current and important ones, if you wish. You could also write “Continuing Ed credits available upon request.”

Basic Tenets
Don’t list an objective. “Looking for a position where I can use my experience and skills and deliver quality patient care” is obvious and therefore meaningless. And if you say you’re looking for a position in a specific area — the pharmaceutical industry, for example — you’ll have to change your resume every time you apply for a job in another specialty. You can always state your interest and preference in your cover letter, which you customize for each job application.

Don’t list references on your resume or put “References available upon request” at the bottom. If interviewers want references, they’ll ask for them, and you’ll provide them on a separate sheet of paper. End of story.

Don’t list every presentation you’ve made or everything you’ve published back to the Dark Ages. Rather, consider using a category entitled “Selected Presentations” or “Selected Publications” and list a few of the more important and current ones. Remember not to confuse a resume with a curriculum vitae (CV), which is a whole other animal.

Dollar Don’ts
Don’t include your salary history on your resume. If responding to a classified ad that says “Will only consider resumes with salary history,” make a general statement about your salary history in your cover letter like “Over the last 10 years, I have been making a progressively increased salary. I am currently in the mid-50s range, plus benefits.”

Likewise, don’t state your salary expectations on your resume. If pressed to do so as above, make a statement in your cover letter, such as “My salary requirement for this position is negotiable. At this time, I’m interested in learning more about whether the job is right for me and whether I’m the right candidate for the job.”

The Benefits
Heeding the above will accomplish several things:

  • It helps you pare down your resume to a manageable size (no more than one or two pages in most cases).
  • It helps eliminate irrelevant, outdated, and unimportant information so that your resume sounds more current.
  • It gives the reader a concentrated glimpse of the important and significant things about your background and credentials.
  • It gets your resume up to current resume writing standards.

Make your resume a “clutter-free” zone by eliminating information that is old, uninteresting, and no longer applicable. You’ll be left with a polished, professional document that focuses on your major accomplishments, experiences, and skills. It’s guaranteed to make for a more interesting read.

For more information about resumes and CVs check out: The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses – Practical Strategies for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career

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