Poison Pills: What Makes Your Resume Deadly?

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Career coaches and resume writers often spar and tussle about what you must include in your resume or how to present certain items. But what most people agree on is what will poison a resume. There are some things that are almost certain to curtail a financial job application before it even gets started. You should know what they are—eliminate the following from your resume with extreme prejudice:

  • Beyond the Horizon. Descriptions of job positions that go back more than 12 years or so can only hurt. Whether that was a fry cook position or an early data entry job, it doesn't tell about who you are now professionally. Keep it relevant to this position. Omit.

  • Bumper Stickers. Political affiliations and religious beliefs on your resume suggest a strong bias on your part. Almost anything that makes a good magnet or bumper sticker for your car is poison for your resume. So unless these views are directly related to the position you are applying for, scratch therm.

  • No Trump Badge. No matter the reason for it, promoting the fact that you have been "fired" is not going to be seen favorably. If it comes up in an interview, discuss it honestly. Until then, keep it positive.

  • Too Much Information. Physical descriptions, photos, hobbies, activities, clubs, books you've read, pets, home ownership status—anything that is unrelated to the position is just clutter, distracting and a waste of time. Recruiters will recoil at your lack of discretion. Edit.

  • Hack Term Bingo. If a hiring manager encounters more than a couple of overused, meaningless terms, your resume is likely headed for the recycle bin. “Principled” may suggest a need on your part to overcome some feeling of inadequacy. Same with "creative," "motivated" and "self-starter." And are you truly an “expert” or a “guru”? Probably not. And if you say you “think outside the box,” you are demonstrating that you probably don’t. Remove these deadly little landmines.

  • Bland Brand. Do not use the same resume for every job application. Show you care. Tailor your resume to fit the specific job for which you're applying, especially if you’re applying to multiple jobs within the same company. Every job requires a slightly different set of skills, and every firm is slightly different. Let your resume reflect that, or it will die a dull death.

  • Fib. Creatively embellish. Fabricate. Lie. You may attract attention, get moved into a "must read" pile and even make it to the "check out this candidate" pile. But then they check you out. Give your potential new firm credit; with the tools and skills they have for recruiting, it won’t be hard to cut through the fog of misinformation and reveal not only the real you, but the attempt to mislead. When it comes to deceits, it’s one-and-done.

  • Disclosing the Non-disclosable. Offering that you’ll bring, or even suggesting that you have proprietary information from the firm you are coming from not only suggests flaws in your character—who wants to hire a thief?—but can put both you and the company interviewing you at risk for a lawsuit. Can’t keep company secrets? We’ll pass.

If your resume does make the cut, it should be because it was full of forthright, clear and appropriate information, customized for this position at this firm. Avoid the poison, and your new employer may find the bait very palatable.