Resume Accomplishments You Should Omit
Including a solid list of accomplishments on a resume can demonstrate your work ethic and ability to achieve results. But some accomplishments should be left out. Think twice before including any of the following:
You know the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true -- it probably is.” That’s what employers are thinking when they read over-the-top accomplishments that sound fabricated. For example, the salesperson who generated $10 million in sales, even though her company is only a $2 million company. Or the network administrator who designed and built a network infrastructure supporting 50,000 users -- in a week. If the accomplishment is inflated, it doesn’t belong on your resume.
“When describing improvements, increasing quality to 100 percent or reducing errors to zero sounds improbable, so use more precise figures -- an increase of 98.7 percent makes the accomplishment more believable,” says Marty Weitzman, a Nationally Certified Resume Writer and managing director of Gilbert Resumes, an Englishtown, New Jersey-based resume-writing company.
What if you really are that good? Then include the accomplishment, but add information to back it up, such as an award or commendation you received, a link to a press release or a quote from a supervisor acknowledging the results.
It’s hard to let go of accomplishments that you are proud of, but consider omitting the ones unrelated to your current goal.
“Think of your resume like a Web site ranking on Google -- the more relevant your content, the higher your ranking in the resume pile,” says Jared Redick, principal of The Resume Studio, a San Francisco-based resume-writing firm. Redick advises his clients to focus on accomplishments that a prospective employer would find important. “Write for your audience, not your ego,” he says.
If you are an entry-level job seeker or a career changer and don’t have many relevant accomplishments, emphasize transferable skills that demonstrate your potential to succeed in your new career field.
Writing a resume is not equivalent to writing your memoir. Most employers are concerned about your recent positions, going back 10 to 15 years or so. If you are detailing every accomplishment from the mid-1990s and earlier, declutter your resume using an editor’s eye.
“It’s OK to mention older jobs in an ‘Early Career’ section so employers can see your work chronology, but including details of outdated accomplishments is often a waste of space,” Weitzman says.
Deciding whether to include accomplishments that may expose you to possible discrimination is a very personal one. Gerry Crispin, SPHR, a recruiting professional and partner at Career XRoads, a Kendall Park, New Jersey, recruitment consulting firm, generally does not recommend omitting important resume accomplishments, but says doing so is not a bad idea in some instances. “If the accomplishments give a clear indication of factors such as religion, race or age, I might find reasonable alternatives to describing them,” he says.
For example, if you held a leadership position with a political or religious organization but decided against disclosing the specifics to prospective employers, you could state that you were an officer for a local advocacy or service group -- this allows you to focus on the achievement while omitting the organization’s name. Of course, this is a highly personal decision, and you may decide you want to reveal the details. You may also want to include the information if you would otherwise have a gap in your experience or if including it could help you land your desired job.
On the other hand, it’s important to keep in mind that the main goal of a resume is to secure an interview, which has been increasingly challenging to do over the last few years. “Unless the resume is geared to a political or religious group, consider omitting accomplishments in these areas,” Weitzman says.
Including quantifiable facts about your accomplishments is important, but it’s equally important not to reveal proprietary company information. Accomplishments that include revenue figures, production methods, business or marketing plans -- or any information that the employer would consider a trade secret -- should be omitted in the event a competitor sees your resume. Find a balance between revealing confidential information while still highlighting your accomplishments, such as writing about a percentage increase instead of actual revenues.
“Information that is readily available to the public on annual reports is fair game, but I advise clients who work for privately held companies to use discretion -- your employer or even prospective employer may question your judgment in disclosing proprietary information,” Weitzman says.