In our third instalment of our resume red flags series, we explore what might be considered too much personal information on a resume.
Your resume is a great opportunity for you to introduce yourself to a potential employer and highlight some of the most important qualities you possess as a professional. Making sure to craft a document that reflects who you are in an authentic way is crucial to using your resume effectively. After all, the opportunities you are applying for should align with who you are as a person, and the likelihood of finding this alignment is greatly improved if your marketing document presents your true values, objectives, skills and personality.
Presenting yourself authentically, however, does not necessarily mean indulging all the details of your persona or your life experience. Storytelling is always a selective process, and considering your audience is the first step in crafting meaningful, effective resumes. Although it may seem valuable to reveal core passions or beliefs in your resume, sometimes details can be an unintentional deterrent to the hiring process. So what kinds of details constitute TMI?
TMI on a Resume
Age or Date of Birth
Age can be a red flag for a myriad of reasons to an employer, and it’s difficult in some circumstances to know exactly what might be perceived as valuable or not. In some cases, maturity is sought after for positions of responsibility, whereas other employers might be looking for someone young to bring fresh ideas to the table or a youthful perspective on the work. Yes, once you are in an interview, it is likely a recruiter will see approximately what “age category” you fall under, but an interview is an opportunity to prove your value regardless of your age. Omitting these details from a resume allows for focus on what matters – your qualifications.
In some cases, like actors and models, a picture is relevant, but in most other cases a photo is a deterrent from the content. It’s true that in our modern day world it is likely that a recruiter will “Google” you and investigate your online presence anyway, meaning they will see what you look like whether you put it on your resume or not. However, your resume is the gateway into your professional persona, and what you put focus on here impacts the overall impression the employer has about you. If you have a headshot front and center, you risk having your appearance become a determining factor in the application process, which can also be viewed as inappropriate for some employers.
Marital Status or Dependents
You should be proud of your family and your personal life, but when it comes to the world of work, this shouldn’t be a factor regarding your ability to perform a job, and therefore not included. Moreover, in some countries, it is discouraged on legal grounds to include these details on application documents.
Hobbies or Interests
You may have been called in for interviews because your Rescue Diving certification seemed fascinating to an employer, or your love of the outdoors resonated with a recruiter. There is always a chance that your sporting affiliations or artistic passions might strike a chord with human resources, but remember that a resume is a marketing piece meant to quickly and directly guide an audience to the most crucial aspects of your professional value. Real estate is valuable on a page, and it is infinitely more important to show specific ways you add value to a team, like accomplishments statements, than it is to state that you love yoga, hockey, football, paper crafts, and Parcheesi. On the other hand, if you feel that your status as Captain of your intramural soccer team lends insight into your ability to lead and work as a team, then finding a place for this can certainly improve your presentation.
“Personal Circumstances”, Health Conditions or Disabilities
It’s possible that personal circumstances, health conditions, or disabilities can play a factor in your ability to perform a job. However, if you feel that these circumstances or factors will, in fact, negatively impact your performance, then applying for that job might not be a great idea anyway. A physical disability or a personal circumstance like a divorce or ailing relative does not necessarily mean you can out-perform your competition, and moreover, it is inappropriate for an employer to ask about these details. If you have a gap in your work history due to special circumstances, take the emphasis off of the gap in your timeline on the resume and prepare an honest and professional explanation for the gap when planning for an interview.
Political or Religious Affiliations
When we are passionate about our beliefs or values, we often want to present these to others, especially when it is a large part of our personal lives. However, most of us are aware of the potential segregation that can come with differing political or religious views, so it is best to stay away from these topics (both at dinner parties, and in the work world). Even if you are meaningfully involved in organizations through volunteer work, leaving out the affiliation is a good idea. You can always present your role and experience, such as the specific work you do on behalf of the organization, without naming what side of the fence you are on.
As is the case with most details on a resume, these are not hard fast rules, and there are circumstances in which personal information might be appropriate. Consider who will be reading your resume, and how much real estate you are using on your resume, before adding in details beyond your immediate qualifications.
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