In the era of Applicant Tracking Systems that scan resumes for keywords, it can be tempting to pad your resume with as many credentials as possible. Please don’t do it; listing too many skills could be costing you both jobs and money.
Why? Because taking up valuable space in your resume with irrelevant or basic skills can hurt your chances of being selected for a job – and lower the salaries you’re offered for those roles you do get.
Your resume is a marketing document – selling your candidacy for a specific role. Anything that does not contribute to this is just taking up space: not just irrelevant, but harmful.
Ways irrelevant skills can hurt your resume
First off, irrelevant skills can make you look outdated and give the impression that you haven’t kept up with the times. In some cases, the software or technology has become obsolete (MS-DOS, fax machines, Lotus.)
As the pace of technology changes, any apps, websites, and software mentioned in your resume will be one more area that needs regular updating.
In other cases, it’s just that the tools have become so commonly used that they should go without saying in a resume.
For example, people still use Microsoft Office and word processing, but since everyone is expected to know them, listing these on your resume for any job involving technology above an entry-level position can look like a filler. It’s assumed that if you are working in the digital space, you know how to create, share, and organize documents, spreadsheets, and files.
And those skills are becoming more essential for many jobs across industries – especially for team-lead or management roles and for people who aspire to move up through the ranks.
So, listing the skills that should be assumed were among your top credentials can also make you look more junior than you actually might be. This can reduce the starting salary, and a lower starting salary can hurt your paycheque for years to come since annual raises tend to be minimal.
‘Telephone skills,’ ‘data entry,’ and ‘typing’ are examples of implied skills now. In 2017, everyone should be able to use a phone, input data, and type.
Examples of irrelevant skills in your resume
- Telephone skills
- Data entry
- Online research
- Document use
- Computer use
Everyone uses a computer, so merely listing ‘computer use’ as a skill is a filler. If you have programming, computer repair or maintenance, or design skills, list them by all means.
Another reason your skills could be diminishing the strength of a resume is that they are not relevant to the job you apply for.
Have you heard the expression, “less is more”? A resume is one of the times when this is particularly true. I can’t entirely agree with those career advisors who insist that a resume must fit on one or even two pages. If you have three pages full of relevant skills, experience, and accomplishments, describe them. Employers will read on to subsequent pages so long as everything they’ve seen so far is interesting to them and their job.
You don’t want to have a very long resume that details everything you’ve learned and done in your career when much of this information doesn’t directly apply to the job you’re after.
Those irrelevant details will water down your candidacy and make you appear less rather than more qualified. For example, if you have excellent graphic design skills and a certificate in digital illustration, but you’re applying for a copywriting job, those design credentials might discourage employers from hiring you.
If it looks like you’re just applying for a job just because it is available, even though it does not appear to be in line with your chosen career path and goals, you won’t be a strong candidate. Employers don’t want to waste their time hiring and training someone who isn’t going to stay in a job very long, and they may reasonably assume that you’ll jump ship as soon as a graphic design role comes along.
Hiring managers look at many resumes for each position they recruit for. The candidates who stand out from that crowd are the ones who have the most relevant, up-to-date skills and credentials for their job listed first and foremost – without being buried in a pile of outdated or irrelevant information.
It’s not the candidate with the most skills or credentials who gets hired. Employers routinely pick the applicant who seems like the best fit for the role and the career path. Cut everything from your resume that doesn’t line up precisely with the job at hand.