What makes a resume scream: Don't hire me
Many job hunters struggle with what personal information to include - and what not to. Here's what doesn't belong. Plus: defending yourself against a bad performance review.
NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - Dear Annie: I went through a horrendous divorce last year that resulted in my having to quit my job and move to another city. Now I'm job hunting and wonder what to say on my resume about the gap in employment since my last job. Should I briefly state why I was obliged to move? (My ex was stalking and threatening me and our kids.) If not, what can I say instead? -Breathing Easier Now
Dear BEN: Put nothing on your resume about why you chose to move. There are tens of thousands of towns you could have moved to, so if the question comes up in interviews, concentrate on why you selected this one as your new home. (Closer to relatives? More agreeable climate? Better schools?) Then move the discussion along to what you can offer a new employer.
The whole question of how much personal information to include in a resume is one that evidently baffles lots of people. "Your resume speaks volumes about you," notes V. Michael Prencipe, a principal at HR Staffing Solutions, a temp agency. "Unfortunately, sometimes it screams, 'Don't hire me.' " He adds, "I look at about 200 resumes a week, and I've read plenty that do refer to the job seeker's divorce." Prencipe has even seen at least one resume that gave the reason for the split-up, i.e., a cheating spouse. This is way, way too much information.
Prencipe also counsels against "saving your resume as 'ssseexxxyyy_2006' and sending it as an attachment, or listing your reply e-mail address as bruceypants@" - and yes, those are both real-life examples, as are the resumes that detail the reasons why job seekers were fired from previous jobs.
Alas, in this era of rampant identity theft, even the most innocuous-seeming personal data - your home address, for example - is best left off a resume. Never, ever include your Social Security number, either, especially if you are posting your resume online.
As for personal information like hobbies, number of children, or any of the other myriad extraneous details that job hunters often feel compelled to list, Prencipe says: Don't. "Adopt this simple motto," he suggests. "Professional, yes. Personal, no." Enough said.
Dear Annie: Unfortunately, I was recently given a written warning by my supervisor. I don't agree with the reasoning behind it and think it's unfair, if not downright inaccurate. The warning is on a form that gives me the opportunity to attach my own comments. Should I try to defend myself, or just sign off? - In the Doghouse
Dear Doghouse: If your employer weren't willing to hear your side of the story, the form would not be designed to give you a chance to tell it. So by all means, defend yourself - briefly and (this is important) without slamming your boss. Perhaps there has been an innocent misunderstanding about your job duties. In that case, this warning is an opportunity for you: Once you've put your point of view in writing, ask your supervisor to tell you what you need to do to avoid this kind of trouble in the future. Then do it.
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