When you made your first resume in college, you probably wanted to list every group and activity you’d been associated with since high school. You were proud of your leadership role in the science club and even more thrilled to promote your fraternity membership.
Instead of creating a resume tailored to the position you were applying for, your first draft read like a self-congratulatory piece. Eventually, you learned the person responsible for hiring interns was looking for a concise summary of relevant skills and experiences — just like every other person in charge of hiring.
Recruiters spend an average of six seconds scanning a resume. That’s six seconds to evaluate all of your professional accomplishments and make a snap judgment on whether you’re worth a closer look. (Click here to Tweet this thought.)
But some experiences fail to impress hiring managers — and may even discourage them from interviewing you. When six seconds are all you have, the high school chess team and the “Wizards and Muggles Club” won’t make the cut.
Here are five things you shouldn’t include on your resume:
1. Religious affiliations
Your church or prayer group may have played a major role in shaping who you are, but adding these to a resume makes hiring managers nervous — unless, of course, you’re applying for a job in the religious space.
Because religious affiliation is a protected class, some companies worry that if they interview you but don’t hire you, they might be sued for discrimination. Don’t run the risk of having your resume dumped in the “don’t interview” pile by including religious references.
2. Political clubs
Hiring managers don’t want to know you led the community anti-war protests on Wednesday evenings. Even if you know the political leanings of the person responsible for hiring, you shouldn’t include yours on your resume. Political biases are best left outside the office — unless you’re applying for a political job — and companies will appreciate not seeing your favorite campaign bumper sticker plastered all over your resume.
3. Vanity references
It’s great that you visit Gold’s Gym five days a week, but please leave gym memberships or other references to physical attributes off your resume. Unless you’re applying for a position as a model or personal trainer, including photos or references to your looks puts hiring managers in the awkward position of evaluating you based on physical appearance — and it may discourage them from granting you an interview.
4. Irrelevant clubs
It would’ve made sense to include your science club leadership on your first resume — if you’d been applying for an internship in a lab. But since you were applying for a sales internship, the science club was irrelevant and distracting.
Almost half of hiring managers look to see if your resume is customized for the open position, so including information that supports your qualifications for that particular job works in your favor. Before you submit your resume, ask yourself if highlighting your “Jelly of the Month Club” membership will help sell you to a potential employer.
5. Social clubs
So you were “the man” in your fraternity’s incoming class. Girls couldn’t wait to date you, and you built the biggest, baddest homecoming float your college has ever seen. Employers couldn’t care less.
Including social clubs on your resume takes up valuable real estate. Unless the person hiring you was involved in Greek life, listing a fraternity or sorority could paint an inaccurate picture of who you are.
Instead of simply listing your affiliation, focus on what you did within your fraternity or sorority that may cause a hiring manager to open her eyes. Did you gain valuable leadership experience as president? Great. Can you provide an example of a time you used your problem-solving skills to achieve measurable results? Even better.
Hiring managers look for experiences and roles specifically related to the open position, and they want to see you’ve grown through a variety of roles and responsibilities. Before they bring you in for an interview, they want to know you have the capacity to solve problems in creative ways.
Drafting or updating your resume is an opportunity to present yourself in the best possible light and highlight your most impressive qualifications. Don’t waste it by focusing on your prom king stint or your knitting club credentials. Showcase your most valuable and pertinent skills to make sure you make it past the six-second mark.
Matthew Gordon is President and CEO of The Gordon Group, a holding company that primarily manages GraduationSource and Avanti Systems USA. Gordon strives to foster positive corporate culture and empower young minds.