Resume Clutter: How to Cut the Non-Essentials and Silence the Noise

resume clutterRadios, TV’s, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and rss feeds. Newspapers, magazines, books, and not to mention good old fashion people. All of these inputs vie for our attention on a minute by minute basis throughout most of our lives. Most of us expend quite a bit of mental effort just sifting through all that noise to get to what is important. I’m sure HR professionals feel the same about resume clutter.

What is Resume Clutter

Turning down the spigot of the information pouring into my life got me thinking about other aspects of our lives where turning down the noise would be beneficial. Then it hit me. The same principle applies to your resume. The difference is that this noise isn’t affecting you, so much as the one who has the power to hire you. And recruiters are not going to expend the effort. So you have to.

You have probably heard much of the advice before: You only have ten seconds to impress someone with your resume. Keep it short; one page per ten years experience. Don’t list job descriptions, list accomplishments.

This advice is well-regarded. Because it works.

However in the digital age and in a time of recession they become amplified. Just as the information age has buried us under a mountain of data and text, so too have recruiters and employers been inundated with resume clutter. So, the question becomes, how do you make only what is important on your resume stand out?

The First Cut

Decide exactly what job you want to apply for. Each position is going to require a targeted resume, so chose a job. Don’t say “Sales” if what you really mean is “Software Sales” or “Car Sales” because each position is going to require unique terms and phrasing on your resume. Now, look at your resume an eliminate any jobs or background info that is not directly related to your intended position.

You may have done an excellent job as a preschool teacher for the first couple of years out of college. However, employers are much more interested in how you landed large accounts for an ad agency, or how you consistently sold above your monthly goal amounts. Creating resume clutter to detail jobs that are not related to what you want to become is folly in the current job market.

The Second Cut

Take a cold, objective look at the rest of your resume. The goal of this edit is to get your resume onto one, to one-and-a-half, pages. Take a hatchet to it. Don’t fret over it, just cut. You can always add information back in later if need be. What you want to do here is get down to a bare bones version.

Every resume will have unnecessary noise on it. You just need to know where to look. Are some of the skills listed in the summary outdated? Do you have professional development listed in the education section that is more than ten years old? Do you have excessive information about the companies at which you were employed? All of this is just resume clutter drowning out your accomplishments. Cut them out.

The Third Cut

Reformat your resume so that it will be easily scannable. The end goal here is to create as much white space as possible. Do not list multiple phone numbers and emails. Never use paragraphs of text when a bullet list will do the job. Use tables and columns so that text is properly aligned and easy to scan. Do not include references.

You want clean lines and current content. Clean lines means a document can be scanned quickly because it is easy on the eyes and has lots of white space. Current content means that the last ten years of employment should be the focus. In an economy that evolves as fast as ours, employers very much have a what-have-you-done-lately attitude.

Do yourself a favor and cut down on some of the noise in your life. And while you are at it take that old resume and give it a newer, cleaner, more current look – minus the resume clutter.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Quality Resumes and Career Development!


Quality Resumes


Steve BradyAbout the Author: Steve P. Brady is an executive resume writer and personal branding professional whose weekly work can be read at Quality Resumes. Follow Steven on Twitter.



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