Should I Include X in My Resume?

This is one of the most common questions I’m asked by my clients. I write resumes designed to appeal to a specific target audience, and this means I often omit facts and information that I know won’t impress that target audience. And that can sometimes be hard to swallow.

After all, if you see a first draft of your resume that omits key facts, it’s natural to ask “but shouldn’t X be included?” You worked hard for that achievement. You studied for that certification. You put two years of your life into that part-time business. And now as far as your resume is concerned, it never even happened.

Why it’s a Mistake to Think This Way

In most cases, including everything won’t help you impress employers, it will hurt you.

I was working with a client a few months ago who wanted to work in marketing. She did have quite a bit of marketing experience, but threaded in between she also had some volunteer theater management experience and a variety of jobs within the hospitality industry. She felt that her eclectic background gave her the edge over more conventional candidates and she wanted me to weave all the information into a cohesive story.

This would have been a big mistake. Employers don’t want eclectic – to them it reads as unfocused. And they don’t value varied experiences as much as they value a consistent record of achievement in the field they’re hiring for. If you have that, you mustn’t clutter it up with a lot of extraneous information.

When I rewrote her resume, I left out the theater work and the hospitality jobs. As a result, it read as a strong marketing resume, giving the impression of a focused professional who had gained lots of valuable experience and was ready to step up to the next level.

Shine the spotlight on the main story

Imagine being at a play. One scene ends, and lights go dark on most of the stage while a spotlight shines on two actors having a conversation. If you pull your eyes away from the two actors for a moment, you can make out the shadowy figures of stage hands in the background, moving props and setting up for the next scene. They’re not lit because they\’re not important to the story – the spotlight tells you where to look.

That’s the way you have to think about your resume. As you’re considering what to include and what to omit, ask yourself “does my audience need this in order to understand my value to them?” If the answer is no, you have to be ruthless and chop it out – no matter how proud it makes you or how hard you worked at it.

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