Career

3 Things You Should Leave Out From Your Resume

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Joanne Poh

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I’ve got several friends who are either business owners or recruitment agents, and as a result I’ve had the opportunity to have a look at many of the resumes sent to them by eager candidates. And the overwhelming majority of these resumes have been, unfortunately, quite terrible.

It seems that the average Singaporean has no idea what should and shouldn’t be on a resume. In fact, people often include information that makes them look bad! Here are three things you should leave out from your resume unless the company insists.

 

Your past salary

I once saw the resume of an engineer who declared that, after 10 years of employment, his monthly salary was $5,000—clearly below market rate for someone of his seniority. Stating your salary immediately gives a prospective employer the upper hand when it comes to salary negotiations even before he decides to call you up for the interview.

If your salary is grossly below market rate, a prospective employer can decide to undercut you even before you’ve blown him away with your wit and personality. If your salary is too high, you won’t even get a callback. (While many employers will ask about your last-drawn salary during an interview, you can decline to answer. Alternatively, you can disclose your salary but acknowledge that it was below market rate.)

 

Personal information

Despite our rapidly ageing population, Singaporean employers tend to be intensely ageist—if you’re significantly older than the other applicants to a particular position, your chances of receiving a callback are slim.

In addition, while it is illegal to post job ads requesting for a particular race, recruiter friends have disclosed that many employers still come to their agencies specifying that they want to hire “only Chinese”.

An Indian friend of mine with a Western-sounding surname recounted how she was treated dismissively when she turned up at an interview and greeted with a disbelieving, “Wait… you’re Indian?”

A bosses at one of my past employers also expressed a distaste for hiring female employees, particular those with families, as he felt their personal lives made them less committed to their work.

Like it or not, in practice we do not have an equal opportunity employment environment no matter what the authorities say. So it’s in your best interests to provide as little personal information as possible, letting your career achievements speak for themselves.

That means not including a photo unless requested, as well as leaving out your date of birth, age, race, religious beliefs and marital status.

 

References

The thought of a company calling up a past employer to ask whether he liked you can be nerve-wrecking. Your boss might have wished you well when you left the job, but who’s to say he wasn’t faking it?

While many companies will ask for references when you show up for an interview, it’s never a good idea to provide that information unbidden on your resume.

Providing a list of references even before being called up for an interview could mean that you never even get the chance to dazzle the company with your personal charm if they happened to call up your ex-boss while he was on the toilet and not in the mood for a chat.

In addition, I’ve gone for several interviews where the employer didn’t bother asking for references or offered me a job on the spot. In such situations, you’ll be glad you didn’t include references, as the employer could have decided to call them up just because they were there.

Have you ever included any of the above on your resume? Tell us why or why not in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.