Notable Content to Leave Off Your Resume

By Laura DeCarlo

Eager, inexperienced job seekers often want to include everything they think a prospective employer wants to see or could potentially ask about on a resume. There are two big categories of information that you should never, ever include on your resume: salary and references. Here’s why these topics should be left off.

Avoid addressing the salary question

Never mention salary on your resume. Period.

Sometimes a job ad asks for your salary history (past) or salary requirements (future). Realize that revealing dollar figures in advance puts you at a disadvantage. This is especially true if you’ve been working for low pay — or if you’ve been paid above market.

In addition to job ads, profile forms on job sites and online personal agent programs almost always ask for your salary information. If you decide to participate, state your expectations in a range and include the value of all benefits, bonuses, and perks in your salary history, not just cash.

Whenever possible, go with negotiable, open, or flexible instead of including dollar amounts.

When you choose to disclose your salary history or requirements online, make a distinction between general information forms and formal signed applications (legal documents). Include benefits (total compensation) on general information forms, but omit benefits on formal signed applications that ask for salary history.

Make sure you do these two things before you provide salary requirements:

  • Research the market rate for someone with your skills and experience. Start with the websites Salary.com, Salary Expert, and PayScale.

  • Find out why the smart money advises against being too quick to pipe up with hard figures on the money you’ve made and the money you want. What can you expect in return for revealing salary information, job unseen? You get a chance to name your price and hope you find takers, many of whom will want to talk your price down.

Exception to salary silence advice: Tell recruiters with whom you have a serious interest in working how much you’ve earned and how much it will cost an employer to hire you. Otherwise, know that recruiters don’t want to waste time playing games and are likely to fold up their interest and move on.

Hold off on providing your references

Employment references do not belong on a resume unless an employer specifically asks for them. In fact, the fastest way to date yourself (and your resume) is to include the words “References available upon request” at the bottom of your resume. This is a given that you will have those references available when they are requested.

Don’t wait until an employer requests the contact information for your references to get in touch with people to ask if they’ll put in a good word for you. If you haven’t done so already, reach out to prior employers, customers, directors of organizations for which you volunteer, professors, teachers, and instructors. Get their permission to have potential employers contact them about you.

Be sure to send your references a copy of the resume you use to apply for a position, and when you give out your references contact list, provide courtesy notice to your reference about the nature of the position and that they may be contacted.

Follow up repeatedly and thank everyone on your reference list when they provide a reference. Be sure to let them know when you land your new job. After all, you need them to continue doing so for you throughout your career.