Most of us have encountered the expression “too much information,” or TMI in our personal lives. We can also provide TMI about our careers to prospective employers and industry contacts during our job search.
A colleague’s video, and a client’s original resume, prompted me to think about the issue this week. Here are just a few of the TMI areas that came to mind:
- Street addresses reveal details about us,
- Email addresses can reveal more than you realize,
- Too much detail about temp jobs can project a “job hopper” image,
- Details about military service can distract from the presentation,
- Education entries are important, but should be brief,
- Be cautious about hobbies and community service entries, and
- Reference information should not be on business resumes.
You may feel that some of my cautionary notes do not apply to you. There is no “one size fits all” solution in resume and LinkedIn profile writing. The amount of information that is appropriate on your resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and at interviews could depend on your industry, location, and career level.
Street addresses reveal details about us.
It was axiomatic 20 years ago that all resumes had to include a street address. The prospective employer needed your address to contact you.
This is no longer true. Employers contact job seekers either via email or over the telephone.
Several years ago, a client pointed out some problems with including their street address on their resume. A blog post from another professional seemed to concur. It is trivial now, for example, to Google a street address and get a photo of the building, and a map showing its location. Only one or two clicks may reveal the value of our home, the approximate rent for apartments in our building, and other demographics that offer hints—often incorrect—about our family composition and salary requirements.
Of course, if you are applying for a local job, it may be advantageous to show that you live nearby and know the neighborhood.
Email addresses can reveal more than you realize.
Surprisingly, I’ve learned over the years that email addresses can also convey too much information about us. For example, AOL.com email address suggest to some people that you are an older job candidate. Many of us got these addresses in the 1990s. Hotmail is another service many of us used in the 1990s, too. The majority of business people and job seekers I’ve worked with are using Gmail today. It takes about one minute to get a Gmail address.
Use a professional screen name when you create an email address for your job search. Your name and some digits you will remember is good enough. Avoid using screen names that reveal too much about you such as email@example.com.
Too much detail about temp jobs can project a “job hopper” image.
Some resumes I’ve seen offer far too much information on brief temporary assignments. For example, one client spent the last six years doing temporary assignments at the same company. Some projects lasted 2 months, others were six months in duration, and a few projects overlapped. The result, in my view, was a confusing presentation that gave the impression he jumped from assignment-to-assignment without finishing anything. In fact, he was based in the same office, while working with several different teams to facilitate their projects.
We consolidated all the assignments under one heading for the pharmaceutical company where he did the work. My client sent the new resume to his temp agency, and was sent to a higher-paying assignment the next day!
Details about military service can distract from the presentation.
Military experience presents another TMI challenge. Serving in the US Armed Forces for years can be treated as a “job” or several progressively responsible jobs for resume purposes. It is important though to reduce pages and pages of military and bureaucratic details to a few accomplishment bullet-points (no pun intended) for each job.
For example, one of my clients spent six years as a weapons technician aboard a nuclear-powered submarine. We interviewed him and learned that he was, in civilian terms, an electronics technician, so this is the job title we used. He had many pages of documentation regarding the Nany qualification exams he passed, and his watch assignments. We learned by speaking with him that he also had some great accomplishments that saved the Navy millions of dollars.
One of the bullet-points we wrote conveyed the problem, action, and cost-saving result in simple terms.
- Repaired 120 circuit board electronic weapon delivery system using on-board and other replacement parts to avoid missile tube replacement costing $10 million. Achieved 100% supportability and “executability.”
The resume got results. A multifunction printer service company hired him as a field technician within a week during the last recession.
Education entries are important, but should be brief.
Education is another area where the resumes I’ve read provide too much information. We are proud of our achievements at school, including the long list of challenging classes we aced, sports we won championships at, and clubs we led. Unfortunately, all the business world cares about, especially after we have held our first professional-level job after graduation, is the degree we earned, our major, and the school we attended. Even the year we graduated and our GPA become irrelevant once we have been out of school for a while.
My typical education entry reads like this:
“Bachelor of Science, Accounting, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ”
This brief entry will be enough to get the candidate’s resume in front of the recruiter and manager for job announcements that specify “a bachelor’s degree in accounting.” If the hiring manager likes to hire Rutgers grads, and searches for this school, the resume will also make it into the hopper. Se, we have accomplished a lot with one line on the resume!
Be cautious about hobbies and community service entries.
Some of us engage in hobbies and pass times we love that others consider “risky.” A Wall Street Journal article several years ago suggested that some HR departments could screen out candidates who were involved in activities such as skiing because they could sustain costly injuries. So, if you are not applying for work at a sporting goods company, you are better off leaving this information off your resume.
Frequently, I suggest excluding religious activities from your resume to reduce the chance of bias. This should not be considered a hard-and-fast rule, like many aspects of resume writing, if religious work or volunteering is an important part of your personal brand.
References should not be on business resumes.
Today, I still see resumes that have the line “references available upon request” at the bottom of the resume. Some job candidates even list their references with contact information.
There is no need to state references are available or to list them. Recruiters and managers know you will provide references when requested to move forward in the process. It is also not a good idea to provide reference names and contact information on your resume because this information can be misused. Once again, this is “too much information.”
The ideas above are just a few of the strategies we use to make resumes stronger by avoiding “TMI.” Just click here to make a complimentary telephone appointment where we will discuss your specific situation.