By Alison Green
When you’re putting together a résumé, you might find yourself looking for ways to disguise a spotty job history, get around résumé-screening software or even avoid showing your age. And if you go looking for help, you might be encouraged to employ some résumé “tricks” to bypass these challenges. The problem? Hiring managers can see right through the most common résumé tricks, and using them will usually backfire on you.
Here are five résumé tricks that you should pass up.
1. Using a functional résumé instead of a chronological résumé to hide weaknesses in your work history. If you’re trying to hide gaps between jobs, disguise several short-term stays or downplay the fact that you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, you might have been advised that you should use a functional résumé instead of a chronological one. Rather than a traditional résumé, which would be in reverse-chronological order, functional résumés simply list skills and abilities without tying them to specific jobs and dates.
The problem with this format? Employers know that they’re generally used to disguise limited or outdated work experience or job hopping, and so they’re generally taken as a red flag that the candidate is trying to cover something up. Moreover, employers hate this format since it makes it hard to understand what the candidate’s career progression has been, and how recent (or old) those listed accomplishments are. If your skills are strong, an employer might contact you anyway and ask you to clarify the chronology of your work history – but when they have plenty of other good candidates to choose from, it will make them more likely to simply pass you up.
2. Shortening your résumé by shrinking the margins and font instead of cutting content.Sometimes a candidate who has heard that his or her résumé shouldn’t be more than one or two pages tries to hit that limit by using a tiny font and narrowing page margins to cram more text in. But it’s pretty obvious to people who read a lot of résumés when you’ve done this, and you’ll come across as someone who can’t or won’t edit and who doesn’t know what’s most important. Worse, you’ll dilute your résumé’s impact, because small, crowded text with no white space is hard to read and even harder to scan, which means hiring managers’ eyes are likely to glaze over when they turn to your résumé – the exact opposite of the reaction you want.
3. Leaving dates off your résumé to avoid age discrimination. Older candidates are sometimes advised to leave dates of employment off their résumés altogether, so that employers don’t draw conclusions about their age and assume that they’re too old, too expensive or too set in their ways. The problem with this advice is that dates of employment are such a standard part of a résumé that leaving them off looks bizarre – like leaving the house without your pants. Moreover, it’s not just convention; dates of employment are relevant. Employers want to know if your experience managing the team that achieved such great results was recent or if it was 20 years ago, as well as whether you did it for six months or three years.
However, if you’re concerned about age discrimination, one thing you can do is remove from your résumé jobs that are older than 15 to 20 years. They’re unlikely to strengthen your candidacy at this point anyway, and your more recent accomplishments are probably more impressive.