Cleared Employers Do Not Want to See This on Your Resume

Posted by Rob Riggins

In many cases, your resume serves as your first impression to recruiters and hiring managers. And as first impressions go, you only get one. So check your cleared resume today to make sure it’s as effective as it should be, and that you’re not communicating any of the following errors:

Personal data. Things like your social security number (yes this really still happens!), height, weight, number of children, religion, etc. We had someone come to a job fair with a resume that touted his weight loss. While that is an accomplishment, it’s not one that belongs on your resume.

Granular detail. This issue often goes hand-in-hand with thinking of your resume as a biography, which it is not. It’s an ad to get you an interview. Consider that very, very few jobs are asking for someone with more than 10 years’ experience. What you did 15, 20 or 25 years ago should be referenced briefly and succinctly. For those transitioning out of the military, only list the training that is relevant to what you want to do. If you’re in IT, focus on the technologies that are relevant to the position you’re applying for.

Long lists of responsibilities. You may have led a team, programmed in Java, moved $50M of equipment around the world, but what was the impact of your actions? What did these actions accomplish? Everyone in a job has responsibilities, but that doesn’t communicate that you accomplished anything or were any good. What results can you show from the responsibilities you were given? Read Resume Check: Strengthen Your Achievements to help you focus on actual accomplishments that show an employer what you can do for them.

Puffery. Don’t puff up your resume by implying things that aren’t true. If you reference a technology, include how many years’ experience you have vs simply including it in a list with no context. With education, be clear about whether you graduated or just attended that impressively-named school. If you’re working on your PMP or other certifications, absolutely include them on your resume, but be very clear that they are in progress. If you worked as part of a team on a project, be sure to put that in context vs taking credit for what the team as a whole accomplished.

Your Security Clearance expiration date. If you’re certain you’ve got the details right, it’s okay. But we surveyed cleared recruiters and they actually prefer that you just state your clearance level up front on your resume, because so many cleared candidates have the wrong information. When it’s relevant, they’ll check JPAS.

Clutter. If your resume is hard to read with dense paragraphs and tiny type, it will not be read. Your goal is a clean resume, with a simple font and adequate white space. Now more than ever an initial review of your resume is a scan vs a close read. You want your accomplishments to pop, not be buried in a dense paragraph.

References. Don’t include your references on your resume. Even including “References available upon request” is unnecessary, as it’s assumed. Save that space for communicating more relevant information.

A cover letter. Well this isn’t exactly correct. What they don’t want to see is a resume accompanied by a cover letter that has no substance, just as they don’t want a resume with no substance. If you’re writing a cover letter – and if the job posting asks for one you absolutely should do so – it’s your chance to share more detail about how your accomplishments solve the hiring manager’s problems. Read I Hate Reading Cover Letters for more details.

One thing recruiters and hiring managers absolutely do want to see on your resume is contact information! At almost every Cleared Job Fair we see a cleared individual with a resume that lacks an email address and phone number. Don’t let this be you. While we noted many things to avoid in your resume, your contact information is key to landing that next great job on the horizon.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 8:00 am

7 thoughts on “Cleared Employers Do Not Want to See This on Your Resume”

  1. The ENTIRE ISSUE is NOT ONE CANDIDATE looking for a job is a mind reader!!! Each company looking for potential candidates ALREADY KNOWS what they’re looking for in a resume. Ditto the “ideal” candidate- how does a potential candidate know what’s in the recruiting office personnel mind? Many VERY EXPERIENCED WELL QUALIFIED people are looked over simply because they didn’t have that one word or phrase the company is looking for.

    1. Damon, You are correct that you can’t read someone’s mind and the process can be frustrating. What you can do though is make sure your resume is tailored to the specific position you’re applying for, and includes the same terminology/keywords that are noted as required skills or experience. The job posting is your roadmap for that effort. As an example, if the job posting refers to a Cyber Security Analyst and you refer to your experience as an Information Security Analyst, that’s a mismatch. Removing clutter from your resume and following the other tips listed above will help too, as your goal is to make your resume as reader friendly, approachable, and efficient as possible. Most importantly remember your resume doesn’t get you a job, it gets you an interview.

      1. You can’t tailor your resume if you have to go through pre-pub every time. I would love to tailor my resume but doing so would likely require prepub for every change. Considering that pre-pub can take weeks or months depending on who’s doing the review and the agency involved, this is untenable.

        1. Great point JR. A work around to that concern would be to ensure that the resume you have approved in pre-pub contains all your accomplishments, similar to a networking resume. Then you can refine that down to just the most pertinent details when you apply for a particular job. So start wide and then narrow your focus, using the most relevant pieces of your approved resume.

    2. ditto… DITTO…! DITTO….!!!! (I know this is late but I just received the story and link.)
      Yes indeed, yes indeed. The one lucky door # 2 person with the matching phrase that recruiters are looking for is the one that is snapped up. Over the other one who is supremely qualified with ALL the proper creds and education.
      The recruiters, not all of them of course, want to do a simple search on that magic phrase and viola – here is that candidate. Rather than DOING the work of actually finding that qualified candidate.
      As it is, we (those on the job market) spend all that time attempting to create something that shows off who we are and what we offer as a qualified candidate, well – those tend to be overlooked.
      So sorry…
      In the meantime, those of you looking, keep trying and do not let the lazy recruiters put you out entirely. Keep your chin up and continue to succeed.

  2. Sorry Rob but your wrong about the 10 years thing. The Three letter acronym agencies want to see everything you ever did beyond 10 years. I was told not to let anyone know I applied for a job with them. Oops there goes that job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of updates to this conversation