If in doubt, leave it out

  | James Innes

At the The CV Centre ZA we review hundreds of CVs every week, whether sent in by clients or submitted by those using our free CV review service. A mistake that we see very frequently is for people to include unnecessary personal details in their CV. Not only does this take up precious room which could be devoted to more important and relevant professional information; you could, inadvertently, be giving the chance to a potential recruiter to reject you out of hand as a candidate.

Understand the employers’ point of view. For any advertised role, they may get hundreds of applications. Whilst they may have an HR department to review them first or use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS), it is more than likely that the recruiting manager will need to go through all the CVs themselves. And this is on top of the day job. They simply do not have time to spend more than 30 seconds looking at each CV. At this stage then they are looking for excuses to reject candidates as they try to whittle the pile down to a shortlist to interview. Don’t  give them that chance!

In most countries there is legislation to prevent companies discriminating against employees on the grounds of age, sex, religious or political affiliations, nationality or sexual orientation. Unfortunately, whilst legal sanctions are there to prevent discrimination, prejudice still exists and is almost impossible to prove at the CV stage of the recruitment process.

A very good rule of thumb to use when deciding what to include in your CV is: “is it relevant to the job?”.In most cases the answer is no. Whether you are married or single, black or white, Christian or Muslim, male or female –it makes no difference to your ability to perform the role.

Employers take it for granted you are in good health and have a clean criminal record, so no need to confirm this. Your health is personal and private information, and, unless the job requires a degree of physical fitness, is irrelevant in most cases. Employers may perform background checks on potential employers before hiring them which would flag up any criminal activities in your past – but no need to bring this up in your CV.

Related: Expert Advice From Professional CV writers

Age or date of birth is only relevant if the job requirements indicate this. For example, a job that requires a lot if physical labour or entail standing on your feet all day might not suit an older employee. In most cases, however, it has no impact on your ability to perform the role and can be omitted.

Equally, national origin and ethnicity are usually irrelevant. The only exception is if you are a non-national applying for a role where work permit rules apply. If this is the case, a brief mention that you meet visa requirements is all you need to include.

Other examples we have seen include height and weight, the ability to bench press 70 kilos or run 5 marathons. All interesting information but totally irrelevant!

People often include a photo of themselves on their CV. Whilst this may be the norm in some countries, such as France, in most parts of the world our advice is don’t do this – unless you aspire to be a model or applying for a job as an actor. The whole point of a CV is to give a brief, factual description of your abilities; photographs allow a recruiter, rightly or wrongly, to develop a preconceived image of you as a person – and this may count against you.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and even if you look like George Clooney or Angelina Jolie, people may still discriminate against you. The place for an employer to see an applicant’s face for the first time is at interview; again don’t give them an opportunity to reject you before you even get to that stage.

Finally, interests and hobbies. Whilst there is debate among recruiters and experts as to whether including interests adds to your CV by revealing more of your personality, or just clutters it up by wasting precious space, if you do include them keep them short and simple. Too many interests may raise questions about how much time you would have to devote to a job, whilst others may raise eyebrows or attract unfair comment. Wine tasting, for example, may be a very valid pastime, but if it unjustly raises issues if you have a problem with alcohol, leave it out.

A CV in itself is unlikely to win you a job. What it can do, if well written and attractively presented, is convince a recruiter to ask you for an interview. However, including unnecessary personal details in your CV will definitely harm your chances of getting that far. If in doubt, leave it out!

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