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What Not to Put on Your Resume
By: It's About My Personal & Professional Development

by Susan Dunn,

“Should I admit a weakness?” one of my coaching clients asked me. “Something tells me I shouldn’t.”

”Something” was telling her right. Your best tool in writing a good resume, is your intuition, or common sense aka Emotional Intelligence.


Don’t talk about your “weaknesses” unless you’re asked. In my years as a Career Counselor for college students, I received fledgling resumes that read “I don’t like people” or “I hate talking on the phone.” On the one hand, such statements of extremes are rarely true, and on the other hand they are open to gross misinterpretation.

How do I know this? First-hand, of course, the way hard lessons are learned.

When I took my first job, I announced “I’m horrible at math.” To MY horror, all work demanding “math” was removed from my desk, grossly limiting my chances for advancement, and also leaving me to puzzle how to address this situation without appearing to “Methinks the lady doth protest too much”. [Shakespeare] “Wait, wait, I didn’t mean I was BAD at math.” And there goes my credibility. Save yourself some grief.

Later I made it through graduate statistics just fine. I had MEANT “in relation to my other skills, my math is lower, and also that I don’t wake up in the morning hoping to balance someone’s books.” However, I’ve done it.

things in writing you don't get to “explain,” so be conservative.

Focus on what you’re good at. Extremes are rarely true. I’m thinking of the young woman who wrote on her resume, “I don’t like people.” Upon query, it turned out she liked ME, and I like to consider myself a person, doncha know. She didn’t like a CERTAIN KIND OF PERSON, like the rest of us, and her gross generalization didn’t hold up under scrutiny. However, scrutiny is not what you’ll get from the recruiter who looks at your resume. What you’ll get is the roundfile.

So, unless you’re in a specialty so in demand you can apply with a bone in your nose (as one young male client told me back in the days when his field was desperately in demand), avoid leading with the “bone in your nose.”

The “bone in your nose” is also anything that will elicit a possibly negative reaction from the hirer. If you can put “president of a political organization” instead of “president of the young republicans,” this is better. Better yet put “president of an organization with 500 members”. (They will ask you about this, but talking allows more latitude.) You can also leave it off. If you put that you volunteer for the young republics, you stand the chance of alienating a percentage of your reviewers, depending upon their political beliefs, and how “open” they are to people in the opposing camps.

Avoid such statements as “I study metaphysics,” or “I’m a born again Christian.” Why? Because they aren’t pertinent to your ability to do the job. When you do bring it up, it can open a can of worms, i.e., “Well do you hire people according to their astrological chart?”

If you’re asked to reveal your weaknesses, use your head.

· When applying as a paralegal, “Creativity. I like things structured, to know what I’m supposed to be doing and to do it.” · When applying for a position where there’s been lots of turnover, “One weakness I have is I tend to take a position and stay there.” · When applying to work at a children’s shelter, “My weakness is kids.”


Present a weakness as “in process,” i.e., “In moving into management, I’ve realized becoming an excellent manager is a lifelong proposition, and I’m always eager to strengthen my skills.”

Other suggestions (in an organization large enough to offer training):

· Cold calls. Do you have training in this? · Computer skills. Seems like there’s always something new I want to learn. · Excel. Haven’t had the opportunity to use it much.

There’s no reason to serve up your weakness without a little whipped cream on top!


· I’ve been told that I’m weak at managing people … · I’m hopeless on the telephone … · My last boss said I wasn’t good at …


You can also use phrases such as

· Like most people who work for nonprofits, I’m sometimes too soft-hearted. · Because of my military career, I’ll need to learn some new vocabulary.


· PowerPoint. Never had access to it. · Public speaking. Have only given about 10 speeches. · Grant management, financial. The last place I worked, the bookkeeper did that. · Keyboard speed.


When you’re asked about your strengths and weaknesses, it’s also to find out how much you know about yourself.

In an interview to become a Development Officer, I was asked why they should consider me when I hadn’t done it before. I replied with the proven strengths I had that would transfer and that showed my ability to learn and then said, “This job would put me on my growing edge. That’s why I want it.” I got the job.

Saying it’s on your growing edge shows many things, including the fact that you have one, and that’s something of great value to most employers – someone who’s willing and eager to learn new things, welcomes challenges and is resilience.


If you don’t want a job requiring that you make cold calls, stick with it. If you refuse to learn yet another computer program, say so. If you don’t want to be a manager, say so.

But if you don’t intend to work for a woman/man/star-bellied sneech again, look at it this way. If you put this on your resume, it flags you as a bit picky. And why eliminate yourself out the starting gate? You could be offered a job meeting your requirements. You’re always free to refuse a job that’s offered, but you’re never free to accept one that isn’t.


Don’t. About anything. It’s not the right thing to do, it compromises your integrity to YOU, and it also can damage you in your field, because people talk.

Emotional Intelligence is about Intentionality, Personal Power, thinking ahead, putting yourself in the other person’s place, and not shooting yourself in the foot.

©Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, . I offer coaching, distance learning courses, and ebooks around emotional intelligence. Free ezine, . Daily EQ Tips, send blank email to . I train and certify EQ coaches. Get in this field, dubbed “white hot” by the press, now, before it’s crowded, and offer your clients something of real value. Start tomorrow, no residence requirement, global student body. Email for prospectus.

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