Looking for a job? Take these 5 things off your CV

If you want the best chance of making it to the interview stage of a job application process, don’t put certain details on your CV. Picture: Cottonbro Studio/Pexels

If you want the best chance of making it to the interview stage of a job application process, don’t put certain details on your CV. Picture: Cottonbro Studio/Pexels

Published Dec 23, 2023


The internet and career gurus are full of wonderful bits of advice on how to make your CV stand out from the pile, including what information to showcase and which words to use to enable AI gatekeepers to pass your application.

But just as there are certain details you should include, there are also some that you should never put on your CV.

A few of these may be no-brainers to most job seekers, while others may come as a complete surprise.

To save you from putting yourself on the back foot when applying for jobs next year, here are five things you should not include on your CV, and why:

1. References

For decades we have been made to believe that a CV should contain the names and contact details of references, both business and personal, but it now seems that this should not be done – not during the early stages of the application process anyway.

Andrew Fennel, director of StandOutCV, states that the benefits of leaving this information out “far outweigh” the benefits of including it. Not only will you be exposing the names and contact information of people who may not agree to have them published on job-seeking websites, career portals, and within other companies’ HR departments, but this section takes up space on your CV.

“Adding a section for references wastes space that would be better used detailing your experience, skills, or knowledge. The purpose of your CV is to persuade recruiters and employers to contact you with a view to interviewing you, so anything outside of that is surplus to requirement.”

Including a reference’s contact details could also alert them – and your company, to the fact that you are applying for other jobs. If you are asked for references further down the interviewing process then you can decide whether you are comfortable supplying them. And if you do, you should always alert your reference that they may be contacted.

  • What you should do instead:

Although one argument for including references in your CV is to demonstrate your level of seniority and prove that you have good relationships with important figures in the organisations you have worked at, Fennel says you can rather describe who you report to in the outlines of the role description.

Describing your seniority with titles of your reporting line

Source: StandOutCV

If you planned to use references to prove your impact in your role, you can do this within the current role description sections. For example, instead of saying: “Making outbound calls to potential clients”, you could say: “Making outbound calls to potential clients to generate quality leads for sales team to convert to orders”.

Similarly, you can also add impressive achievements to your CV and back these up with quantifiable figures, such as in this example:

Source: StandOutCV

2. Photographs

Unless you are applying for a job in an industry where this is acceptable, or you are asked to include a photo in the job advertisement, rather leave it out.

In a LinkedIn article, CareerToolBox chief executive Graham Riley states that additional graphics could possibly skew how your information is presented to the recruiter. The photographs can also distract the recruiter or hiring manager.

“[People who place photos on their resumes] are looking for a way to differentiate themselves,” Riley is quoted as saying in the article.

“However, people who studied last year how long a recruiter spends looking at a resume found that it was under seven seconds.”

As a result, he says it is key to make sure a recruiter focuses on your skills and background while you have their attention.

In addition, and as unfortunate as this is, some people tasked with the first stages of the hiring process could be racially- or culturally-biased, so you don’t want to have your application discarded without even being given an opportunity to sell yourself to them in an interview.

Riley adds, however, that putting a photograph on your CV is standard practice in certain countries, such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Scandinavian Countries, the Middle East, Asia, and South America.

3. Salary expectations

This bit of information will undoubtedly be required at some stage in the application process, but including it on your CV could eliminate you from consideration before you have had the opportunity to sell yourself and show the recruiter why you are worth this salary.

In the same way, if a recruiter is willing to pay a higher salary than what you are asking for, they could decrease this if they see you are happy to work for less.

If you are asked for this information in your application or during an interview, you should not be too specific and let them know that you are open to negotiation by saying something like: “I am looking to earn between R30 000 to R40 000 a month, but am open to negotiation depending on the exact expectations of me as well as the other benefits that your company may be offering.”

4. Previous jobs that are irrelevant

Some job seekers like to pack their CV with every job they have worked at to show their commitment to hard work, but this will not only take up unnecessary space on your page, but may not be of interest to the employer.

Of course, if you are strategic with this information and want to use unrelated jobs to showcase skills that could be transferable, then you can do so, but be aware of the length of your CV. Rather focus on the skills that the recruiter is looking for and save the added benefits of your work experience for the interview process.

Similarly, you should not include hobbies or outside interests as not only will this information also take up space that could be better used to sell yourself, but could prejudice you if the recruitment personnel or people short-listing the CVs have a particular bias or opinion against these activities, or people who engage in them.

5. An unprofessional email address

For obvious reasons most job seekers will not use their work/company email addresses on their CVs so have no option but to use a personal one. Gmail is an accepted contact email for applicants and should be used instead of older email hosts like Yahoo or Hotmail, for example.

Even more important though, is the name that precedes the @ in the email. It is perfectly fine to use addresses such as ‘beachbabe 123@...’ and ‘catlover@...’ for your personal use, but you should not use such contact emails on a CV.

Rather set up a new email account strictly for professional purposes such as business communication and job applications. Also, use your own name in the address to add to the level of professionalism, such as [email protected] or [email protected] or [email protected]

An article on resumecroc.com states that while this may seem harsh, you will be judged on your email address and could lose credibility.

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