5 Things on Your Résumé to Trash


Nothing can tank your prospects for a job interview quicker than a résumé that inadvertently shows your tech skills as grievously out-of-date. Recruiters and employers are always on the lookout for mentions of dead programming languages, useless tools, and outmoded lingo.

While deleting moldy skills and dated programming languages from a résumé might seem like an obvious step, many IT professionals have a knee-jerk tendency to list the entirety of their experience, even if they’d be better served leaving much of it off.

In light of that (and the new year approaching), it just might be high time to revamp your résumé’s job descriptions. Here are five things that are likely to give employers and recruiters pause; they’re worthy of elimination:

Anything That Resides on the Local Machine

Yes, you can still write batch files, small exe’s, and more—but none of that really matters in the era of the cloud. Anything related to “local” activity on a PC seems increasingly irrelevant, said Kathy Tullio, senior consultant at Geneca, a Chicago-based custom software development firm. Even if a company’s résumé-scanning process isn’t automated, she added, a résumé with those old skills “still sticks out like a sore thumb.”

COBOL, Fortran, and Other ‘Old’ Languages

If you definitely want to show you’re out of touch, make sure to include any programming language that’s terribly outdated or no longer in widespread use. Unless you’re looking for a job as a COBOL developer, for example, don’t list your facility with that particular language. “I think the temptation is to show a breadth of experience or tenure in the industry,” said Tullio. But your potential employer is just as likely to wonder how old your résumé is, and whether or not you’ve learned anything new since the turn of the century. The same holds true for certifications: erase the less-popular and out-of-use ones.

Certain Foundational Skills

If you’re keeping an older language on your résumé to show how long you’ve worked with relational databases and SQL, delete it and just say “experience in relational databases and SQL.” While listing older roles and skills can sometimes show you have a deep foundation in a particular technology, getting too specific in your wording can sometimes date you.


Use “developer” in place of “programmer” on your résumé. “While ‘programmer’ isn’t a dirty word, it just dates your skills,” said Kirstie Fiora, staffing manager in Technology Contract Staffing at recruiter WinterWyman. “’Developer’ brings you into today’s language. There’s language specific to a time period when you’re doing a job search, so make sure your résumé is reflective of that.” If you were a COBOL programmer, for instance, and moved into business analysis, drop COBOL completely and change your title from your programming job to “developer.” That will ensure that everyone understands you have a technical background without you mentioning something that’s obsolete.

Out-of-Step Acronyms

Keep your terminology current, suggested Fiora: for example, using “SQA” instead of “QA”: “If you haven’t been on the job market in years, you’ll need to change the words and titles used in your résumé to be current for Web crawlers to find you in keyword searches.” Find a job description for a role that you want, and then replace any outdated terms in your résumé with the equivalent ones used in the job description. And don’t forget to spell out certain roles and skills on first usage: “Certified Scrum Master” alongside “CSM,” for instance, and “LAMP” with “Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP.”

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6 Responses to “5 Things on Your Résumé to Trash”

  1. Alan Grimes

    I’ve been out of work for three years. I report the experience I *Have*.

    The recruiters have a serious problem if they demand that people blow with the wind of every fad and “trend” out there. The basic math behind computers can be traced back four hundred years. Recruiters need to realize that the people that are passionate about what they do, have spent decades learning about this stuff, actually know something about what they claim to be competent in. =|

    The best years of my life are being wasted and there isn’t jack I can do about it.

    Go look up the programming mofo (but spell it out completely).

      • Haha for some reason that response made me laugh pretty hard, despite me being in the exact same situation – and for even longer than him. Devastating injury didn’t help either. I get the humor, and my skin isn’t the thickness of papier maché. But, I feel compelled to respond in defense with a different perspective on this, and hopefully one that can address both points of view (and maybe help in some way).

        I would venture to say the OP was venting a little, there’s nothing fun about it. But that’s a wee bit dramatic of an outlook me… It’s way simpler my dude.

        A) Two words: Resume. Gap. It’s a nail in the coffin for your career but it isn’t insurmountable. It makes getting past “resume bots” and interviewers suck way more than you could have ever fathomed it’d be. But because of the Law of Statistics & Probability, there’s a reason they are making the decisions not to hire you… however you can definitely figure out ways to outsmart them and get your resume in front of a real pair of eyes – taken seriously.

        B) How bad do you want it? Really. Doesn’t sound like you do as much as I think is necessary. Spending 15 hours a day going back to classes, attending job fairs, reading endlessly how to fix this, and every waking second not spent doing those things is spent trying to network. In fact, I probably need to stop taking advice, because I’ve applied so much of “the best” advice by now, it may be turning almost counter-productive. But as another example: if a job opportunity fits that company and myself perfectly and I’m over-qualified, but it seems impossible to get any response… I have potentially broken at least 3-4 laws bordering on harassment (not impatience) to get a result. The only way that company will stop my attempts to get that interview is to take action to block me or finally cave-in to hear me out.

        C) On a side-note: MORE of the best years of my life have been wasted than yours, couch-ridden and in such immense pain, thinking about the day of the injury makes me cringe and get goosebumps each time without fail. But, in my opinion that comment only sounds cry-babyish (I’m not calling anyone that, and I know it was just a comment, totally harmless, right?). Nah, I’d be slightly suspicious that hints of a complanitory-mentality are leaking through into your resume and body language in interviews. You’ve gotta sack up and have ZERO doubt in yourself and ZERO flinch regarding any negatives in your life.

        And you know the kicker is? I’m still not hired either, btw. (Actually because I found a way to turn a hobby into a livable bit of income, so I’m running with it for now.) But I changed my defeatist/victimized attitude, stopped blaming a single thing (including myself), and literally decided the only thing left that would stop me would be getting shot or stabbed… and if it didn’t hit anything vital, I’d be right back out of the hospital shaking hands with HR Managers, etc. the day after. And I went from 0 calls to not being able to go 10 minutes without someone responding to an application, from 0 opportunities to directly working with 5 CEOs of a few startups and established companies. You just can’t have that initial kind of attitude, and you’ve gotta be prepared to work to a level of exhaustion that makes actual 9am-5pm work feel more like a social gathering.

  2. Fred Bosick

    On the other hand, leaving the outmoded terms in foils the automated search tools and, maybe, increasing the chances you get a reply from someone who actually knows what these words mean.

    Depending on your career stage and personal situation, you may not want to hear from companies or recruiters who only know to look for the buzzwords.

  3. Jim R Stantenford

    Depends on what kind of job you want. If your looking to get into some kind of trendy new startup, sure, be sure to plaster your resume with trendy words like cloud and UX and Ruby.

    Not every employer is some trendy hipster startup though, and not every startup wants to subscribe to this mindset.

    Good luck getting a job in the medical, aviation, or defence industries with that kind of attitude.