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A resume is ultimately a tool to cut down on the time employers have to spend on job-hunters. Or putting it another way, a resume is a way to cut out job candidates from the employment process.

A job seeker on the other hand, tends to see the resume as that piece of paper that summarises everything that they have done, so they can cast a wide net when looking for a new job.

Unfortunately this approach of throwing in everything, results in a busy and unfocused resume, which will see you relegated to the rejection pile.

If you want your resume to be successful, it needs to be very focussed and you need to avoid a busy resume.

1. Avoid long lists of key skills

So many resumes I’ve viewed over the years have extensive and very busy looking key skills lists. There is a prevailing myth that you need to stuff your resume with a ton of keywords, so you can beat the robots (Applicant Tracking Systems).

For a resume to be successful, it does not need to include dozens of keywords. The only words that need to be included – are those key skills directly relevant to the skills listed in the job advertisement.

Also avoid generic soft skill lists, such as ‘excellent communication skills – they add nothing to your document.

Solution: Make this key skills list very tight and focussed on the specific job you are applying for.Generally, you should aim for 8 key words at tops.

2. Avoid listing all your Professional Development Courses

If you have a few years of work history under your belt, you might have quite a few professional development courses, or seminars you have attended over the years. Some clients I’ve worked with have 2 or more pages of professional development courses listed in their resume, making their resume way too busy.

Solution: To ensure that your resume is focused, eliminate all courses that are not relevant to the job you are applying for.

For example, if you have First Aid Certificate listed on your resume and you are going for a mid-tier management role in IT, you can safely bet that this certificate won’t be adding any value at all, so remove it.

3. Eliminate a mishmash of jobs

If your career to date is composed of unconnected jobs, inconsequential jobs, or you have been a temporary worker and was assigned to dozens of corporations, you need to avoid the busy look and make sure the content is highly focussed.

Excess jobs, or less relevant experience is one the key reasons your resume will look busy and unfocused.


  • If you have several temporary positions spanning a length of time, lump them under one heading; avoid repetition of duties and responsibilities; provide a brief overview and then focus on key achievements.
  • If you have several jobs from years ago that are unrelated to your present career ambitions, remove them.
  • If you have a mix between relevant and irrelevant jobs, you can create a heading ‘Relevant Work Experience’ and then focus on highlighting your achievements.
  • With the less relevant jobs, keep the content tight and only focus on transferable skills.

4. If it does not add value, Remove It

Some resumes turn into confessionals, where everything is included from volunteer work from the late 1990, music tastes, why someone left a job, through to marital status.

Solution: To focus your resume and make sure it does not look busy, ask yourself the following question:

Does this information add value and relate to the job in questions?

If it doesn’t, take it out – it does not belong in your resume.

Written By
Carolyn Smith is the Founder of My Career Groove,changing the way skilled job seekers find their perfect career groove. Author and global career expert, Carolyn was also a prior solicitor and business development manager and was one of the worst dental assistant’s in the world. Find out more about how My Career Groove can help your career.

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