The TMI Dilemma: 12 Ways Too Much Information is Deadly on Resumes & LinkedIn Profiles

information overloadWhen most job seekers create their own resume or LinkedIn profile, they invariably fall into the “more is more” trap. They assume that you can never have too much of a good thing, so why not include more job description data, more courses, more key words, and so on, without evaluating whether they’re providing too much of the wrong data.

The challenge in self-marketing is to share enough information of the right kind while simultaneously striving to limit information of the wrong kind.

For example, here are the problems too much resume detail of the wrong kind can create:

  • Long summaries, blocks of text, and lists longer than 6 lines in length aren’t likely to be read. Research on how people read printed or displayed text shows that they stop reading and/or assimilating data when it exceeds 6 lines in length. Hence, including long paragraphs or lists of bullets is completely counterproductive in resumes.
  • Long summaries also make it difficult for your readers to grasp your career target(s) in 5-6 seconds. Beyond a title, your resume’s summary helps readers understand what types and levels of positions you are seeking. If your summary is too long, they may not be able to identify your career target in the seconds they have to review it. Your reader’s time is precious – don’t waste it by belaboring the point or including non-brand details.
  • A too-long list of key words may dilute your document’s key word density. When Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) such as LinkedIn or Taleo analyze your resume, they not only count up the number of times certain key words are used – many of them also measure the density of key words in your text. This gives the ATS another measurement by which to assess if enough or too many key words have been used in the document (which can in turn help reveal key word stuffing).
  • Longer position overviews cloud the issue and deemphasize your key achievements. On nearly all the resumes I review, candidates include long position descriptions which focus on the type of data typically included in job descriptions (“responsible for …”). This is the last thing recruiters want to read. They are often experts in hiring candidates in your field, so they already know what people like you do. What they want you to tell them is how you did it better than or different than the other candidates they are sourcing for the same role.
  • >6 bullets, if left uncategorized, break the rule of 6 and are therefore less likely to be read – though they represent some of the most critical data on your resume which you need your readers to consume in their entirety. As noted above, it’s vital to keep lines of text and lists of bullets to 6 or less in order to maximize the likelihood this information will actually be read. If you have more than 6 bullets in a particular section that truly belong on the resume, try categorizing them into subsections to make them easier to read.
  • Longer resumes run the risk of proving you have too much experience for the job at hand. The more jobs you profile in a resume the more likely you are to inadvertently prove you are over-qualified. Since Applicant Tracking Systems are sometimes instructed to search for candidates based on a particular amount of experience, showing that you have more will cause these systems to overlook your resume.
  • Longer sentences are harder to read and assimilate. Keep sentences short. Lean language with non-essential words removed is easier to comprehend. Make your point and stop writing.

Too much information of the wrong kind can also be a major problem on LinkedIn:

  • Long summaries and employment information bore your readers and make it likely that key insights will not be grasped. While key words are important, ultimately your LinkedIn profile is written for humans for the purpose of influencing their behavior. A too-long summary can be quite problematic if not written well. What we’re after here is balance – aligning the right key words in the right density with the right text that portrays your career brand well enough to cause readers to reach out to you with invites to connect and opportunities to consider.
  • Long summaries dilute key word density. As noted above, it’s important to have the right key words in your resume. But you also need to make sure you have enough of those key words to help your profile rank high in recruiter and hiring searches. This means you need to balance your key word strategy with a limited amount of text so your overall key word density is high (without being too high). Moderation is key!
  • Long lists of past jobs create the wrong impression. Keeping in mind that recruiters and hiring executives aren’t necessarily reading your whole profile, consider how your work history as a whole might appear to someone who doesn’t already know you. Will they think you’ve changed jobs too much? If you’ve held a lot of jobs in the last 10 years, been employed in contract or consulting roles, or earned multiple promotions within the same company of family of companies, you may need to restructure how you present your work experience on LinkedIn.
  • Too many add-ons won’t be viewed. I wholeheartedly endorse the addition of strategic add-ons to your profile, so long as they add value, deepen your brand, and align with your career target(s). But too many are counterproductive if they overwhelm your reader and require too much time or energy to read or view. I would hold your profile extras to 1-3 for maximum impact.
  • Too many extra sections will distract your readers. Likewise, too many additional sections in your profile can be problematic. Some folks list everything, assuming that more is better. But if your additions aren’t aligned with your brand or career target(s), then they will distract your reader with non-essential information. Weigh each extra section carefully – will using it truly add value from your reader’s point of view?

There are, however, four spots on LinkedIn where more really is better:

  • SKILLS: This is one of the most critical parts of your LI profile and one you cannot afford to ignore. LinkedIn allows you to list up to 50 skills and it is imperative that you use all 50. List a combination of key word-driven, technical, industry-specific, and soft skills, and make sure you list words using different terms since you cannot know in advance which versions of key words will be sought after. For example, one recruiter or hiring executive may search for someone with strong relationship-building skills while another may describe the same capability as stakeholder management. If you’re proficient in it, why not use both?
  • GROUPS: Groups are an often overlooked advanced self-marketing strategy on LinkedIn. You are allowed to join up to 50; I strongly suggest you do exactly that. Join a mix of alumni, geographic-specific, industry, and key word groups and build up to the 50-group limit as quickly as you can. The more quality groups you join, the broader the reach your overall network will have. This exponentially enlarges your profile’s ability to attract people and opportunities to your candidacy.
  • RECOMMENDATIONS: Collect recommendations for your profile, preferably at least 1 to 2 per role listed. Try to seek recommendations from key colleagues, supervisors, peers, vendors, and customers and solicit them in such a way that you help embed the testimonials you receive with key words.
  • ENDORSEMENTS: While no one outside of the LI hierarchy knows exactly how endorsements factor into how they rank profiles in searches, what we do know is that endorsements matter. A lot. Get as many as you can by establishing a routine of giving multiple endorsements every week to folks in your network. Make your endorsements honest, but make them frequently – this is an area where giving really does get you more.

Balance and moderation are the twin keys here. By balancing content in alignment with your brand, targets, and strengths and limiting content and key words to maximize impact you can eliminate Goldilocks-like concerns about “too much” or “too few” and craft a resume and LinkedIn profile that is, well, just right.