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I’m a software developer and over the course of my (short) career I’ve gained experience with a whole bunch of programming languages, libraries, frameworks, applications, and concepts. Taken together they look pretty impressive on my résumé! The thing is, many of those technologies are things I’d rather not ever use again.

When I put such skills on my list it feels a little like dishonest padding. On the other hand, even my experiences with the things I didn’t like have helped me become the more-experienced developer I am today. That long list of skills indicates to a potential employer that I am adaptable and that I have experience formulating problems in a number of different contexts and solving them with a number of different tools.

Is it dishonest to include skills that I never want to use again? As an employer, how would you react if a potential hire listed a certain skill on his or her résumé but was opposed to using that skill in any future positions?

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Speaking as a hiring manager, it is not dishonest to include skills that you never want to use again. It just means you'll have an extra thing or two to talk about during an interview (that you have the skill, and that you don't particularly want to use it, so you're just making sure this job doesn't require it). As you note, all the skills you have work to make you the person you are, and have provided you with experiences you can learn from or leverage in some way. Also, if you list it, and it's remotely related to the position I'm interviewing for, I'll ask you about it.

The responsibility is yours to apply to positions that you want, just as it is my responsibility to try to make your resume fit what I'm looking for.

Let's say you had 5 years of experience making widgets lefthanded, and 3 years of experience making widgets righthanded, but you never ever want to make widgets lefthanded again, don't take it off your resume -- just don't apply to any lefthanded widgetmaking positions.

If I need a widgetmaker of unspecified handedness, I'll see lefthanded and righthanded widgetmaking, and say "ok, this person can make widgets!" In the interview process, you can tell me you never want to make widgets lefthanded, and I can say "no problem, how about righthanded?" and you can say "sure!" and everyone is happy.

Or, I can say "well, sometimes we might need a lefthanded widgetmaker" and you can say "you know, I never ever ever want to do that again" and then with my cards on the table (a possibility of having to dabble in a despised skill) you can make the decision that's best for you.

If you didn't include your despised lefthanded widgetmaking experience, I'd think you were maybe some run of the mill widgetmaker, not the well-rounded widgetmaker that you are. But if the possibility of having to discuss the despised skill is too much to bear, and it doesn't add any benefit to you at all, leave it off.

Note: Will there be recruiters who use those skills as keywords and seek you out based (possibly) on things you never want to do again? Absolutely. Just delete those emails.

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The problem with that is a few things. For 1, most "hiring mngrs" i've met, wouldn't know the difference between PHP and C#. They generally only know whats on the card they ask questions from and that is usually very "generic". Many jobs I've gone too, they didn't even really want what they were asking for, but do to "paper-work" and chain of command, they really had no idea what they were looking for. It's very rare for a company to let someone with IT know-how hire IT, worse in programming. Ive had 1 contract so far were my employer himself knew coding. 1 out of about 6 procontracts –  SpYk3HH Feb 24 at 19:15
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@SpYk3HH We clearly have very different experiences. –  jcmeloni Feb 24 at 19:27
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Exactly: it's a conversation starter. I've also been on the other side of the table and I'm interested in why you never want to use that skill again. Example: I had JCL on my resume for a while from a past job. I'd prefer not to do that work anymore since it would trap me as the legacy system guy. If it was the only way to get a paycheck, sure, I need to pay my mortgage. However, if I were to say that I'm not working with Python anymore because Jython is the new hotness, I'd be sending an entirely different message. –  Bob Cross Feb 24 at 20:15
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This answer is essentially saying: enable yourself to be screened out at the latest possible stage, giving yourself the most flexibility to decide you don't want the job, negotiate job details to suit preferences, or to be filtered out but much later in the process. –  EMS Feb 24 at 21:34
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@SpYk3HH, I can't speak to your own experiences, but the hiring process for It at my current company involves interview time with the IT manager, the scrum master, and the three team leaders. All of them know the sort of things they're looking for. –  Brian S Feb 25 at 15:22
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When I hire software engineers, one of the key things I look for is breadth / adaptability, and highlighting many skills will help you with that. Generalist ("full-stack") engineers generally have a leg up in the market, at least at present. It shows that you know enough to recognize the right tool for a job, and you're not afraid to continually learn new skills (which is vital due to how quickly the field tends to change).

Just be prepared to potentially talk about anything on your resume. It's ok if you list something and say you don't really want to use it on the job (and "here's why", which segues into a great advantages/disadvantages discussion). But it's lame if you list it and then can't answer basic questions about it.

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This is a nice succinct answer that covers what to do and why, with personal evidence to back it up. Welcome to the site! –  RWY Feb 24 at 21:37
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As someone involved in hiring software engineers, I expect you to have a variety of old and/or crappy things on your resume. Everyone gets the crap jobs once and a while, and it's good to see that you've had an experience where you had to do something that sucked.

And it's completely understood that some things you've done in the past are not things you want to continue doing. That said, I also completely understand if some in-demand skills (biztalk, sharepoint) were left off your resume to avoid getting a bunch of recruiters harassing you about something you don't want to do.

In the end, you'll need some balance between painting a clear picture of what you have done, while also advertising what you're good at. And work you have a burning hatred for is likely work you won't be good at for very long.

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Agree with this. I can use old languages like Lua and Assembly. I put them there because it shows the type of background knowledge I have, especially Assembly, which means that I understand low level processes. But if you're going to put them in there, expect to be grilled about it in an interview, even if you're not going to use it. A lot of employers hate false advertising and padding. –  Muz Feb 25 at 10:52
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I list the skills section in order of preference as well as freshness. So the skill I haven't used in 5 years or hated using is at the end, but still applies.

A full list of skills (ie, for software programming) shows you are an experienced developer and not just someone who learned a single language from a "Program PHP in 24 hours" book.

I've found that the worry about getting one of those non-ideal skills is easily filtered out during the job search process. It is easy to see which skills are needed, and you just pass on those opportunities. Further, for a job you like, it will be very clear which skills they expect of you, and unless you're there many years it is unlikely that you'll be expected to change roles dramatically.

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Given how often resume hit words are used to match resumes to jobs by automated searching tools, I would skip a long list of languages you have no interest in actually working in. It's quite likely to waste your time and the job recruiter's - since the person who wants you to work in the uninteresting language is not likely to change the job to suit your preference.

As a hiring manager, I'm rarely impressed by a long list of programming languages. I know people who pick them up very fast, and people who won't put a programming language on their resume until they've worked in it for years and learned a huge amount about the nuances of the language. So it's not a particular discriminator.

What you want to do is to highlight that you learn quickly and probably with very little hand-holding - that's what it takes to learn a lot of languages in a short time. So highlight that skill as part of your cover letter and in the job experience that led to this cornucopia of language skills.

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My personal experience of this is Symbian/C++. Fortunately there's no immediate danger of anyone wanting me (or anyone else) to use it again, so I don't think I would avoid mentioning it. But it's not relevant to much, so it would belong in the employment history section.

You have to consider a few things:

  • It's not dishonest to say that you have experience doing something that you don't want to do, but it might be dishonest to give the impression it's a capability that you're bringing to the company should they hire you. If they later discover that they need someone to do X, and you oppose that, then depending on the job and the company culture this might be OK or might be a serious problem for you.

  • You aren't obliged to give the full buzzword details. Perhaps you can say what you did without saying exactly what tools you did it with, to cut some of the most dangerous candidates out.

  • Be prepared to speak at interview about why you don't want to do X, if it comes up (for example if that part of your experience is relevant). Then again, if they're already thinking about what conditions you might be prepared to do X again then maybe you should back out before you even get to interview...

  • If the reason you don't want to use X again is that it's obsolete then fair enough, especially if you can also list suitable replacement technologies. If they occasionally need someone to go in and deal with some obsolete (or just inferior) system/framework, then hopefully both they and you will understand that's not the best part of the job but it does need doing from time to time.

  • If the reason you don't want to do X again is solely because you didn't enjoy it then you have rather more of a problem. All else being equal (and even some things being unequal) an employer will pick the more flexible of two candidates. If half your experience comes with a caveat that you won't do that again if it comes up, then you are not displaying flexibility even if in fact it is your adaptability that led to you using all those terrible technologies in the first place. I guess the big thing to avoid here is giving any impression that you keep leaving jobs because you're asked to do things you don't like.

  • Recruiters will do keyword searches on your résumé. So for example here in the UK, if the word "Java" appears on it anywhere in any context (in my case Java mobile) then you will receive a lot of email asking if you'd like to develop enterprise Java systems. So be prepared for that. Which normally just means being prepared to delete obvious nonsense roles without getting your blood pressure up, but if your cellphone number is on your résumé that might be difficult.

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Keep multiple resumes. In some realms, you will want to list everything you can do; others, not so much. When you do list technologies outside of your daily swiss army knife, use a method of visual organization on your resume to establish a hierarchy. I do something like this:

Technologies

Experienced: Python, Java
Familiar: C/C++, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Coffeescript, SQL, shell
Past Experience: Erlang, Objective-C, Haskell, x86... etc

(I say "Technologies" because you can mix frameworks, APIs, operating systems, etc. as well.)

This establishes a very clear profile of the kind of skills you have. An employer might assume that I'm primarily a Python or Java dev, but can notice I have experience in web development and functional languages, for instance, which may prove beneficial even if they're not looking for that kind of skill because it speaks to some latent ability to understand different fields.

Now, just using myself as an example again, an interviewer reading my resume should be able to understand that asking me to write a non-trivial Haskell program might not prove illuminating about my ability to code, but they could ask where I picked it up and why, for instance.

If you are applying to a job where they use one of these technologies in your "Past Experience" and you don't really care to revisit the past, you could omit it. Tailor your resume to the jobs for which you are applying, and of course, keep a default resume - if it's getting indexed on career sites, you may also want to trim out the parts you don't want recruiters at large to misconstrue.

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That does not work well in the UK, as most jobs go var agents, and they keep your CV on file for ever. I tended to use a standard CV and a cover letter then related by skills to the given job. –  Ian Feb 26 at 12:57
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It depends on the situation. Lots of arguments here for leaving it on, here is one for leaving it off.

If you have the skill listed on your CV, people will notice. You will be asked, from time to time, to use the skill. I have never seen an employer who will refuse work for a qualified employee, just because the employee does not want to do it.

Therefore: remove it from your CV, if your CV remains strong enough to show you are keen to learn new stuff. During the in-person interview, you can mention that there are also other technologies you have learned, but you'd rather not continue with those technologies. That way, there is no written record of the fact you have those skills.

Source: A friend got an ISTQB certification. Every time testing is involved, she gets assigned to the job, even though she explicitly stated she does not want to do testing. On LinkedIn, she receives daily job offers for Testing Manager. It got tiring and she eventually took it off her CV.

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Your resume is nothing more than your own advertising space. If you don't wish to advertise that you have a particular skill, then by all means don't include it. This may mean that you won't be selected for positions that require that skill; that's fine, as you indicate that you don't really want to use that skill.

Remember, your resume is nothing more than a conveninent way for you to describe yourself to a potential employer. Everyone involved recognizes that it's not a comprehensive listing of your skills (e.g., unlike an academic CV, which does list everything), but rather your representation of the skills you want to show off; it's you putting your best face forward, so to speak.

To answer your last question, if you listed a skill, I'd assume that you were fine with me calling on you to use that skill. Otherwise, why did you list it? Just so I know you can do it? What's the point in that? Just to show off? I don't want a braggart on my team.

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“Otherwise, why did you list it? Just so I know you can do it?” Well, yes. If tools A, B, and C are dominant in a given problem space, and I’ve used all three of them but strongly prefer B, then that indicates that I have the ability to look at the problem in different ways. It also means that my preference for B is well-informed—it wasn’t just, for example, the easiest tool to use. For these reasons I don’t think listing the extra skills qualifies as bragging. –  bdesham Feb 24 at 18:26
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Let’s give a practical example from my pass.

A very very long time ago I was a C/X-Windows/Motif/Unit developer before moving to windows/C++/MFC. By including my past (and rusted) mostly forgoten skill set on my CV, I got a contract porting software from Motif to Windows. I was the right person for the job, as I could understand how the code I was having to rewrite worked.

The only problem with including old skills is that you get lots of agents phoning you up, when a keyword matches on their database.

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Did you mean, "from my past."? –  Stuart Woodward Mar 3 at 2:17
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One approach is to list technologies with the projects on which they were used. This naturally pushes out-dated skills towards the end of the resume.

If you are disciplined to maintain a short resume (two pages max) then as you gain experience it becomes necessary to give less specific details about old projects ... which leads to that FORTRAN 77 falling off of your resume.

As far as not wanting to use particular skills, this problem needs to be solved partly in the consideration of which jobs you apply for, and partly in the interview process. Any good interview will include questions about what type of work you enjoy, and descriptions of the problems that they would be hiring you to solve.

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The flip side of this is that as a reviewer of resumes, I don't want to have to hunt through a list of projects and collate their respective matching skills in my head. –  jcmeloni Feb 24 at 18:02
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As someone who deals with the recruitment and hiring of mainly college kids I would say put everything you have on there. The only exception to this is if putting everything on there causes your resume to be poorly formatted. When it comes to new hires I like to see a clean one page resume unless they have truly done enough to warrant a full two pages. If that last skill or two bumps you onto a new page and it really is not relevant I would say omit it. You can also tailor your resume to the job. I am a software project leader and back when I was applying for development positions I omitted many of my electrical engineering skills in favor of programming languages in the space I had on my single page. That being said when I was applying to EE jobs I left out my knowledge of jquery for knoledge of p-spice.

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Hi there, this has the makings of a nice answer that covers the 'what' to do quite well. One area I think you could add that would really improve your answer is if you also add on why you think it is advantageous to put everything on there, even if he doesn't want to use it again! Why is this beneficial? Other than that, good post and welcome to the site! –  RWY Feb 24 at 21:36
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I think the best advice would be to be explicit about your objectives. If you state it clearly in your CV, you will avoid missing opportunities after being filtered by those word matchers, and you will also not receive non relevant offers, since hiring people often review the word matcher results before sending interview invitations.

Answering your question directly: YES, add everything.

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this does not seem to add anything substantial over what was already posted in prior 12 answers –  gnat Mar 4 at 10:54
    
I failed to find anyone mentioning the Objective section of the resume. –  Spidey Mar 4 at 13:38
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