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4 things Bill Gates did wrong on his 1974 Harvard student resume, from experts: 'He even has his dorm room number'

Microsoft founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates attends the funding conference of Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, on October 9, 2019, in Lyon, France.
JEFF PACHOUD | AFP | Getty Images

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently shared on LinkedIn his 1974 resume from when he was a student at Harvard. "Whether you're a recent grad or a college dropout," he wrote, "I'm sure your resume looks a lot better than mine did 48 years ago."

The document looks more like an essay than a resume, featuring neatly typed out paragraphs from top to bottom. As it was likely created on a typewriter, it's written in Courier font, which would be unusual to see today.

Gates was only 18 at the time it was written, a year away from dropping out of Harvard to found his company. The resume showcases some impressive achievements: He'd already mastered multiple computer programming languages and had work and project management experience.

Still, there were a few faux pas in it experts would advise against including if you're working on your own resume. Here are four things they say Gates did wrong.

He included height, weight, and dependents  

Gates included some information that people today might find amusing.

"All the personal information makes everybody chuckle," says Stacie Haller, career expert at "He even has his dorm room number."

He made sure to include his height, for example (5'10"), his weight (130 lbs), and his number of dependents (none). Likely, it wasn't typical to include those kinds of details even then.

"There's a lot of information here that we can't even legally ask in interviews," says Angelina Darrisaw, career coach and founder and CEO of C-Suite Coach, about all of the above.

When writing your own resume, it's wise to leave out any similar personal information.

He included a previous salary

Gates included that his previous salary was $12,000 and, in a section related to his desired salary, wrote, "Open."

You do not need to include these kinds of financial details on your resume. In fact, some cities have legally barred employers from asking about previous salaries.

But once you're called in by a recruiter or a hiring manager, be prepared to discuss specific figures.

"You want to come in as you're entering the interview process with some clear thoughts on the range that's appropriate for where you are in your level and your career," says Darrisaw. Look for similar titles to your intended role on sites like ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Monster and Indeed, and see what kind of range those positions are offering to get a sense of what to ask for yourself.  

The way Gates approached salary on his resume, it's not clear what he's looking for. "I don't know if that means he's willing to get less, or he wants to negotiate, or what that's about," says Haller.

His resume format was unclear and hard to scan

Gates' paragraph-like formatting is somewhat cumbersome and makes it tough to understand important information about his work background. "It's kind of hard to for me to figure out were those school jobs, were they not school jobs," says Haller. "I am still not sure."

These days, recruiters and HR personnel have very little time to spend on each resume. In fact, they spend an average of just 7.4 seconds on each initial screening, according to a 2018 study by career site Ladders.

"So when you're sharing your resume," says Darrisaw, "you want to make sure that it's formatted in a way that's easy for someone who's taking maybe just a few minutes, if that, to be able to assess some key things about you."

Include a several-line summary of who you are and what your experience is at the top of the page. Instead of using chunks of text the way Gates has, under "experience," write each job title clearly then use bullet points to outline your responsibilities and achievements in that role. And write the dates in which you performed the job on the right of each title.

He didn't use convincing wording

Gates could have used more specific language, Haller says, pointing to his description of the work he did at the TRW Systems Group from January to September 1973. Gates wrote that as a systems programmer, he was "involved with file design and modifications to operating system."

"'Involved with' is, like, a meaningless word," says Haller.

Use strong, active verbs to indicate the kinds of responsibilities you took on for each position. For a leadership role, for example, Indeed recommends using words like "coach," "delegate," "direct," "guide," and "foster."

Despite these minor flubs, what's clear in this resume is that Gates was always a go-getter. "For a guy being in his first year of Harvard, he has pretty significant experience," says Haller. "And that's what somebody's going to notice."

Check out:

3 strategies for writing a resume that will 'instantly impress' any hiring manager, according to a recruiting expert

93% of employers want to see soft skills on your resume—here are 8 of the most in-demand ones

Bill Gates plans to give away 'virtually all' his $113 billion—here's the impact that could actually have

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