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Executive Resume Writing Mistakes

by Kim on July 3, 2015

Executive Resume Writing Mistakes

As sole owner and President of Executive Resume Pro, I’ I’ve had over 20 years of experience, not only writing executive resumes, but reviewing them. Unfortunately, even the most qualified candidate can hinder his or her job search by submitting a sub-par resume and/or one that was written based on misconceptions or just plain wrong information.

I thought it might be helpful to break down some of the common gaffes or misconceptions I frequently see on executive resumes, and how to correct them.

  • Focus, or lack thereof.  You want your resume to present a clear picture of who you are, and the specific areas of expertise you hold; you can’t risk readers trying to figure out what type of role you are seeking when they are looking for a specific type of candidate.
  • Using an objective statement. Don’t do it, as they really aren’t used anymore – and this is where your heading serves to take away the mystery and identify your key goal. Readers don’t necessarily care that you “seek a fulfilling position with a growth-oriented company.” They do care, however, what expertise you offer and how that experience will help their company’s bottom line. Remember – you are trying to sell yourself into a new organization, and readers are more interested in how you can help them, not how they can help you land your dream job.
  • Personalization and Value. There are thousands of executive resume samples on the web today, and while it’s tempting to copy part of someone else’s, you are doing yourself a disservice. Even if someone’s executive profile screams, “That is ME,” don’t fall for it. You offer your own unique value and in your own way, so your executive resume should reflect that.
  • Not including a summary section. Under your heading or tag line, you should summarize the value and experience you possess to help set the tone for greater interest and a full review of your resume. While this is sometimes the most challenging section of any executive resume, it’s vital to cementing both your professionalism and ability to drive results.
  • Forgetting your keywords. Back in the day, resumes used to contain a small little list at the end of a resume entitled “keywords,” and I sometimes still see that presentation. You’ll be better served by including a nicely-formatted list of strengths right up front to further help readers understand your core skills. Also, when your resume is written “right,” those key words will naturally be included within the body of your experience section, or at least they should be.
  • Not enough detail. Detail is something that has been debated for years – too much, it seems only verbose, and not impressive. Too little, readers won’t know what you’ve accomplished or how you made a difference. For example, if you led a dramatic turnaround, it’s not enough to just say “Led turnaround.” (Trust me; I’ve seen short little comments like that which do nothing to tell the reader anything.) You’ll want to show some context and summarize how you were able to make that happen. If the point you’re making is interesting, people are not going to stop reading just because it might run a little long. The more readers know about you, the better.
  • Listing only duties. While responsibilities are certainly important, they don’t trump the RESULTS of your daily activities. A laundry list of everything you did on a daily basis is going to put readers to sleep and you’ll miss out on demonstrating how great you are/were in your current/previous positions.  Bulleted lists of accomplishments work great underneath a summary of your responsibilities.
  • Going back too far. It’s 2015; you don’t want to list your first job out of college, especially if you are in the 40-50ish age bracket – if you are in your late 60’s, that’s even worse (not your age, but going back that far to your college days). Those older positions can easily be discussed at an interview, if they even come up at all. Focus the majority of your information on the most recent 5-10 years (depending on how long each position was), and merely show progression (titles, company) for the older jobs. P.S. It’s ok to leave off positions pre 1990 if you want.
  • Worrying about Page Length. Another “don’t.” I’ve had a few clients panic if their resume goes over one page, and some who have insisted that it not be over two pages However, I’ve never had page length hinder a client’s successful job search; in fact, my clients consistently improve their interviewing opportunities once they begin using their new executive resume. When you’re highly accomplished, with a host of measurable achievements behind you, it really is okay to talk about them…how else is anyone going to know something unless you tell them? When you try to keep it super short, you may find yourself leaving off essential information that could knock you off the short list.
  • Lackluster or template formatting. If you are searching for your Word’s resume template, stop now!  Nothing screams “I don’t care,” than one of those amateurish templates. You need your executive resume to stand out, and clever, yet professional formatting can do that. Whether it’s through a bit of color, formatting lines, tables, etc., showing that you took the time to be inventive goes a long way in making that critical first impression. You don’t want to go over the top with any aspect, but you do want something crisp, clean and readable.

Please don’t feel badly if you’ve ever fallen into any of these missteps, because executive resume writing is not something most people have been taught, especially as resume styles continue to evolve.  If this all seems a bit daunting, feel free to contact me to learn more about how I can help your executive resume capture the attention your career deserves. You’ve earned your stripes several times over, and your resume is the place to share your stories of success.

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