Common Mistakes in Executive Resumes…and How To Avoid Them


Preparing an effective executive resume and cover letter requires the job seeker to successfully and concisely market themselves with eloquence and originality.  Your executive resume should be a strong statement of your skills, abilities, experiences and accomplishments presented in a strategic manner to capture the attention of executive recruiters and senior decision-makers – compelling them to contact you to discuss employment opportunities.


Executive  resume writing and career marketing is highly subjective, there are few standardized guidelines for executive job seekers to help them in developing  resumes  and cover letters, documents that have significant impact on their career success.


As a seasoned Professional Resume Writer and Career Coach, with work history as an HR Professional, I have reviewed thousands of executive resumes. During my 14 years of resume writing and human resources management, I have come to recognize the key mistakes that most executives make when writing their resume.  Although executives and senior management professionals often make the same resume writing mistakes as other job seekers, recruiters and hiring decision makers are significantly less forgiving with upper level candidacies.


Here are some of the top executive resume writing mistakes:



Duties vs. Accomplishments – Content without results


  • Recruiters and hiring decision-makers needs to see the results you achieved in each leadership role that is relevant to the job you are targeting. Your executive   resume needs to demonstrate what you accomplished, the distinct value you added to your organization and how you made a difference to your past employers. Your unique successes should be measurable and quantifiable to build credibility. You should also briefly provide the context of your position, such as the number of direct reports and the budget that you managed. You should never use words and phrases such as “Duties included,” “Responsibilities,” or “Responsible for” in an executive   resume because they are too passive and list-like. Instead, you should boldly articulate distinct accomplishments using action verbs to launch your points.


Unreadable quantitative data

  • As mentioned above, your contributions are the most critical component of your resume. However, your   resume should focus on telling stories of your successes and results by providing succinct and relevant context, rather than just packing the document with numbers. An executive   resume filled with numbers will only serve to reduce your resume’s readability, and subsequently, your job search success. Well-chosen words and phrases to explain and support the numerical data will better convey your message.


Spelling errors, typos and grammatical flaws

  • It is cliché but you will not get a second chance to make a first impression. Many people are surprised that executive level resumes often contain spelling and grammatical errors, but they do.  Poor spelling and grammar at an executive level will significantly hurt your job search. If you do not take care in writing a resume that could help improve your personal circumstances, how would you treat documents with less personal significance?


The  resume is  general

  • When reviewing your resume, can a reader immediately tell who you are and your areas of expertise? Do they know instantly your most impressive career achievements? Many executives create broad resume s so they do not limit themselves during their job search. Unfortunately, broad resumes lack specific information that would help a recruiter determine if you are a fit for their role and corporate culture. Your executive resume should link your accomplishments to that specific employer’s needs.


Unclear layout, poor formatting and structure

  • Busy decision makers and recruits have short attention spans. Your executive resume should be clear, concise and provide the relevant information to engage a potential employer to call you. Instead of clutter, focus on identifying and effectively conveying your “Unique Selling Points” in a format that is easy to read. A crowded resume may avert recruiters and hiring decision-makers and can be ineffective in your job search.


Contains lies and exaggerations

  • A survey by J. J. Keller & Associates of 161 surveyed HR professionals, 55% reported that applicants lied about their employment history, education, certifications and licences on their   resumes. This despite the plethora of media stories of high profile people who have lost impressive positives due to their misrepresentation and despite the increasing use of background checks conducted by employers. Resume enhancement of any kind is not recommended. Do not lie, stretch the truth or misrepresent the facts. It does not take an official background check to discover lies. Remember Google. It is that that easy.


Review your resume thoroughly to avoid the above mistakes. Ensure your executive resume is concise, organized and compelling enough to gain attention in today’s crowed and competitive market.

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