by Lisa Marsh
Jun 17 2015
Like the people who write them, all executive resumes are unique, but there are seven common pitfalls that are often made by those who write their own resumes. To improve your chances of success, and keep your resume out of the trash pile, here is a breakdown of what you need to look out for.
1. Not Optimizing Your Resume
With the increased usage of technology in the recruitment process, those who do not optimize their resumes often miss out of the next big career step. This means that you need to make sure your executive resume is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly. In summary, this means that your executive resume must contain keywords that are relevant to your desired opportunity, the skills required, and the company culture. To find the right keywords, review the job description, highlight all the keywords, and include them in your resume in context. While keywords are vital in building a successful resume, too many keywords can look clumsy and contrived, so be careful not to overdo.
2. Not Customizing Your Resume for Each New Opportunity
Once you have spent time perfecting your executive resume, it might feel tempting to use the same resume for all future positions that you apply to, but this can have a negative impact. While you can use the same resume as a template, make sure that your resume highlights the key points that the company is looking for. Job competition is fierce and it is your responsibility to make sure that your executive resume perfectly matches the position you are applying for.
3. Not Using Appropriate Aesthetic Features
Whether you have spent zero time on your resumes aesthetics, or have spent time including graphics, images, photos, and charts, a misuse of aesthetical features can damage your chances of making it to the interview round. Executives who use graphics and images, including text boxes, should be aware that these features can cause problems for employers. They frequently cannot be opened and are often impossible to scan. Unless you are applying for a creative role, it can cause an unnecessary distraction, and could lead to your rejection.
Equally distracting are inappropriate fonts, or mixed fonts. Not only can they be difficult to read, but also reflect on your judgement ability and presentational style.
Finally, do not include a photo on your executive resume unless specifically asked to. Aside from the technical reasons, as mentioned above, there are legal issues surrounding the use of photos. Many human resources departments are instructed to reject all resumes containing photos in order to avoid accusations of discrimination based on looks, gender or ethnicity, or other aesthetical factors.
4. Not Giving Your Self a Title (Or the Right Title)
No matter how long we spend writing them, the majority of resumes are viewed for no more than six seconds. In that time, it is important to convey exactly who you are and what you do. If you don’t give yourself a title at the top of the resume, it makes the reader’s job much more difficult, and can often lead to immediate rejection. Another shortcut to rejection, can be using the correct title, but one that is unique to you and your company and is less commonly known. This can cause confusion as to what you currently do and if you are qualified for the role. An easy solution to this is to simply change your title to reflect the common term that employers and recruiters will understand and that is the functional equivalent to your current (or previous) role.
5. Not Ordering Your Resume Content Correctly
When writing their resume, candidates often opt to present their experience purely chronologically, or purely by function. However, employers and recruiters often find chronological resumes difficult to read because it relies on them having to figure out what skills and expertise you have to offer.
Similarly, resumes that presented their information by function, require recruiters and employers to do extra work too. It can be difficult for the reader to establish whether the experience listed took place five years ago, or twenty. It also fails to convey the context surrounding the accomplishment too. By using a hybrid resume, which combines elements of both formats, the candidate can make the most of the space provided by their resume.
6. Not Using the Right Words
The most detrimental word-related mistakes are, of course, spelling and grammar errors. In an age of computerised spell-checks and grammar-checks, there really is no excuse. If a recruiter or future employer spots any spelling or grammar mistakes on your resume, they will assume that your work is of a similar quality and disregard you as a candidate.
Aside from these obvious errors, it is also important that candidates pay special attention to their verb choices. Weak verb choices or repeated verbs, just as repeating the phrase “was responsible for” or “assisted with” can quickly become monotonous and uninviting to readers. Make sure that you liven up your resume with a variety of verbs that suit their purpose.
7. Not Conveying a Career Story That Makes Sense
Your resume should tell the story of your career. Having gaps in your resume, particularly for voluntary work or educational purposes, isn’t a big deal as long as you can explain what happened during that break. If you do have these breaks, you could try adding a section to your resume under headings such as “Education” or “Volunteering” were you can add dates and brief explanations.
For additional tips, register for the webinar: How to Optimize Your Executive Resume.
The Ultimate Executive Career Guide: Resumes/CVs, LinkedIn Profiles, and More
As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to: