by Lisa Marsh
Mar 15 2018
Is your resume not achieving you the results you want in the executive job market? If you’re not getting traction from executive recruiters, you could be succumbing to one of these 20 common executive resume pitfalls. Take a fresh look at your resume and see if you can spot any of these recruiter faux-pas.
1. Offering Up Personal Details
Top of our list and top of your resume, including unnecessary personal information such as your marital status, religion, or ethnicity could land your resume straight in the trash can. With stringent laws on discrimination, potential employers could face legal action if their decision-process illegally factors in these elements, so many employers will remove resumes with these explicit details from the candidate selection process to avoid the risk of repercussions.
2. Giving Your Age (implicitly or explicitly)
As mentioned above, due to anti-discrimination laws (which includes age discrimination), it is highly advisable to avoid putting your age on your resume. But candidates should also be mindful of implicitly giving their age away, for example putting two spaces after a period. Historically, when using a typewriter, people were advised to put two spaces after a period because typewriters use monospaced fonts. As computers use proportional spaced fonts (meaning that each letter or character is given space specific to its size), this practice is redundant. Therefore, those who add a double space after a period are highlighting their age and their inability to keep up with current technologies and trends.
3. Providing a Full Physical Address
As most job searches and job search correspondences are conducted via the internet, providing a full mailing address (unless it has been explicitly requested) is not required and will take up unnecessary room on your resume.
4. Unprofessional Email Addresses
We all have them, some more embarrassing that others, but there is no excuse to be using them as your primary professional email address, particularly when conducting an executive-level job search. With Gmail, Yahoo and other free email address providers allowing users to set up new accounts within minutes, unprofessional email addresses on resumes should definitely be in the past.
5. Photographs, Images Graphics, Charts, Headers/Footers
Your face can say a lot about you, such as your age, gender, ethnicity and other factors included in discrimination laws. Unless a photo has been explicitly requested, there is no place for photos of yourself on your resume. In addition to this, candidates should avoid embedding images, charts and other features into their resume. Not only will they take up valuable real estate on your resume, but they will also cause problems with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) which will be unable to process elements of your resume as a result – which could result in you being removed from the candidate selection process.
6. Personal Pronouns
A common mistake made by many executives is littering their resumes with personal pronouns such as “I”, “me”, “she”, “he” or “my.” Personal pronouns should be emitted throughout the document as an accepted convention of resume writing.
7. Highly-Questionable Font Choices
Decisions are made based on everything present on your resume, including your choice of font. It is argued that fonts can say a lot about a person, so careful consideration should be employed when selecting one for your resume. Times New Roman and other typewriter or serif fonts are generally considered old-fashioned. But equally, candidates should steer away from fancy, calligraphy-style fonts which have been proven to be more difficult to read – and if the average resume is read in less than 10 seconds, you could be putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. Chose a standard, easy to read, sleek font such as Arial, Garamond, Georgia, Helvetic or Calibri.
8. Poor Grammar and Spelling
This point is pretty self-explanatory but cannot be emphasised enough. Spelling and grammar mistakes are not only a negative reflection on your intelligence, but on your attention to detail, time management and serious interest in the role. With spell-checks and grammar-checks built into most word processors, these types of mistakes should not be happening.
9. Inconsistent Formatting
If you are creating a new resume, but copy and pasting sections from a previous document, make sure the font type, size and general formatting features are consistent because recruiters will notice. Similarly, when including dates, bullet points and other features, chose one method of formatting it and stick with that throughout. Resumes that use multiple types of bullet point formatting styles for no reason, or resumes that switch between day-month-year, year-month-day, month-year-day dating formats within one document end up appearing highly unprofessional and ill-thought out – as well as making it more challenging for the reading to process the information.
10. Un-Reader Friendly Text Formatting
You are not doing a recruiter any favors by writing all your achievements in dense, lengthy paragraphs of text. Likewise, over using bullet points can be equally arduous to read and renders the purpose of bullet points redundant. Make sure your text is clear, concise and thoughtfully presented in an easy to friend format.
11. An Ill-Defined Personal Brand
Are you a William Smith, Bill Smith or a Will F. Smith? You need to make your mind up because this sort of name ambiguity can detract from your personal brand, make it more difficult to differentiate yourself from competition and for recruiters to conduct candidate research. Once you have decided upon your brand, use it throughout all your personal career documents, including your resume, bio, LinkedIn profile, other online profiles, your email, social media accounts, business cards, email signature and anywhere else that would be relevant. How can you make a name for yourself in your industry, if your name is not clear?
12. Lack of Tangible Impact
Essentially, when assessing your resume, recruiters and potential employers want to know if you would bring ROI for their company if you were employed – and how fast. To demonstrate your impact, your resume should be showcasing achievements in a highly measurable and quantitative way that would make your capability unquestionable.
13. “I want this job because….”
Or “I believe I would be a good fit for this role because…” No. Sentences like this have no place on your resume. Not only should you not be including personal pronouns as mentioned above, but your resume should show why you are a good fit – you should not need to write additional prose (this is also what a cover letter or interview is for). Candidates who resort to writing these sentences show a lack of experience and a lack of understanding of the executive job search process.
14. Incorrect Tenses
If you are still employed at your present company now, use present tense. If you don’t work there, don’t use present tense. Mixing up tenses can make it confusing for the reader to comprehend your career study and could result in you being dismissed from the recruitment process. Make sure your career history is clearly understandable and tells a logical career story.
15. Excuses and Reasons for Leaving
As much as you need to tell a linear career story, you do not need to include reasons why you left your last employment, or why you were fired or made redundant. If a recruiter or potential employer have questions about any aspect of your employment history, they will ask you. Don’t provide this unsolicited, unnecessary information in your resume.
16. Irrelevant History
Executive careers can span over many years, but considering your executive resume should not spill over 2 pages, when applying for a new executive role you should not really go beyond 15 years of experience. Also, unless highly relevant to the role you are applying for, very short-term or unrelated roles can also be excluded.
17. Company-Specific Terms, Positions and Other Jargon
Many companies have their own internal terms for aspects of their company and how it is run. When creating your resume, make sure that you are not using any of these terms that those outside of your organization will not understand. Similarly, if you have been given a professional title that is company specific, you might want to consider changing it on your resume to something that will resonate better and be more comprehensible to the reader. Nobody likes undecipherable jargon!
18. Your Compensation Level
A resume is not the place to address your current salary or future salary goals. Compensation discussions and negotiations come at a much later stage in the hiring process and you could be damaging your negotiating position by unnecessarily announcing it in your resume.
19. Unrelated Hobbies, Interests, Family Life
While being able to maintain a healthy work-life balance is a plus, your resume should not have sections on your hobbies, interests or family, unless directly related for the role that you are applying for. You can always include some of this information in your personal bio if included as part of a strategic, purposeful personal branding decision.
Don’t jump the gun! If recruiters or employers want your references, they will contact you and ask for them. You should not be including them in your resume. Similarly, writing “references available at request” is also a pointless waste of space on your resume, as available references is a given.
Clearing your resume of some of these common mistakes can lead to a more attractive, enhanced executive resume. If you would like to learn more about executive resumes (including keyword optimization!), become a member to listen to our webinar “Expert Advice for Your Executive Resume” with four expert resume writers sharing their insider advice. Become a Member >>
The Ultimate Executive Career Guide: Resumes/CVs, LinkedIn Profiles, and More
As a senior-level executive, you can use this guide to: