12 Mistakes Executives Make on Resumes (and How to Avoid Them)

Avoid making common resume mistakes that put your resume into the “no” pile.

Your resume is the gateway to the job of your dreams, so it is critical to avoid making common resume mistakes that will cause hiring managers and recruiters to put your resume into the “no” pile.

Recruiters receive large volumes of resumes each month. Those that stand out have a clear focus, content that highlights the results the executive has achieved (rather than duties), and use a simple, easy-to-read design. I have been sourcing and reviewing executive resumes for years, and I have seen executive candidates make many of the same mistakes repeatedly, costing them great opportunities, that are avoidable.

I have boiled down the list to my top 12 to help you to refine your resume so that it communicates your individual value.

Mistake #1: Saving the file name

Naming your resume document is the easiest mistake to correct from the onset. Some of the most glaring mistakes are including a version number or not renaming a resume from another person.

Solution: Save the document with your first name, last name, and professional title to make indexing, sorting, and searching the resume database quicker and allows your resume to stand out.

Mistake #2: No clear title

Without a clear title or headline, recruiters have no idea what roles you might fit, and your resume will often be disregarded or overlooked.

Solution: A strong executive resume starts with a concise headline describing what you do as an executive leader.

Mistake #3: Confusing, hard-to-read summary section

While it is common for executive candidates to feel that big words and long sentences are necessary to convey seniority and gravitas, in fact, they just put a barrier between you and the reader.

Solution: Use simple, plain language and short, punchy sentences.

Mistake #4: The resume introduction that says too much

As a successful executive, you have multiple skill sets and numerous selling points. But if you try to include them all at the start of your resume, you will wind up with a long, hard-to-read summary that recruiters skip altogether.

Solution: Decide on 2-3 main selling points and make those the centerpiece of your resume.

Mistake #5: Missing keywords

It is essential to include relevant keywords in your resume. Computers (Applicant Tracking Systems) will initially scan most resumes before a human ever sees them in today's human resources environment, especially for executive recruiters who maintain extensive databases of candidates. They will check those databases for keywords when a new opportunity arises.

Solution: Your resume must contain all the important words and phrases that directly refer to the job description for the position you are submitting or for your profession or industry.

Mistake #6: Too much detail

You might think that you need to include a lot of detail to show the level of your experience and to convey your executive responsibilities; however, you can condense an executive resume without losing any power or impact.

Solution: Do not list all the individual duties, those you work with closely, or facts of the job. For example, if you run operations for a multiple hospital health system or a large physician practice, there is no need to spell out your duties or state you work closely with the CEO/CFO; these facts are known. It is also known that you develop strategic plans as well. When it comes to executive resume writing, less is always more.

Mistake #7: Too much focus on job descriptions

Executives spend far too much time describing their responsibilities and not enough time talking about what they achieved in the role.

Solution: Use 3-4 times the space for your accomplishments as you use to describe your job responsibilities.

Mistake #8: Not being specific about accomplishments

Do not simply say that you turned the numbers around – provide the context and the improvement.

Solution: Use either numbers or percentages, whichever sounds most impressive, to emphasize the impact you made. For example: “Turned around an under-performing 285-bed hospital in 15 months.”

Mistake #9: Not including a LinkedIn profile URL

Without a doubt, recruiters will research you on social media, and LinkedIn is the number one resource recruiters use. If you are not on LinkedIn, recruiters will tend to assume that you are not tech-savvy or potentially hiding something. As both are particularly damaging, including a LinkedIn profile URL is vital. You can even hire someone to build your professional profile.

Solution: Update your LinkedIn profile and include the URL on your resume. It shows recruiters that you are on the ball and well-connected, and up to date – when done well – your profile provides them with more information about you and your career, as well as some insight into your personality.

Mistake #10: LinkedIn profile and resume do not match

It is imperative that the information in your resume and your LinkedIn profile match, specifically the dates. The differences are always explainable; however, it calls attention to the lack of detail.

Solution: Compare your updated resume to your LinkedIn profile and ensure they agree.

Mistake #11: One single resume is not suitable for every position

Do you customize your resume every time you apply for a position? If not, you are missing a valuable opportunity to appeal to your target audience.

Solution: Pay attention to the job description for clues about what is most important and then customize your resume to address those issues.

Mistake #12: Formatting issues

Be careful how you format your resume. Too many fancy tricks can render it unreadable when inspected by a computer system.

Other common mistakes include:

  • Not using a professional email address
  • Using incorrect verbiage
  • Failing to proofread thoroughly
  • Not utilizing spell check
  • Leaving out action verbs
  • Including inaccuracies about your qualifications or experience
  • Unnecessary personal information such as your age or details about your hobbies and interests

Solution: Keep your resume formatting simple. Likewise, be sure to create your resume in a word processing program (such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs) and send a PDF version. It is crucial the formatting stays consistent when opened at the other end. And lastly, do not include a picture; it will cause formatting issues. You can have a professional headshot on your LinkedIn profile.

Executive recruiters spend on average 20-30 seconds looking at your resume. Statistics like these are scary for executive job seekers, but you forget that the recruiter has a very trained eye and knows exactly what they need. Using these tips will help you create a resume that will make an impact and get you noticed.

Are you interested in an executive resume review? Submit your contact information and request to speak with Richard Ballard.

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