No matter how many resumes you’ve sent out on your journey to becoming a senior-level professional, submitting one for a new executive position is still a daunting task. In a society that values modesty and humility, it’s tricky to market yourself in a way that finds the middle ground between arrogance and diffidence while also standing out from a sea of equally qualified job seekers.
Your resume is often the first resource potential recruiters or employers use to assess your likely value to a company, and when they have a stack of them from other hopeful executives to sift through, one glaring mistake can easily get yours tossed aside.
To help you maximize your future employment opportunities, here are a few common executive resume mistakes to be sure to avoid:
The title is a crucial part of your resume, as it allows recruiters to instantly understand which role you are qualified for. If they can’t make the connection right off the bat, it could prevent you from landing an interview, especially if they have a healthy amount of other viable job seekers to consider.
You want to be as specific with your title as possible. For example, if you were eyeing a position as a top-level engineer for a construction company, you’d fare much better if your resume title was “Senior Civil Engineer” instead of simply “Engineer.”
On a similar note, many executive recruiting firms have databases that hold job seekers’ information, and they use these to search for qualified applicants when they need to fill a specific position. If you don’t list the specific title that a recruiter searches for in their database, your resume might not show up for a role you’re perfectly suited for.
In the business world, time is money, and if your resume doesn’t make an immediate impact, the chances of you getting called in for an interview are slim to none. Recruiters don’t have time to read every detail of every resume, so make sure you list critical, pertinent career highlights on the top of the first page.
If you have an extensive list of achievements, experience, and education that can translate to the position you’re vying for, it’s perfectly okay if your resume is longer than one page. However, you want to put your most recent and relevant work experience at the top of the page instead of putting your previous positions in chronological order. Experience speaks volumes, and showcasing that you can bring immediate value and skill to the position will make a much better impression than if the first thing a recruiter sees is an unrelated role from ten years ago.
Similarly, unless you’re brand new to the work force, experience is lauded more so than education (ideally you’ll have both), so when you’re applying for executive positions, you want to place your actual industry roles before your academic achievements.
Seasoned recruiters have read through hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of resumes, which means they’ve seen all of the cliché and overused phrases that job seekers use to demonstrate their value. To truly stand out and let recruiters know what you can bring to the table, avoid using vague terms to describe your accomplishments. Instead, explain what concrete differences your actions made at your previous places of employment.
For example, instead of simply saying you boosted employee performance, say that you enhanced employee efficiency and company profit by integrating cost-effective employee incentives, resulting in a 25% greater monthly production within your first year as manager.
The point is to be specific and clear, and if you can use facts, figures, and timelines to make your case, it’s all the more powerful.
Ask any recruiter or employment professional; the days of declaring an objective on resumes are long gone. In today’s world, it’s assumed that someone applying for a position wants to secure the role and advance with the company, so there isn’t a need to say this.
Starting your resume off with an objective tells potential employers that you’re out of touch with the current professional universe. Your time would be much better utilized refining and perfecting your executive summary instead. This is where you can grab the recruiter’s attention by selling and summarizing your relevant strengths and skills in short, easy-to-read sentences. Making the case for why you are the best candidate is much more impactful than saying you want the job.
Naturally, you want to impress the person reviewing your resume, and showing off your impressive vocabulary or deep understanding of industry jargon might seem like an obvious way to do this. That being said, it’s important that your word selection doesn’t lead to confusion. Throwing in large, technical words that the common person isn’t familiar with can serve as more of a distraction than it is a highlight. After all, the main goal of a resume is to communicate quickly and clearly that you’re the best person for the job, and in order to do this, it’s important to write in an easy-to-read manner, not in a way that requires a dictionary.
It’s surprising how many resumes are submitted with typos, and while one or two small errors might not seem like a deal breaker, the majority of recruiters interviewed in a previous survey agreed that as little as two typos in a resume can make them rule out a job seeker.
Why does something as common and miniscule as a typo make such an impact on hiring decisions?
It’s important to remember that your resume is your first chance to get in the door and make a positive impact. You are essentially selling who you are as a professional and what you can bring to the company, and demonstrating proper spelling and grammar is a subtle way to illustrate a keen eye for detail, which is necessary in almost any position.
The good news is that you can prevent this from ever becoming an issue. Before you send out your resume, review it multiple times for any errors. Reading it slowly aloud to yourself can help you catch any mistakes better than solely skimming with your eyes does, and likewise, having a second pair of eyes review your document can give you even greater peace of mind.
It’s not uncommon for job seekers to send their resumes out for many positions, but if you’re creating your resume to work as a one-size-fits-all, you could be jeopardizing your opportunity to truly stand out.
Keep in mind that recruiters often review many resumes for one position. If you take no time to research and appeal to the job description a company promotes, it’s unlikely that your resume will resonate as powerfully as it would if you crafted it around the details of the position-in-question. Remember, a generic resume never impresses as much as one that is tailor-made, no matter how dead-on your qualifications are.
Hopefully these tips help you better understand what impresses recruiters and what dissuades them when going over resumes. It all boils down to being clear, confident, specific, and impactful with your wording and formatting; if you can do this, you should have no problem landing an interview.
S.R. Clarke Consulting Services, Inc. is an executive recruiting firm that primarily focuses on the construction industry. We’ve been helping both job seekers and employers with their professional needs for over 41 years. Whether you’re a high-level professional who needs help managing a career change, or an employer looking to hire top talent, we can help. To discover more about how we can be a strategic partner in your success, get in touch today.
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