Your resume is the ticket to the job of your dreams, so it’s critical to avoid making these common resume mistakes that will cause hiring managers and recruiters to put your resume into the “no” pile.
We receive hundreds of resumes each month, and those that stand out have a clear focus, content that showcases the results the executive has achieved (rather than duties), and a simple, easy-to-read design.
To ensure that your resume is an effective marketing piece for you and gets you interviews, ensure you avoid these common resume mistakes.
Common Resume Mistakes to Avoid
1. Listing Duties But Not Accomplishments
A long list of all of the things you’ve been responsible for in your previous jobs means very little to a potential employer.
Instead, discuss what you’ve accomplished through those responsibilities.
Recap your successes in each position and list challenges you’ve overcome. These will have far more impact than simply stating that you managed projects and implemented new procedures. Re-position your duties as accomplishments that demonstrate your capabilities and qualifications.
2. Failing to Quantify Your Impact
Before making a big purchase, you likely do a little research first. In your research, you probably see facts like 95 percent of users gave a 5-star review or four-out-of-five doctors recommend this product. Isn’t it more reassuring to see a list of these hard numbers rather than just a list of attributes about the product on the company’s website?
Now apply that thought process to your resume. Failing to quantify accomplishments is the number one resume mistake we see!
Filling your resume with flowery language about how you led your team to success or implemented new systems means very little to a hiring manager without quantifiables to back up your claims. When it comes to landing an executive-level position, you need to be specific about exactly what you’ve accomplished.
Perhaps you increased sales by 78 percent or helped decrease employee turnover by 20 percent.
Including quantifiable, hard facts helps to validate your achievements in the eyes of the hiring manager.
3. Over-Designing Your Resume
Incorporating fancy graphs, charts, colors or images into your resume may capture a recruiter’s attention, but it might not be for the right reason.
Elaborately-designed resumes are often more difficult to decipher and cause the reader to have to hunt for relevant information.
Picking an ineffective resume template is one of the most common resume mistakes we see.
Unless you’re applying for a job in a field like graphic design, it’s better to stick to a resume in a classic format with a simple, black, sans-serif font. You won’t get an interview if the hiring manager can’t read your resume.
Remember, your resume is the first impression a potential employer will have of you, so take the time to tailor it to the job position and tell your career story as effectively and efficiently as possible.
4. Including Too Much or Not Enough
Like Goldilocks, you want to make sure your resume is not too short, not too long, but just the right length to highlight your greatest accomplishments and your breadth of experience.
There’s a common misconception that a resume should be no longer than one page, but that is simply not true nor is it feasible for a professional who has reached an executive level.
Even if you don’t have years of experience under your belt, by the time you’re ready to take on the C-suite, you’ve likely got more experience and knowledge than one page can contain – at least not without using an unreadable small font.
It’s also important not to try to fill up several pages just to make it look like you’ve got a lot of experience. Listing out every single job responsibility you’ve ever had on your resume is a waste of your time and your potential employer’s time.
While a good rule of thumb is to aim for three pages or fewer, remember that your resume should be only long enough to give the recruiter the information they need to determine you’re a qualified candidate for the position.
5. Using a One-Size-Fits-All Resume
Just as you should tailor the suit you wear to the interview, you need to tailor your resume to the job description. Taking the time to customize your resume to the keywords in the job listing will help you stand out as a qualified candidate.
However, do not lie or stretch the truth about your work history to make yourself look like the right person for the job.
You must have the experience and knowledge to back up what your resume says; if you don’t have the right experience, look elsewhere, but if you do, then make sure that is very clear in your resume.
6. Including an Objective Statement
While objective statements were a resume trend in the past, including one is now a resume mistake.
A potential employer doesn’t need a summary of what you’re looking for in a job.
Instead, tell them what you are brining to the position. These are called executive statements, and they are essentially just a few sentences that describe your qualifications and what you have to offer to the position.
As with the rest of your resume, it’s important to tailor this summary to the position.
7. Writing with Lazy Language
An executive’s resume needs to be filled with powerful, action-oriented words. A resume with half-sentences about improving processes and meeting quotas is lackluster at best.
When you’re vying for the C-suite, use energetic and authoritative words like launched, initiated and motivated. Be proud of the accomplishments you’ve made and use language that reflects the importance of what you’ve done.
Action verbs will keep the reader interested and help improve the flow of your resume.
8. Skipping Spell Check
This is one of the easiest mistakes to avoid, and unfortunately, one of the most common. Spelling and grammatical errors may not seem like a huge deal, but they are often deal-breakers for hiring managers.
Think about it from your potential employer’s perspective: If you can overlook typos on your resume, you can probably overlook errors in your work.
Small errors can lead to costly mistakes that an employer may not be able to afford, especially from an executive-level employee.
Take the extra time to proofread your resume and run it by a colleague or friend as well to ensure you don’t overlook anything.
9. Overusing Buzzwords
Saturating your resume with industry buzzwords will probably do nothing but irritate the hiring manager. You certainly need to understand and be able to properly use your industry’s key buzzwords, but you don’t have to prove your knowledge of them in your resume. It’s acceptable to incorporate them sparingly where appropriate, but if you stuff your resume full of industry jargon, you run the risk of looking like you’re trying too hard and getting your resume tossed in the trash.
The solution to ensure you avoid these common resume mistakes?
Before you submit your resume, we encourage you to carefully evaluate your resume against this list to make sure you’re not making these common resume mistakes.
It takes courage to admit something isn’t working with your resume—we totally understand how that feels.
But the sooner you fix your resume mistakes, the faster you’ll be on your way to greater success.
Need help creating an executive resume that avoids common mistakes and gets you interviews?
We’ve helped hundreds of top executives craft better resumes and land their dream jobs.
Our career coaches can work you you 1-on-1 to transform your resume.
If you prefer to DIY, check our executive resume guide, our proven step-by-step plan for creating a resume that works.
For more than 30 years, Kirby Partners has made it our job to get executives jobs.
We’re a Forbes’ “America’s Best Executive Search Firm” and have worked with thousands of executive job seekers.
Thanks for stopping by.