The Most Common Mistakes in Executive Resumes

By Peter Newfield

A good resume is more than just a documentation of your career path — it is a marketing tool designed to present your professional career experience in a strong, concise format with the single objective of getting you called in for an interview.

Executives on the look out for greener pastures need to make sure that the resumes they send out deliver enough career information and achievements to get past the gatekeepers. You may be aiming for a six-figure salary, but if your resume doesn’t deliver the goods you are shortchanging yourself. Review your current resume to avoid making the most common mistakes seen in executive resumes.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD – If you wrote your first resume as a senior in college and have been adding to it over the years, you are most likely using an undergrad format. Executive resumes should start with a Professional Summary before listing Professional Experience and Education.

MISSING DATES – Your resume will not be taken seriously without dates included next to each position listed. If you have gaps in employment for any reason, try to give a brief explanation in your cover letter, if necessary, but do not eliminate the dates from your resume.

FACTS BUT NO PANACHE – Just listing your responsibilities under each job title won’t help you to stand out from the thousands of resumes received for each position. A great resume has got to include accomplishments and achievements that you can take credit for. Were you instrumental in increasing sales by 65% in three months? Did you bring in 15 new clients in two years with total billings in excess of $200,000? It’s definitely okay to blow your own horn.

KEY WORDS – A section entitled Areas of Strength, as well as Professional Training and Computer Skills sections should include key words and skills that employers need to see.

NO FIBBING ALLOWED – Don’t lie about your job title or fudge on the date of your last promotion. If a background check reveals that you have been less than truthful on this important document, everything else you have written or said will be called into question.

WRONG FORMAT – A rule of thumb to follow is if you have been in the same industry for most of your career, then a modified functional resume format might be best. However, if you have jumped around and worked in various fields or in different capacities over the years, then select a functional format which will place more emphasis on your skills and achievements.

ANCIENT HISTORY – Don’t list jobs from 25 or 30 years ago. Employers want to know what you have done in the past 10-12 years that makes you a valuable asset to their company. Summarize jobs and experiences prior to that.

YOUR OWN PERSONAL NOVEL – The truth is that resumes are scanned visually and electronically — no one wants to read your life story. Keep your resume to no more than two typed pages. Brochure-style resumes and resumes with multiple attachments are too much.

DON’T GET PERSONAL – Personal information, marital status, hobbies, religious or political affiliations, and number of pets do not belong on a professional resume. If you think including a photograph is a good idea, think again.

NEATNESS COUNTS – Whether you submit your resume electronically or on expensive stationery, you need to carefully proofread the document for typos, errors, and inaccuracies that could cause embarrassment or suggest that you are careless in following up details.

CONTACT INFORMATION – It is appropriate to list your home and work telephone numbers, your cell phone number, and email address on your resume in addition to your home address. The way business is transacted these days, you will more than likely be contacted by email or telephone than by receiving a letter in the mail in response to your resume.

DIVERSIFY – If you are relying on only one source to get your next dream job (your brother-in-law the headhunter), you are missing out on the many available job hunting options out there. In addition to Professional Search firms, Classified Ads in trade journals and major daily newspapers, there are many networking and employment sites online that you should take advantage of. Remember to email your resumes and cover letters as well as using the conventional U.S. Postal Service in your job search efforts.

Your resume has to represent the best of who you are and what you have done to get where you are today. Remember, if your resume isn’t a winner, it’s a killer.

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Peter Newfield is President of®, one of the premier resume writing services in the United States. He is The Resume Expert for,,, and the former Resume Expert for, Spencer Stuart Talent Network and the Career Center on AOL. View samples at: