Whether you’re actively pursuing your next executive role or considering a job search, it’s important to have a resume that presents who you are today and positions you well for where you want to go next in your career.
Adding recent information to an old, outdated resume won’t position you optimally because it doesn’t reflect your true value, expertise and strengths — especially when up-leveling your career. An executive resume with an overly executional bent that lacks information about notable involvement in strategy and oversight can weaken your candidacy. When it doesn’t position you properly for the roles you’re seeking, it can also dissuade others from forwarding it on your behalf.
Take the time now to review your current resume. If contains the following mistakes, fix them !
1. Superfluously Long Summary
A summary, by definition, should provide a brief snapshot of who you are, not restate your entire resume. If it takes up half of a page or more — with lengthy paragraphs and overlapping (but varying) lists of expertise, accomplishments and keywords — it’s too long. Not to mention, with so much information crammed in, it’s hard to sift through and readers will overlook key points.
An effective summary provides prospective employers and key contacts with an overview of what you bring to the table. It briefly states the unique experience, skills and expertise you offer and highlights the impact you’ve had… essentially outlining how you can do the same for prospective employers.
2. Laundry List of Duties
At the executive level, demonstrating leadership and influence on a resume is essential. When writing about your employment, avoid exhaustive lists that start with “Responsible for…” Instead of tasks, focus on accomplishments. Show results (quantifiable, when appropriate) as well as how you’ve solved problems and contributed to company strategy, expansion, innovation, transformation, revenue growth, market positioning, customer experience, efficiency etc.
You don’t have to include everything you’ve ever done. Stick with content that best relates to what you’re looking to do next.
For more guidance on how to present yourself effectively at the senior level, read our
3. Minimal Job Information
Avoid reducing current and recent positions to a few lines with little substance. People want to know what you’re doing now, what you last did and why it is (was) important. When you don’t elaborate, even with an impressive title, it’s hard to determine what you’re really doing and how (or if) you’re making a difference that can add value to a prospective employer.
At the same time, review the level of detail from earlier jobs. What you did in the early 2000s shouldn’t have noticeably more content than active and more recent roles.
4. Over-Summarized Career Progression
If you’ve advanced through several titles at one company, you have a great opportunity to show professional growth, loyalty and recognition of your talent. Unfortunately, many people over-summarize roles and list the last title only on their resume (usually because it’s the highest level), while using dates of their entire tenure with the organization.
This is problematic on two levels. First, it’s false! If you’ve been CFO for the past 5 years at XYZ Co. and before that were their Vice President of Finance for 4 years, your resume should not list CFO only — it incorrectly implies that you’ve held this position for 9 years. Second, reducing roles and experience to one title diminishes career progression, which is a valuable narrative. Listing all titles shows that your contributions were impactful, recognized and rewarded.
Generally speaking, describe multiple roles at one firm by separating out titles and dates with detail indicating increased responsibility and achievement over time. However, depending on context and roles, some positions can be combined; it’s not a one-size-fits-all rule. For instance, summarizing career progression is widely acceptable on a board-focused resume, which differs from an operational executive resume.
For more information on board resume strategy,
5. Missing Key Additional Information
While experience is a priority, don’t forget about ancillary details that add dimension and differentiate you from other candidates. List corporate, advisory and nonprofit board roles and volunteer leadership positions, as well as relevant certifications, professional memberships, speaking engagements and awards/honors. If you have an advanced degree, don’t omit undergraduate details; rather, include all post-secondary institutions/degree information.
6. Content & Formatting Faux Pas
Irregular resume formatting for anyone, especially an executive, makes for a poor impression, even if your content is strong otherwise. Inattention to detail sends the wrong message. Use one easy-to-read font and format company names, titles, dates, financial figures etc. consistently.
The heading should include your full name, one phone number, a personal email that identifies as you (that you check regularly) and your LinkedIn profile URL. (No need to label “Phone,” “Email,” “LinkedIn;” they’re self-explanatory.)
As an executive, you balance multiple priorities and goals. If you’re pursuing a new job, carve out some time and make updating your resume a priority so you’re positioned well in your effort. Besides fixing obvious errors, review key areas of your resume to ensure it highlights the most relevant information for the roles you’re seeking and reads in a way that’s appropriate for the job level.
When you have an optimized resume that markets you well and reflects your value, you won’t hesitate to respond when great opportunity strikes.