It’s never a great idea to submit a poorly done resume with a job application. But when the application is for an executive position, the stakes are even higher — meaning a low-quality resume is an especially bad sign.
After all, executive positions demand an enormous amount of focus and dedication. If an applicant can’t even put together a quality resume for their application, what does that say about their ability to actually do the job? Whether you’re a hiring manager or are applying for executive positions yourself, here are some resume red flags to look out for.
Most hiring managers aren’t going to pore over your resume. Instead, they’re going to skim it to see whether you’re a promising candidate (or at least have the bare minimum qualifications). Bullet points are a great way to break up text and make it more readable.
However, some applicants completely defeat the purpose of bullet points by including multiple sentences after each one. When you do this, most people will see a dense block of text and skip it altogether. A good rule of thumb is to aim for about 1-2 lines of text per bullet point.
Some resumes come with an objective statement — a brief summary of your career goals. It’s a good idea to define your career goals for yourself. But as a hiring manager sifts through hundreds of resumes, they don’t need to see why you’re applying for the position — they need to know what’s in it for them.
That doesn’t mean you should create a resume with no tagline. But instead of an objective statement, consider adding a tagline that highlights the value you could bring to the company if hired.
If you make a claim on your resume (and especially on a resume for an executive position), you need to be able to back it up. For instance, suppose that you say something like, “I’m a budget-management rockstar,” and then include no dollar figures at all.
Any hiring manager will see that something isn’t adding up. Either you’re lying about your budget-management experience, or your budget-management skills aren’t what you say they are.
A good executive resume demonstrates your value to a company. There’s nothing wrong with making statements about that value. But if you don’t have the data or accomplishments to back it up, your claims will just seem hollow. General value statements might be fine if you’re applying for an entry-level position, but at the C-suite level, they aren’t enough.
If a company is selecting an executive, it probably isn’t going to hire someone who can’t even proofread a resume. Make sure to go over it extremely carefully, looking for misspellings, punctuation errors, and grammatical issues.
While it might not necessarily be an error, lazy or repetitive word choices can also be an issue. For instance, if every one of your listed job duties starts with “Responsible for,” it’s worth consulting a thesaurus to add some variety.
A resume is meant to give would-be employers a concise introduction to you, your career, and the value you offer. Unfortunately, some candidates tend to craft resumes as if they’re writing a biography. If your resume is many pages long, it probably isn’t going to be read in full. This means that hiring managers might skip some of the most critically important details.
When you’re crafting a resume, make sure you emphasize the quality of the content you include over the quantity of it. Keep things brief. The value of each included section should determine its length. For instance, if you have prior executive experience, that section should be longer than one focused on an entry-level job.
Often, applicants take their prior job descriptions, break them into bullet points, and put them on their resume. Unfortunately, this is a waste of time on your part (and a waste of space on your resume). Hiring managers don’t want to know the day-to-day tasks you perform. They want to see career highlights that illustrate the sort of value you can bring to their company.
It might help to imagine your resume as a persuasive essay. If you ever had to write one of these in high school, your teacher might have told you that every sentence needed to support your argument. When you send a resume, your argument is that you’re the best candidate for the job. Make sure everything you include on your resume supports that assertion.
If you use the exact same resume to apply for multiple jobs, hiring managers can probably tell. For any job (but especially executive-level jobs), it’s important to make sure that the resume you submit illustrates how you’re a great fit for the role you’re applying for. This is obviously time-consuming, but it gives you your best chances of getting the job (or at least an interview).
An executive resume should draw in your reader and showcase your personal brand in the space of the first few lines. Hiring managers love clarity, so they will appreciate being able to instantly see who you are, what industry you’re in, and what position you’re applying for. On the flip side, if the person reading your resume can’t immediately determine your target or get a sense of your personal brand, it might hurt your chances.
A hiring manager’s first impression of an applicant often comes right from their resume. So avoid sending in an executive resume with generic formatting and a paragraph for every bullet point. This kind of behavior is akin to showing up for an interview in a cheap suit and a tie with a ridiculous pattern — not a good look.
Whether you’re hiring someone to craft your resume or are just polishing up your own, the extra effort will often pay off.