5 Common Mistakes Career Leaders make on their resumes that can cost an interview
These 5 common resume mistakes can easily cost the job interview for manager, directors, VPs and executives.
At this level in your career, you should know how to write a killer resume that not only lands you an interview, but one that highlights your strengths and positions you as the top candidate. I’ve “fixed” many resumes that have had the mistakes listed below. Recently I re-worked a resume for a VP of Sales. Before, he had not received any interviews in 6 months. After we re-worked the resume he reported getting multiple interviews per week.
Five of the most common mistakes with resumes are: they don’t have a title, or they have an incorrect title; they have a boring summary paragraph, if they have one at all; their key accomplishments are not categorized and are in table format; their job accomplishments are vague and yield a “so what” response; and their overall resume is lacking keywords. Let’s look at each in more detail:
- They don’t have a title, or they have an incorrect title
Ensure you have your title tied to an actual real role that companies hire for – and at the appropriate level – such as “Marketing Assistant” or “Director of Innovation” or “VP of Marketing” or “Chief Marketing Officer.” Be very specific. If you’re in the Marketing Department, state “Director of Marketing” or “Social Media Manager” or “Market Research Analyst” – don’t just say “Marketing.” The person reading it should not have to guess or try to figure out where you belong in the company – and they won’t waste time on this. “Global Project Manager” is clearer than “Operational Leader” for a person who wants to manage global projects in a variety of areas. “Commercial Development” and not “Marketing” is the right term for a person who wants to find new applications to scientific products and grow a business unit.
- They have a boring summary paragraph, if they have one at all
The summary paragraph, located just beneath your title, is one of the most important parts of a resume. You have maybe 5-10 seconds to capture the attention of the person going through the stack of resumes for a position. Often, summary paragraphs read like a boring history of what you’ve done in the past. They don’t sell the candidate and share what he or she can do. And often they don’t capture the essence and personality of the candidate either. Recently I met the most dynamic, outgoing and gifted person – but the amazing person she is did not come across on her resume. We worked together to capture her essence and ensure it came across on paper. You need to sell who you are and what you’re doing for a new organization.
- Their key accomplishments are not categorized and are in table format
Bulleted accomplishments lists are located just after the summary paragraph and before the next section which is often the professional experience section. I often see bulleted lists of accomplishments that are put into a MS Word table. Although it “looks” OK, the problem with this is that text inside a table cannot be read by an applicant tracking system (the ATS, or the computer system that scans your resume for keywords to match the job you are applying for). In other words, the HR person that is looking for the ATS to rank resumes with the best fit can’t read all of your words that are in tables – words inside tables are invisible to the ATS.
Instead, your key accomplishments should be present in free text form without being in a table. If you have more than 9, they are easier to read if you categorize them with a main heading at the top and sub-headings beneath that describe the heading. For example, “Project Management” might be a heading, and sub-heads are project management activities you are familiar with.
- Their job accomplishments are vague and yield a “so what” response
When outlining each job, you should list the company worked for and dates of employment, followed by a title and a brief description of your daily responsibilities (these should not be bullets but a few sentences below the title). When you get to accomplishment bullets, you want to list a result followed by how this was accomplished. For example, “Drove sales increase of 35% by establishing regular customer visits.” Instead of “Regularly visited customers resulting in increased sales. This first example shows a quantitative result that wows a hiring manager. The second bullet is more of a “so what.” You will be courted by hiring managers if you demonstrate what you can do for them – what results you can accomplish – rather than sharing what activities you did at your prior company.
- Their overall resume is lacking keywords
As we discussed above, your resume needs to match up with a real job that has an actual title. The HR folks who are reviewing your resume will be looking at how well your resume matches up with the job description and particularly the requirements and day-to-day responsibilities. They will look to see if the keywords in your resume match up with the keywords in the job description. Do not assume they will know that you know MS Office software and leave that off. Also, don’t summarize responsibilities such as “understand all phases of the project management lifecycle” – spell out each phase in this example. The person reading the resume may not understand what the phases of the project management life cycle are – and the computer looking for the words to describe each phase will not find them on your resume.
Do you need assistance in taking your resume from so-so to killer status?
I regularly work with people who say things like this after working with me:
“I am so impressed with how strong my resume is now, with your help! I agree with you that the top summary section is very strong; I am sincerely amazed at how polished this new resume is in its presentation of my skills. I read my resume and say – wow – I would love to hire her.” – Director of Telehealth
“I contracted with Rebecca on recreating my resume and upgrading my LinkedIn profile. Since she has completed each of these I have seen an increase in hits on LinkedIn and responses to my resume submissions for positions on-line with multiple interviews per week now. I highly recommend you at least reach out for a consultation as I too felt that everything was ready to go that I had completed on my own but she will take your documents and profiles to the next level.” – VP of Sales
If you can use help creating a killer resume which lands job interviews, we need to talk.
Don’t delay – time is money! For every multiple of $100,000 you make in salary, getting a job 1 month faster will put $8,000 in your pocket.
I have openings to work with just two more individuals in transition this month.
To schedule an exploratory call, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 440-709-4724.
Best wishes for your success – Rebecca Bosl