Six Easy Ways To Refresh An Outdated Executive Resume

Previously published in Forbes

When executives come to me for resume assistance, we take a look at their current resume as a starting point, but we often end up rewriting the whole document, as there are many mistakes that can make a resume look antiquated. Below are some of these common mistakes along with quick, easy fixes to modernize your resume.

The Layout

• Antiquated: Very little is added to the resume in terms of colors, lines and style. All text is black.

• Modernized: Adorn key sections of the resume with color. Draw the reader in with attractive lines, logos and artwork for modern visual appeal. But don’t overdo it. You want to create the layout with applicant tracking system requirements in mind.

The Text

• Antiquated: The resume reads more like a history of what the candidate has done — large blocks of text may be scattered throughout the resume. Bulleted achievements are in a long, condensed list and hard to skim. There are very narrow margins with little spacing throughout the document. Times New Roman font is often used.

• Modernized: Write the resume in a coherent fashion that connects the dots and acts as a marketing document that “sells” you for the position you want. Swap large paragraphs and blocks of text for shorter paragraphs of one to three sentences. Frontload your achievements within a job description with a few keywords bolded, making them easy to skim.

Use ample margins (3/4 of an inch at minimum) along with 6 pt. spacing after each accomplishment bullet point. Select a more modern font like Calibri or Garamond.


• Antiquated: Many old-school resumes will lead with the word “objective,” then describe what job the candidate is seeking, such as “Objective: Seeking a career in XYZ field where I can grow my career.”

• Modernized: List a specific job title, such as “COO” or “VP of Marketing,” that specifies the type of job and level of hire. Recruiters and hiring managers will take a 10-second glance the first time around, and they need to be able to quickly ascertain if you’re a good fit for the position they are trying to fill. They don’t want to have to read through your resume to discover the position for which you’d be a great candidate.

Branding And Key Competencies

• Antiquated: Many older resumes I see neglect to list branding statements and key competencies and instead go straight to professional experience. If a branding section is present, it tends to be a long, dense paragraph.

• Modernized: Replace a dense paragraph about you with a few hard-hitting, one-sentence statements that communicate value and entice the reader to continue. Better yet, add a hard-hitting, quantifiable statement. For executives, key competencies should be high-level and should cover requirements for the job they’re after, using keywords from several job descriptions.


• Antiquated: The bottom of the resume has the phrase “References available upon request.”

• Modernized: There is no need to mention references. Those hiring will ask for a separate list if needed, which you can then bring in to the job interview.

Contact Information

• Antiquated: The resume lists two phone numbers with one labeled “mobile,” a full mailing address and an outdated email address labeled “email.”

• Modernized: Ditch the landline and only list your mobile phone. Do not label it as a mobile — everyone knows that’s likely what it is. Similarly, you don’t need to label your email address. If you still have an email address from AOL, Yahoo or even a .edu from college, consider updating to a Gmail email address. In place of a full street address, you can just add your city, state and zip code. If you are moving to a new city, use the new city’s state and zip.

Include your LinkedIn profile with a customized and shortened URL that omits the numbers and letters after your name. For example, mine is The portion after in/ will be your first and last name or something unique to you that omits the extra numbers at the end.

If you stand out from the masses with your resume, you’re likely to land the interview. Apply these quick fixes to modernize your old resume format.

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