4 Executive Resume Mistakes & What You Can Do About Them

You’ve done your due diligence.

You know those executive leadership roles you’re targeting are highly competitive, and you know that your resume needs to capture the attention of a hiring manager or board of directors.

If you’re tired of (what feels like) full-time job searching after your 9-5, you’re not alone.

That’s why I revisited the executive resumes that I critiqued and rewrote for clients last year to share with you the top executive resume mistakes and what you can do about them to get hired faster.

4 Executive Resume Mistakes & What You Can Do About Them | Off The Clock Resumes

1 | Listing Dates Prior To 2005

This is a common executive resume writing mistake unless the job indicates specifically that the ideal candidate should have 20+ years of experience (which is rare even for executive positions!). In fact, more experience isn’t necessarily going to set you apart from other candidates but may eliminate you from consideration.

This may be a backwards way of thinking from your perspective. More experience means more expertise, right? Unfortunately, listing dates prior to 2005 draws attention to your age instead of your qualifications.

While we’d love to believe that age discrimination doesn’t exist, younger candidates can have the upper-hand when considering:

  • Potential tenure: Does your resume imply that you’re closely approaching retirement?

  • Salary negotiations: Does your resume indicate that your experience warrants a higher salary than a candidate with less experience?

  • And culture fit: Does your resume reflect values shared with the company?

Instead, remove your college graduation dates and summarize older experiences. A short “Additional experience as...” or “See LinkedIn profile for previous experience...” note at the end of your Experience section with no dates will keep the focus on your qualifications rather than your age.

2 | Including Outdated Certifications & Technology

Outdated certifications and technology are other blatant age identifiers. Even as an executive, your resume should be a snapshot of your most relevant skills and experiences. If your Education or Certification section is a long list or a dense block of certifications, you’re not presenting yourself as the best fit for the job.

Outdated certifications include any that have expired, been replaced by more updated versions, or have been earned more than five years ago without a refresher course. Job-specific certifications (like the PMP certification for project management) should be listed without the date of completion as long as you keep up on renewal requirements.

To avoid listing outdated technology, use the job posting as a guide for what to include. Remove specific versions of hardware or software indicated by years (Windows Server 2003, for example), non-standard office software (Lotus Notes or Open Office, for example), and irrelevant social media or apps. Listing social media that has nothing to do with your role simply to appear more up-to-date with technology quickly shows desperation.

You should also consider investing in online courses that keep your technology skills fresh. Udemy is a great source of self-paced online courses for every level.

3 | Using Default Fonts Or Templates

Using default fonts or templates is a strong indicator of laziness and poor technology skills. Your resume is a marketing document. Your resume is your chance to make a great first impression, and you don’t need to be a marketing or graphic design expert to create a strong marketing document. A resume using default fonts will likely end up in the same pile as all of the other resumes using default fonts.

Using Microsoft Word templates is another common executive resume mistake. Those templates are available to everyone, which means you’re likely one of thousands instead of “one in a thousand.”

Instead, take some time to play around with different fonts while sticking within universally-accepted and easy-to-read fonts (Arial, Garamond, Tahoma, Veranda, etc.). Instead of using a template, write your resume information out in a one-column layout and play around with font styles and sizes, text color and color fill, text alignment, and other design features that Microsoft Word offers.

4 | No Personal Branding

As a continuation of the previous mistake, an executive resume with minimal personal branding is not a strong marketing document. Your personal brand, or how you want to present yourself professionally, is comprised of visual elements and your overall message. Color psychology is a key branding tactic that, when used conservatively on a resume, can reinforce your personal brand.

Your personal brand is also reflected in how you describe yourself as the best fit for the job. If the top third of your resume is a general summary of your skills and experience, your personal brand or personality isn’t shining through.

Replace your Summary with a strong Branding Statement that introduces your qualifications, highlights your most relevant skills, and showcases the value you offer or results you can produce.

Not sure how to get started? This Branding Statement Cheat Sheet should help!

I challenge you to spend 15 minutes reviewing your resume to see which areas may be drawing attention to your age rather than to your qualifications.

Have you suspected or even encountered age discrimination during your job search?