What NOT To Put in Your C-level Executive Resume

by Meg Guiseppi on August 6, 2010

Executive Resume

If you’re like many of my clients, you’ve either never needed a resume to land a job, or you haven’t updated yours in several years.

Consequently, you probably don’t know how today’s power executive resume needs to look and read.

Maybe you’ve tried writing or updating your resume yourself, but ended up overwhelmed by the daunting challenge of encapsulating a 20+ year career into a tidy, short document, and dissatisfied with your efforts.

Here are some tips on what to avoid – things that if you include, could possibly sabotage your chances, and once eliminated will help you cut down on information overload:

Irrelevant information

Before writing your resume, you should have determined who your target audience is and what qualifications and qualities they’re looking for, so that everything in your resume is crafted around what will resonate with them.

When you’ve determined your good-fit skill sets, strengths, values, and personal attributes, that align with your target companies’ needs, don’t veer off course. Great as it was, don’t include that career-defining achievement from 10 years ago that has nothing to do with what your target companies are looking for in candidates.

Too much contact information

I haven’t included a physical address on executive resumes in years. I doubt that recruiters and hiring decision makers will take the time to write and snail-mail you a letter, and they probably don’t need to know on which street you live. And consider the safety issues of having your home address floating around out there. You may choose to just include your general geographic location (“Atlanta, GA area”).

Most importantly, make it easy for people to get hold of you. Since you’re likely to be contacted during business hours, include a phone number where you can be reached directly during the day, and an email address that you check frequently.

To avoid confusion and keep your resume header clean, include just one phone number – the one you’re most accessible via and will frequently check the voicemail for. Most of my clients choose their cells.

Get a new email address if yours is unprofessional or in any way off-color. I’ve seen some downright offensive email addresses. Don’t turn people off before you give them the chance to consider you. And a silly, unprofessional email address may land your email message and resume in a spam filter. Set up a designated job hunting email account with an address using your first and last names.

For obvious reasons, it may not be wise to use a phone number or email address that’s connected to your employer.

Objective statement

Frankly, no one cares that you want a “growth position that will utilize my expertise in XYZ”. They want to know what you’ll do for them.

Instead of leading your resume with a statement saying what YOU want from the job, start with a professional headline spotlighting the relevant key word phrases the people assessing you will be looking for. Then follow with your executive brand statement, linking your personal attributes with your value proposition, so they’ll get a feel for who you are.

Here’s a resume writing tip: Pay close attention to what lands above the fold on the page. The top third or quarter of page one is prime real estate. Busy hiring authorities generally allow only 10 seconds or so for a resume to capture their attention. They may go no further than that initial page. As much as possible, make this section stand on its own as your calling card.

Anemic, brand-diluting phrases

Imprecise, overused words and phrases such as “responsible for” and “managed cross-functional teams” don’t clearly differentiate your unique promise of value to your target employers. More about which words NOT to use in my post 10 Brand-Diluting Phrases That Can Ruin Your Executive Resume.

Robust words such as accelerate, capitalize, innovate, propel, and synergize hit the mark more directly and reinforce  your brand better. More about the RIGHT kinds of words to use in Executive Resume and Career Biography: 63 Robust Personal Branding Verbs.

Densely packed, hard-to-read information

More and more hiring decision makers review resumes on their PDAs. When they open a digital document or web page, it’s more likely to capture and hold their attention with concise on-brand, value-driven statements surrounded by plenty of white space. Shorter chunks of information (4-5 lines at most) are easier to read and will draw the reader to continue down the page.

Repetitive job descriptions

Don’t waste precious space in the “Professional Experience” section reiterating obvious responsibilities, unless they are in the form of relevant keyword phrases. Recruiters and hiring authorities will already know the basic duties for your jobs. Instead, pack a punch by leading with your best contribution, in terms of value and benefits to the company.

Does it go without saying NOT to include the following?

  • Personal information – date of birth, marital status, health etc.
  • Hobbies – save those for your bio
  • Personal/professional references
  • Irrelevant certifications, professional development, awards, etc.

Related posts:

10 Steps to an Authentic, Magnetic Personal Brand

How to Write An Irresistible C-level Executive Brand Resume in 10 Steps

How to Write a C-level Executive Career Brand Biography

photo by JD Hancock

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meg Guiseppi August 6, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Hi Mike,

Thanks for commenting and retweeting this post.

You bring up two important points.

It has not been my experience that a recruiter will pass on a candidate with no street address on their resume. My understanding is that, if a candidate has all the goods and is of interest, recruiters will likely let her or him know if they’ve done something wrong on their resume. They’ll either make the revision themselves, or have the candidate do it, before passing the resume on to their client companies.

Good point to avoid using the Word header. I never do.


2 Mike Pollitt August 6, 2010 at 9:26 am

Great posting and useful information.

Other career coaches I’ve spoken with regarding the contents of a resume have taken the position that not including a physical address is a negative. They take the position that a recruiter may believe a candidate is masking something if an address is not included and will likely pass on the candidate as a result. It sounds like your experience has been different from this.

I’ve also been told that using the MS Word header for your contact informtion is a mistake as the automated software used to scan resumes does not read this area and causes a resume to be sent to the stack that must be manually reviewed (but seldom is) in order to be entered into a recruiter’s candidate data base.

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