3 Phrases That Kill The Effectiveness of Your Executive Resume

Want to distinguish your leadership brand among competing candidates?

Then ditch the boring language you’ve seen on other executive resumes.

Just because other resumes (both professionally created and self-written) employ a blend of monotonous, overused words doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.

Shake things up and inject some power into your personal brand message by refusing to add these mundane descriptors to your executive resume: Continue reading “3 Phrases That Kill The Effectiveness of Your Executive Resume”

3 Executive Resume Mistakes You’re Making Right Now

Executive resume mistakes

Trying to catch a break in the competitive market for executive talent? Your resume MUST be on par with the branded, value-driven documents used by other leaders.

As an executive expecting to make your mark, you’ll need to avoid the typical (yet major-league) resume writing errors that can put you at a disadvantage.

Sharpen your approach and position yourself as a contender by checking your executive resume against these too-common resume writing mistakes: Continue reading “3 Executive Resume Mistakes You’re Making Right Now”

Copying a Professional Resume? Watch Out For These Pitfalls

Recently, I was contacted by a job hunter who wanted an update to his existing resume, a service that I offer to former clients in my practice.

The resume looked strikingly familiar on some level, but the name didn’t resonate.

Then it hit me: I HAD written it—but for someone else.

Professional resume writers encounter this scenario all the time, and for the most part, it’s flattering to think that our work is compelling enough to be copied (at least if we can ignore the obvious part pertaining to copyright law).

However, here’s what worries me when I spot a copied rendition of a professional resume (mine or anyone else’s): the copier rarely grasps the branding and building process that went behind it in the first place.

Therefore, he’s doing himself a grave disservice by borrowing the format, writing style, and tone, then pasting his career story in between that of someone else.

The worst part? The “borrower” often fails to understand this context, and goes right on using it as if it were a coherent and targeted document.

So, if you’re determined to make your resume look like the masterpieces that you see on sites like mine, here are 6 likely problems that you’ll encounter in doing so:

1 – You can easily unravel the original brand strategy… and be left with nothing.

So… you think you have the same career path and can therefore just “tweak” a word or two? Not so fast.

For a resume to be effective, the strategy is set (prior to any writing) based on how well the candidate fits the desired role and the potential for screen-out factors based on his or her personal career path, age, industry preferences, and a host of other factors.

I often compare a client’s career path and achievements to others in the industry, pulling out any areas of strength or weakness in credentials (including education and former jobs) to make decisions about word choice and emphasis.

The writing process itself only starts after lengthy data mining and analysis of the job goal. Then, content is wrapped around and woven through the strategy, along with personality traits, resulting in a total picture and unique value proposition.

Given this process, any changes to the resume by someone who doesn’t understand the candidate will create problems in the message… and while these nuances may go unnoticed by you, they are all key factors in whether a resume gets read or dismissed.

2 – You might slide into generalizations that blur the message.

Here’s what one candidate did with my power summary that described market-leading achievements (including a 70% rise in revenue over 2 years, a totally restructured team and profitable turnaround effort, plus a total obliteration of the competition):

“Dedicated and hard working professional with over 12 years of experience in the food service sales and marketing industry, Successful experience in strategic planning, analysis of results, and international media relations.”

Ouch.

Now, if you haven’t read lists of overused words for resumes, it might be time to do so.

Words like “hard-working” or “successful experience” are both no-brainers and would not be taken seriously by employers… plus, they’re a dead giveaway that the writer doesn’t know what he is doing when trying to describe himself.

3 – You could repeat yourself…

And put words like “created,” “spearheaded,” and “developed” in the document so many times that they’ll lose their meaning.

Hopefully, you’ll refrain from describing all your achievements as “successful” and reference a thesaurus to avoid using the same word 4 times in one sentence (as I recently saw in a copied document).

Here’s where training in power verbs can really save the day.

Not convinced? Most professional writers count word occurrences (yes, really) and tend to scan documents for our favorite words, just to ensure that employers remain fully engaged in your resume.

4 – Your changes can mess up the formatting.

Professional resume writers are masters of presentation and formatting, to the point that they’ll incorporate tricks and nuances into a resume that escape your untrained eye.

In fact, just moving a sentence or two will often throw an entire page into disarray, because you’ll be challenged by figuring out how to adjust headings or change point sizes for spacer lines.

Worse yet, you might feel the need to shrink the font below 11 points. This should only be done for certain sans serif fonts, and then reviewed on different monitors to verify that the over-40 crowd of employers can read your document.

5 – Your writing might suck up space (or not make sense).

Professional resume writers specialize in something your English teacher never approved of: sentence fragments. That’s right – we boil ideas and full sentences down to the most minute of details in order to avoid that font problem that I just described.

Best practices in journalism (you didn’t know that resume writers use the Associated Press Stylebook, now did you?) dictate that sentences must be short, conveying meaning in the first 5 to 10 words. (25-word sentences are held up as the holy grail)

So, with minimal practice in tight writing, your sentences might be as long as the one I just reviewed in a copied resume: 79 words!

It’s close to impossible for your resume to pass a 10-second scan with a dense paragraph like this.

In addition, lack of parallel sentence structure is a dead giveaway that your resume wasn’t professionally written. Parallel structure means that your sentences are written in alignment with each other (such as fragments that all begin with nouns, or verb forms that consistently appear in past tense).

6 – There won’t be any way to update your “work” professionally.

Your personal work style and energy will rarely (if ever) show up in someone else’s document. So, you’re already operating at a severe brand disadvantage before even trying to have someone update the resume for you.

Think about it: you started with someone else’s strategy, brand message, tone, and presentation, and tried to plop a mixed bag of verbiage over the original text.

Now, it really doesn’t represent you, and this will make it difficult for a professional resume writer to make sense of it without starting fresh (which would have been my advice in the first place).

In summary, you can certainly TRY to adopt a professionally written resume as your own, but the pitfalls that can trip you up along the way can actually hurt your job search results.

You’re better off pulling in some formatting styles that appeal to you, and writing about your own career history—from scratch.

Want That Executive Job? Don’t Write Your Own Resume

Here’s a common refrain that I’ve heard from budding C-level executives: “I wrote my own resume a few years back, but I can see that it’s just not working now. I can’t get anyone to respond at the right level!”

An overwhelming majority of aspiring and current executive job hunters (and I mean literally 80%+ of the people that I talk with) cannot position themselves properly in a resume, and here’s why:

Buzzwords and project lists work fine for a mid-career move, but once you’re targeting the executive suite, the whole game changes.

Now you’ve got to list critical initiatives, collaboration with other leaders, impact on your teams, and a whole host of other situations in context from your career (and that’s just a start).

As examples, I’ve seen IT Vice Presidents mistaken for Project Managers, and Sales reps who failed to make an impression as Sales Managers, all based on how the resume was constructed.

Here are steps to take to ensure that you don’t fall into this category:

Gather information about your own brand.

If you’re serious about advancing to the next step on the career ladder, you’ll ignore this step at your own peril. Feedback such as 360 reviews, performance evaluations, and colleague perspectives can all be important information for your resume.

Try these steps to pull in critical data on your successes, turnaround achievements, and leadership story, keeping in mind that others often have a better perspective on your value than you do.

Get familiar with what an executive resume looks like.

Still playing catch-up on what employers look for these days? Bring yourself up to speed faster by looking around at the current trends in executive resume writing.

This is especially important if you’re still somehow convinced that your resume needs to fit on a single page, contain your picture, or use an objective.

Consider turning this task over to a pro.

No, I don’t advocate this just because executive resume writing happens to be my specialty. The reality is that more job seekers are realizing that resumes aren’t their forte, and you’re much more likely to compete against a professionally written resume in today’s market than ever before.
In fact, you can take a look at what you’re up against by reviewing samples of executive resumes written for CEO, CTO, CIO, COO, and VP level candidates on my sample resumes page.

In summary, if you’re trying to open a new opportunity for yourself and make a move upward, it’s important to open it at the right career level.

Executive resume presentation and content has changed significantly over the past decade—and you certainly don’t want to get left in the dust with a 1990’s-style resume.

7 Worn-Out, Overused Resume Phrases to Avoid Like the Plague

If you’ve constantly looked at other resumes to get ideas, you might find that employers are on to your game.

Weary of reading the same phrases over and over again, hiring managers are starting to expect more from top candidates who want to stand out in the crowded job market.

Here are 7 phrases that appear far too often on resumes, with recommendations on how to improve your wording for a sharper, more professional message:

1 – Self-motivated professional or team player.

Most employers assume that they are interviewing candidates with these strengths. After all, if you weren’t self-motivated, why would you be pursuing a career move at the next level?

Assuming that you are using these phrases into your resume summary of qualifications, try instead to write a branded, headline-style sentence that pulls in your achievements, as in these examples:

“MBA candidate with numerous promotions in operations leadership roles.”
“Technology leader awarded company honors for saving $100K in imaging expenses.”

2 – Including, but not limited to.

I have news for you: “including” technically MEANS “not limited to.”

As an example, if your sales clients spanned a number of major corporations, you can spell them out with “including ABC Corporation, XY Company, and BC Enterprises.”

In this case, the reader can assume that you’ve left out several others—therefore, the word “including” will serve you just fine by itself.

3 – Responsible for.

To any experienced resume writer, these words are like fingernails on a chalkboard. If you weren’t charged with doing it, why would it even appear on your resume?

Here is where a power verb will serve you better, plus provide more detail to the reader. Consider writing a replacement sentence such as “Raised customer satisfaction scores 30% with improved product launch support,” rather than resorting to “responsible for customer service delivery.”

4 – Thrives in fluid environments while remaining pragmatic and focused.

Unfortunately, there are phrases still living on that were written by major resume companies as an example for their writers—but the writers continue to churn them out on actual resumes for clients.

Google this phrase to see how many times it’s been referenced—just in case you’re inclined to borrow it. If you do find your sentence on a number of LinkedIn Profiles or resumes, it’s time to come up with a fresh approach and different wording.

5 – Entrepreneurial.

Be very careful with this term, as many employers assume that entrepreneurs are focused solely on their own companies and needs, and may avoid candidates that appear unable to work for someone else.

Should you be a former business owner trying to transition into the corporate world, you’ll make a stronger impression by defining your entrepreneurial nature for employers—in a way that makes sense for their needs. Here’s an example:

“Concept-to-market driver with multimillion-dollar record of startup success backed by launch planning, market development, product development, and forecasting skills.”

6 – Excellent communications skills.
Like “effective communicator,” this phrase is likely to elicit a “so what” yawn from employers, mostly because it’s largely assumed that you are able to convey critical messages to those around you.
You’ll do better to describe your communications skills in more detail, with phrases such as “capable of distilling complex technical concepts to non-IT executives” that give specifics on how you are able to educate others in your company.
7 – Over 15 years of experience.

Unfortunately, this phrase shows that all you did was survive in your field! Beyond an early-career stage, where employers want candidates with a minimum of 3-5 years, this wording doesn’t help you—and only distinguishes you from others on the basis of your age. (Ouch!)

(Incidentally, “over” is technically a direction and the phrase here should be “more than” 15 years of experience. But I digress…)

Rather than listing your years of tenure, add data that shows the titles you’ve achieved or the details of your accomplishments, such as “Extensive leadership promotions to Technology VP, IT Director, and Project Manager based on ability to deliver improvements to cost, efficiency, and product development.”

Now that you’re armed with this overview of worn-out phrases, revisit your resume to see if you’ve watered down the message with an overused term or sentence!

You’ll find that employers will welcome a different—and more detailed—version of your capabilities instead.