Executive Careers Blog

How to Avoid 4 HUGE Mistakes in Your Resume

I was recently asked by a client to review his resume even though he thought it was very well written.

He was a fairly senior person – Head of Operational Risk for several large and mid-sized companies, and his compensation was in the neighborhood of about $300,000.

So I expected the resume to be in fairly good shape.


I instantly saw about five or six huge mistakes that would have hurt his chances at getting an interview, never mind, getting the job offer.

More often than not, I find that clients and job seekers don’t know what you don’t know! They think their interview skills are solid, and then they say two or three things in a mock interview that would absolutely knock themselves out of the running.

Here are some of the mistakes this person made on his resume which I hope will help you with yours.

Mistake #1: His resume was 4 pages long. Huge mistake! Two pages is the maximum and that is only if you worked for more than 10 years. He used a pyramid style header on the first page and used that again on every other page. On the 2nd page, all you need is your name (flushed left) with Page 2 underneath it.

Mistake #2: Company description was way too long: One of the companies this person worked for is not easily recognized and while it’s good to include a 1 – 2 line description, he wrote 10 lines describing the overall company, their clients and their solutions. Not acceptable!

Mistake #3: “Specific Responsibilities” were not result oriented: Under each job, he listed about 8 – 10 specific responsibilities such as:

· Driving business development through software sales to private and public organizations

Problem with this particular bullet: it’s not quantified – how much business was developed/attained? What was his methodology – how did he do it? Was there a team he worked with? Did they partner with an implementation group to ensure client satisfaction?

The bullet could have been written like this:

· Lead a team of five sales professionals to achieve sales growth of 20% per year by identifying software solutions to both private and public organizations. Sales team partnered with each organization’s software implementation group to ensure a smooth, efficient and successful transition.

Resume bullets can include 2 or 3 sentences, as long as it tells a compelling story and proves your value proposition.

Mistake #4: Formatting errors: This is a rookie mistake … you need consistency throughout your resume. There are several professional formats to choose, but once chosen, make sure it’s consistent throughout. This person sometimes had a comma after the month and before the year, and other times, there were no commas. Sometimes he skipped a line after “Specific Responsibilities Included:” and other times he did not.

You don’t know what you don’t know! In this job market, check with someone who knows what they are doing to review your resume, conduct a mock interview, and troubleshoot each interaction with a potential employer. Find an HR professional, a headhunter, or a career coach who can give you feedback that matters. It can make the difference between being called for an interview and not having that phone ring!

More Executive Strategies Including:

Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio, is a career coach, writer, speaker, Gen Y expert and co-founder of SixFigureStart (www.sixfigurestart.com), a career coaching firm comprised of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Most recently, Connie was the Chief Operating Officer for Merrill Lynch Campus Recruiting and has also recruited for Warner Lambert and Citibank. Connie is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and posts at CNBC Executive Careers and Vault.com.

Comments?  Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com