Struggling to get executive interviews, despite sending out resume after resume?

If  your executive job search has stalled, your resume could be the problem!

Even if you’ve tailored it to the right career level and incorporated the newest 2020 resume trends, there could still be other reasons why it’s not working.

Take a look at these common resume problems (and solutions):


1 – You’ve Copied Someone Else’s Executive Resume.

No matter if you’re borrowing text from online executive resume samples or swiping the format of a colleague’s resume, it’s still a bad idea. Your resume must be strategically built around YOUR core value proposition, tuned to appeal to YOUR target audience and representing YOUR personal brand. No one else can lay claim to your achievements or the manner in which you attained them.

If you still think your resume should borrow colors, keywords, and formatting from a different document, ask yourself: Do other brands pilfer their message from competitors?

There’s no chance that Motel 6 will lay claim to the Hilton’s marketing strategy… and if they did, would you believe them?

Tune the presentation, achievements, messaging, and success stories on your executive resume to emphasize YOUR way of getting results. The response you get will be worth the effort.

2 – Your Resume is Headless.

If your leadership resume contains the basics (name, contact information, and qualifications summary), then swings right into your work history, you’ve got a problem!

By doing so, you’ve just eliminated one of your best assets: a quick-read snapshot of career achievements, rich with keywords, success stories, and infographics. In this CEO resume, you’ll see an Executive Performance Benchmarks section, as well as metrics-driven language in an extended Summary.

Compare your design to samples of leadership resumes, where you’ll see achievement sections brimming with details on career progression, major profit and revenue wins, Board reporting, M&A leadership, and other salient details.

Not sure what to put in this accomplishments section? Write a quick list of your top 5-10 career hits, flesh it out with metrics, and add recognizable names of major employers or clients.

Trim the data to fit the front page of your resume, give it a name (like Examples of Growth Leadership), and watch employers pay attention.

3 – You’ve Buried the Good Stuff.

How many times have you read an entire resume, line-by-line? I ask this of most executives and they laugh, because the answer is “Never.”

Chances are good that employers will only see the second (and third) pages of your resume when you’re sitting in front of them at the interview.

That’s right: Even if you carefully construct every sentence of your resume, most people will read only the first page. They’ll glance through to see where you went to school, look at a few dates in your career history, then navigate right back to the top.

If there’s a major win from your career (a degree from MIT, a massive contract you signed, a team you led to a dramatic turnaround, or other career-defining achievements), it better be on the front page of your executive resume. See point #2.

4 – Your Resume is Treading Water, Career-Wise.

what is wrong with resumeIf your idea of an executive resume update is tacking on your latest job, it’s probably devolved into a career obituary full of irrelevant details.

In addition, your resume was probably designed for a lower-level career goal. If you intend to rise to a leadership job, you’ll need achievement-driven language plus different keywords and a fresh presentation format – far different from what you’d use for a mid-career position.

Write your executive resume from the standpoint of your next position – pulling in valuable details painting you as a leader, change agent, or innovator. After the 10-15 year point, start to cull outdated information and summarize older jobs, so that your resume can focus on relevant, up-to-date facts.

5 – Your Resume is Too Long.

Employers want to see just enough information to make an interviewing decision, and most are focused on what you’ve done lately. Most mid-career resumes should take up 2 pages and many executive resumes reach 3 pages.

The exceptions? Resumes for medical or academic positions are often longer. If you’re targeting a Board seat, keep your document short.

Here’s why length matters: If you make the hiring audience wade through irrelevant detail or skip out on the basic data they seek, you won’t make it past the initial screening. Focus on ROI to the employer, not just responsibilities or job duties expected of anyone in your position.

Keep your resume to the right length for your target opportunity by researching industry expectations, asking questions of recruiters, and carefully reading hiring committee specifications.


The bottom line: your executive resume needs to resonate with hiring authorities and recruiters – demonstrating proof of your performance as a high-value leader with a well-tuned brand message.


More Executive Resume Advice & Insights:

How Long Should Your Executive Resume Be?

What Your Resume Should Look Like in 2020

How to Write a Board Resume