If you’re a senior business leader, you must have a polished and professional executive resume. Sadly, I’ve seen executives often miss out on job opportunities because their executive resumes used sloppy language, or language which positioned them as more junior than they really were.
I can’t teach you how to secure every promotion, overcome every challenge and impress every hiring manager.
However, I can show you how to ensure that your executive resume which speaks to your audience in a way that is consistent with who you are as a professional.
With that in mind, these are the three most common linguistic mistakes I see leaders make on their executive resumes.
I highly recommend that you fix them before you submit your next job application – or, for a full revamp of your personal brand, learn more about our resume writing services.
1. Abundance Of Buzzwords.
Great writers don’t rely on clichés for the same reason great resume writers don’t rely on buzzwords: they lack power. They’re not forceful; they don’t demand attention.
At best, buzzwords take up space without working hard enough to create an impact. At worst, they give the impression that you’re hyperbolic and your achievements are hollow.
Instead of propping up your executive resume with buzzwords, think more deeply about what you’re trying to convey and both show – by sharing an example that highlights the quality or skill in question – and tell it in a different way.
If you’re in doubt over what constitutes a buzzword, here are some common choices we see on executive resumes:
For instance, instead of saying ‘strategic thinker’ you could say ‘a perceptive and visionary leader with an eye for opportunity’.
You mustn’t stop here, though.
An executive resume isn’t just a collection of words. Rather, it’s a way of expressing your deep and authentic value statement. Your resume is the tip of the iceberg, if you like, and the bulk of the power comes from the story you weave to showcase your positive attributes.
In other words, if you’re describing yourself as ‘strategic’, your resume should include numerous achievements that illustrate your strategic ability.
Floweriness, especially if your resume reads like you’ve used right-click to find fancy synonyms for every second word, obscures your real achievements.
For instance, instead of saying this…
“Conceptualisednovel IT operating model, utilising model to effortlessly streamline divisional operations and drive exceptional cost-savings.”
You could say…
“Designed innovative IT operating model to streamline division, increasing efficiency by 41% and delivering $200K in cost-savings in Y1”.
Aim to express the complexities of what you do as clearly as possible.
This gives the impression that you’re calmly confident in your abilities – a stance that will instantly rub off on the hiring manager or recruiter reading your resume.
As Nathaniel Hawthorne memorably noted, “Easy reading is damn hard writing”.
One More Thing.
None of this is black and white.
There’s no one word that will automatically secure hiring manager or recruiter buy-in (or act as an instant turn-off), but every element of your executive resume combines to give an impression of who you are and what you can do.
To write an exceptional executive resume, you should be constantly thinking about making your desired final impression and how every element brings you closer or further away from making it.
When I develop executive resumes, I work backwards from that final impression for that reason.
For me, it’s all about building a brand proposition first – who you are, what you do, and who you help by doing it.
This is the core of your brand; your executive resume is simply the mode of expression. A resume has the potential to be truly powerful when the expression and the message are consistent.
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