5 Executive Resume Mistakes That Attract Soul-Crushing Employers

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I want to tell you about a client of mine. We’ll call him “Greg.” Greg recently took a new job. The company is a successful, mature business, but it is currently having trouble allocating resources to the offshoot division it hired Greg to lead.

This wasn’t supposed to be a problem — not according to the discussions Greg had with his potential employer during the interview process. However, the lack of resources is causing all sorts of issues with delivery, execution, and financial reporting for Greg and his team.

On top of that, Greg is concerned about his relationship dynamic with the CEO, a 68-year-old micromanager who refers to himself as “His Majesty.” This is the complete opposite of what Greg had expected based on the spirited exchanges of ideas that took place in his interviews with the company.

The CEO is inflexible, refusing to adopt new business approaches since his company has been successful thus far. As a result, the team often makes business decisions without the CEO being fully aware of them; otherwise, he might quash those decisions. (Greg’s peers initially framed this as “delegating” during the hiring process.) The mature business itself is still profitable but declining, which is why Greg’s offshoot was started in the first place.

Greg is growing exhausted with the CEO and his restrictive company culture — so he is going to start looking again. He realizes he can’t do the job search the same way he did last time or he might end up in the same kind of company.

Working with Greg, I was able to help him identify some of the resume mistakes he made that helped lead him to such a soul-crushing job. Hopefully, you’ll avoid these mistakes during your next job hunt as well:

Mistake No. 1: Avoid Passive, Task-Oriented Language

Believe it or not, some companies actively seek people-pleasing types. When your resume is written in a task-driven manner with a tone of deference, you can attract these authoritarian employers.

The key is to create a resume that showcases your achievements and positions you as a business partner, not a submissive yes-man. This shift in positioning will attract more progressive organizations that seek leaders of equal footing.

Incorrect: Responsible for creating marketing strategy, staff hiring, and collateral creation

Correct: Repositioned marketing strategy and expanded main product reach into 17 new markets; established 14 new evangelist relationships that led to 160,000 new opt-ins at event launch; and developed targeted communications that resulted in a combined $2.7 million revenue increase (21%) over prior year

Mistake No. 2: Using a Dated Resume Format

This will send the message that you are not a top-tier candidate, have limited options, and could be attracted to an opportunity at a less-than-ideal organization. If you are coming from a mature company, take the extra steps to come across as progressive and innovative. Use a modern, clean, crisp resume format.

Mistake No.3: Using Bloated Corporate Jargon to Describe Your Experience

Recruiters recognize an inflated vocabulary as a possible sign of a lack of confidence. Straight-talking vernacular comes across as more self-assured. Replace empty resume-speak with streamlined, clear writing.

Incorrect: Empowered information technology team to work cohesively through redefined best practices, core values, and creative outside-the-box thinking

Correct: Mentored 7-person IT leadership team to lead company-wide system migration which resulted in the project finishing $3.2 million under budget and 16 days earlier than the deadline; the project received 98% end-user approval due to making customer fulfillment easier to accomplish.

Mistake No. 4: Focusing on Tasks Instead of Accomplishments

Recruiters and hiring managers prefer to read about results. Resumes that incorporate results go straight to the top of the pile at innovative firms. Stagnant firms are intimidated by flourishing achievement. They are unsure if you will stay for the long term.

Incorrect: Managed financial operations through improved profit margins, increased revenues, and new revenue streams

Correct: Streamlined financial operations to increase profit margin from 12% to 18%, discovered 4 new revenue streams, and grew revenues by $6.7 million (8%) through strategic value-add pricing initiative

Mistake No. 5: Targeting the Wrong Companies

Greg showed me the list of target companies that led him to the job with “His Majesty. It was a list of the stodgier Fortune 500 firms and other established, possibly declining, organizations. Greg was attracted to the idea of helping these companies turn around, but he was setting himself up to stagnate along with a stagnating firm.

For his next job search, Greg did more research. After googling the top 50 startups in Austin, we came up with a great list of companies. Greg now knows he wants to work for a flat organization where all voices are heard, where he can be mentored by upstart leaders, and where he can be a mentor to others within the business.

Resume blunders can really cost you. Position yourself like the business partner you are to find a fantastic company where you can flourish.

Lisa Rangel is founder and managing director of ChameleonResumes.com.

By Lisa Rangel