#1 Mistake Executives Make On Their Resume

As an executive, your resume is probably filled with lots of accomplishments and career experience. You might feel like you’re qualified for the positions you are applying for, and maybe even believe you’re the best possible candidate for them. But, is your resume really sending that message?


Executives have to be aware of how they present themselves in their career, and the hiring process is no exception. They have to think about their executive presence—and how their executive presence translates to their resume—if they want to attract and gain access to career opportunities.

Here’s the #1 mistake executives make on their resume, and how to fix it.

#1 Mistake Executives Make? Looking Narcissistic and Desperate.

Executive fixes a mistake on his resume

The number one mistake executives make on their resume is looking narcissistic and desperate. The reason? They’re using outdated resume templates.

When you have an overdone resume with script fonts, tons of self-important paragraphs about how awesome you are written in the third person, and italicized, bold, and underlined areas, it’s just too much. It screams old school. It screams full of yourself. It looks like you’re trying too hard and it sends the wrong message. Not to mention the applicant tracking systems (ATS) can’t effectively read those things, so you’ll probably get screened out of the hiring process before a human being even looks at your resume.

As an executive, you have to think about that first impression: how you’re formatting your resume and what you’re choosing to put on it. Also, think about the translation in terms of the three components of executive presence: gravitas (depth of knowledge), communication (delivery of knowledge), and appearance (style of delivery). How you’re choosing to present these things matters deeply because so much will get lost in translation on your resume if you don’t do it correctly.

So, how do you create an executive resume that impresses employers without looking narcissistic and desperate?

Focus On Intellectual Humility & Emotional Intelligence

Woman fixes a mistake on her executive resume

Executives should focus on intellectual humility and emotional intelligence when creating their resume to avoid looking narcissistic and desperate.

How do you write and format a resume that shows intellectual humility and emotional intelligence? Well, first take out all of the subjective text and superlatives and only include facts. Recruiters and hiring managers just want to know the numbers. What were the results? Quantify your work experience and accomplishments. You don’t need to hype it up, which leads us to what they call empty space or white space.

You should see a shockingly large amount of white space on your executive resume. It’s going to feel weird, but it’s intentional. Simplification helps the reader focus their eyes on the most important stuff. This means you should also simplify your formatting.

On your executive resume, use an 11 pt., clean-line font like Arial or Calibri, not a script font like Times New Roman. Also, make sure you have one-inch margins to further ensure that white space effect, and no bold, italics, or underlining except in very specific places because what happens when something is bold, for example, is that the eye goes there. Knowing how to bold something strategically on your resume is key because studies show recruiters and headhunters spend an average of six seconds skimming your resume. If they do not see in those first six seconds the most important things they were told to assess you on, they won’t take a deeper look.

The point of the executive resume is to force the recruiter to contact you, to force the people who are interested in your brand to contact you. Too much content, and it’s easier for them to dismiss you. This is what we mean about intellectual humility and emotional intelligence—to know not to oversell yourself. You don’t want to oversell yourself. So, if a recruiter tells you they needed more information and that forced them to call you, you know your resume has been written and formatted correctly, and you didn’t come across as narcissistic or desperate. You came across as an executive with intellectual humility and emotional intelligence who effectively translated their executive presence on their resume.

Want To Learn How To Build Your Executive Presence?

Work It Daily's live executive presence training

If you’re an executive looking to advance in your career, you need to make your executive presence a priority. This includes your online executive presence. Failing to consistently contribute online in a meaningful way will put you on the fast track to being irrelevant and forgotten.

Join J.T. O’Donnell, LinkedIn Influencer and founder and CEO of Work It Daily, for this 3-hour live class designed to help you overcome these hurdles and stand out in the new normal of 2021 and beyond.

During this class, you will learn how to:

  • Assess your executive presence to determine what you should convey online
  • Make your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other professional branding tools say more by intentionally sharing less
  • Create a "content tree" to ensure you always have plenty to share online
  • Select the right types of content to share to maximize your ROI

Jenna Arcand September 20, 2021 at 11:45PM

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