Over the last 18 years, I have reviewed over 10,000 resumes and job applications. Today, I’m going to tell you 5 common resume and cover letter mistakes that may be keeping you from getting your dream executive position. And if you are using AI to help you, please keep reading!
#1: Copying from ChatGPT
The AI revolution has created numerous tools to help with finding the right career opportunity, but I have seen a few key errors that many applicants are currently making. First, be careful about using ChatGPT to write your cover letter, even if you are giving it a specific prompt using the job description. I am not against using the AI tool, but be sure to incorporate your personal language and thoughts into the response that ChatGPT created. Last month, I received 3 cover letters that were completely identical, word for word. Even worse, 2 of them still showed the characteristic grey background that you get when you copy/paste text from ChatGPT. Even if you are a great candidate, this can quickly take you out of the running since it shows you didn’t care about the position enough to take even a little time to create a thoughtful application.
#2: Forgetting to turn off "Track Changes" or "Editing"
More and more applicants are now sending around their cover letters and resumes to get feedback from friends and colleagues. They frequently use the “track changes” or “editing” feature to make redlines and edits. Sharing your resume and getting feedback is a wonderful idea - but make sure you print your cover letter/resume to PDF before sending it instead of sending the Word file, and make sure you have turned off comments when you print the PDF. You don’t want to send in a document that shows a hiring team the entire history of comments and changes!
#3: Resumes that are too long or unclear
You are applying for an executive position, so it is important to properly portray you're extensive and varied experience to the employer. I have rarely ever seen an applicant that needed more than 3-4 pages to do this effectively. Recently, I received a 25+ page resume, and multiple resumes that were more than 10 pages. Very few reviewers are going to take the time to look through this much detail, and the length will likely detract from the most important points that you want to convey.
I have also seen many resumes where the candidate tried to get very creative with the formatting and it made it harder to understand. Don’t have so many skill and personality lists at the top of the resume that it takes a reviewer 2 pages just to get to your work experience. Keeping the resume clean and easy to read will help you convey the most important points effectively.
#4: Not clearly having contact information at the top of your resume
Most large companies use Applicant Tracking Systems to receive and parse resumes and job applications. A system like this will look at the top of your resume for your name, phone number, and email address. If it doesn’t find the information there, clearly delineated, it may not put your application into the system or it may have an entry without contact information. This will result in the employer either not having your application, or not having the information to contact you to schedule an interview.
#5: Attaching the wrong cover letter
This is an easy one to avoid, but actually happens a lot. Take an extra moment when you are submitting your application to open the cover letter file and make sure it is the right one. Ensure that there are no references to other companies in the letter and that there is no industry information that needs to be changed.
Hopefully bringing these common mistakes to your attention will help you avoid them on your next executive job search. Happy searching!
Let us Help
If you are considering hiring a leadership position for your organization, please reach out to me at sshah@ManevaGroup.com. We will schedule a no-cost, no obligation 30-minute consultation to discuss how to supercharge your recruitment efforts.
Maneva Group is a woman and minority owned national executive search firm focusing on the social sector with expertise in completely managing the recruiting process, curating diverse and exceptionally qualified candidate pools, and advising C-suite executives and board members through crucial hiring decisions.