Do You Make These Résumé Mistakes? 17 Résumé Don’ts from the CEO’s Desk


  1. Don’t use a functional (non-chronological) résumé format.  You’re not fooling me with that.  Don’t make me work to figure out what you’re hiding. Even if you get far into the hiring process in a non-traditional way, most companies will still want a traditional résumé at some point.
  2. Don’t ignore metrics and quantifiable data.  Businesses exist to move the needle.  Explain in numbers what you personally did to help your organization improve.  Did you save the company a million dollars?  Did you improve sales beyond your targets by 23%?  Did you renegotiate a major contract increase by 29%?  Did you improve customer retention by 5%?  The language of business is numbers.
  3. Don’t send résumés to the CEO if you’re applying for positions deep in the organization.  Try Human Resources.  Try the hiring manager.  Maybe try the department leader.  Sending it to me doesn’t help.  Do you think I read a résumé from someone I don’t know and immediately drop everything to make a phone call on your behalf?
  4. Don’t apply for a job if you have zero experience with no explanation.  If you really want a job in a new area, you will need another way in.  Sending a résumé for a job completely out of your area of expertise will immediately set off loud warning bells.  If you have a marketing degree, but want to move into sales, it’s possible, but you need to explain it.  Show your commitment with an effective cover letter addressing the rationale behind your wish.
  5. Don’t use automated, mass mailing services to send out your résumé to CEO’s.  I get these every week.  I recognize the same envelope, the same font and the same type.  I throw them away without opening them.  Some people swear by these services and say that it’s all about the numbers and the timing.  It may depend on the position you are looking for and at what level in the organization.  They’re not for me.
  6. Don’t mark “personal and confidential” on an envelope to get my attention.  If you somehow make it past all of the gatekeepers, I will not be very happy to find it is neither personal nor confidential, so I won’t likely help.
  7. Don’t have someone else send a note for you if you haven’t applied yet.  Better for you to apply and have that person send an email or supportive note.  Here’s the question you don’t want a hiring manager to think about:  Are you looking for special favors after you are hired, too?
  8. Don’t use colored paper.
  9. Don’t skip dates. If you have a gap in employment, explain it.
  10. Don’t email a résumé without emailing it to yourself first.  You should be the one to see whether it comes through email systems correctly.
  11. Don’t send a résumé in a strange file format my computer cannot open.  Try Word or PDF.
  12. Don’t send in a résumé with grammar and spelling errors.
  13. Don’t include a headshot or other picture.
  14. Don’t include extraneous information not applicable to the job. For instance, are you applying to be a Marketing Director?  Great, I don’t need to know that your personal interests include bungee jumping and travel.  Save your interests to bond with an interviewer.
  15. Don’t use abbreviations, especially internal corporate jargon from another company.  Instead of being impressed, I will move on to someone who can communicate clearly.
  16. Don’t ever lie.  Don’t ever mislead.  Don’t inflate.
  17. Don’t have a résumé for every job you can dream up.  Any more than three and it means you have no plan for your career.  Work on your goals before you write a single word of your résumé.


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