Resumes are most important when one is proactively seeking out opportunities, whether currently in a job or in transition. In these cases, you dont have a self-selecting audience seeking your attention you are trying to get the attention of someone else. That is primarily the job of the resume, to get someones attention.
To that end, while there is no perfect resume, there are general principles that make it more likely you will successfully attract the attention of recruiters and employers, and conversely, the lack of adherence to which make it less likely your resume will stand out from the crowd.
What follows are the five major mistakes I see in resumes that dont follow these core principles:
No. 1: Not presenting a "professional brand" - Good branding is probably the overarching principle of a good resume; to which everything else is a corollary. A good executive resume gives a full chronology of ones career, but it doesnt just give a chronology, it weaves that chronology into a coherent message about what you do and illustrates that you are very good at what you do. Building a brand in a resume means stepping back to understand what you are selling to the market and making sure that is adequately expressed in the resume.
As a CIO, it is important that your brand speaks to information and technology, while not completely being consumed by it. At the end of the day, CEOs and boards arent looking for tech geeks but for business savvy CIOs that understand information needs as they are related to the whole of the enterprise. Branding yourself in a resume as a CIO means in part providing others with a sense of your business legacy as it relates to their likely business needs.
No. 2: No executive summary - One good vehicle for encapsulating a brand is to include an executive summary at the top of the first page. Executive summaries enable a professional to extrapolate from the resume to provide a succinct description to the reader of what he or she believes differentiates him or herself in the market. This is helpful in for proactively advancing what is unique about your candidacy. This is particularly true since most executive resumes should be two to three pages. Although it takes two to three pages to adequately tell an executives career story, the key messages of that story need to be included on the first page.
Many executives still use the older style Objective" statement, a blurb that tells people what kinds of job one is seeking. Most objective statements I read are either too narrow or trite. Yes, people get that you want to be a CIO of a fast paced, high-growth company, however, what suggests that you are good in that environment? It's more powerful to tell them what you want through an executive summary but to do it by telling them what you do well.
There are multiple ways to do an executive summary including a single paragraph or coupling it with a career highlights or key qualifications." The right way depends on the major messages you are trying to send. The executive summary should also not dominate the first page: a quarter to a third of a page at the longest. Ultimately, you dont want the summary to obfuscate the actual chronology (that is the problem with the old style functional resumes), but to tie together the key themes that are embedded within it.