If you’re a female executive, crafting a resume that conveys your skills and accomplishments is no walk in the park. Gender bias, stereotypes, and other factors often make it difficult to emphasize your unique value proposition and showcase your true potential. However, with the right approach and some resume-writing hacks, you can create a compelling executive summary that gets you noticed by recruiters and hiring managers. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share seven resume-writing hacks specifically tailored to women in leadership roles.
Understanding the Unique Challenges of Female Executives
Before delving into specific hacks, it’s important to understand the unique challenges that female executives face when crafting their resumes. It’s completely absurd to me that my job search as a woman should be like swimming against the tide. In fact, it’s my frustration with the whole process that motivated me to write this article.
Several research studies reveal that women are often judged more harshly on their appearance, demeanor, and communication style than men are, even in professional settings. Additionally, when it comes to job searching, women are penalized for taking career breaks or balancing work and personal life responsibilities. Women’s resumes are also judged differently than men’s resumes.
When I attended the Career Thought Leaders Conference in March 2023, I sat in on a presentation by Dr. Cheryl Minnick, who spoke on Unconscious Language Use and how it affects women’s job search and careers. She presented academic research showing that men and women write their resumes differently, and this difference is costing women career advancement and new opportunities. I’m sure that, like me, you find this alarming.
Gender Bias in the Workplace
Unfortunately, gender bias still exists in many workplaces today. This bias can manifest differently, from subtle microaggressions to blatant discrimination. So, let’s discuss how to combat this frustrating bias in your resume and job search, and how to emphasize your skills and accomplishments.
The first step is to use measurable results and concrete examples to convey your achievements and communicate your value. Surprisingly, studies show women often summarize and describe instead of using concrete and measurable language. It’s also important to network and seek out mentors who can support and advocate for you in your career. Look for opportunities to connect with other female executives and build relationships with them. These connections can provide valuable insights and support as you navigate the challenges of being a female executive.
Balancing Work and Personal Life
As a female executive, you likely have many responsibilities, both inside and outside of work. Balancing these responsibilities can be challenging and may require taking career breaks or working flexible hours. Let me point out there is nothing wrong with this or with you. Again, I reiterate that the bias that exists here is absurd!
The fact is, it’s important to highlight the skills and accomplishments you gained during these times rather than downplaying them or ignoring them altogether. Consider using a hybrid resume format that focuses on your skills and experiences rather than just your chronological work history.
The important thing is to prioritize self-care and stress management to avoid burnout. Make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to handle the demands of navigating an uncertain job market.
Overcoming Stereotypes and Prejudices
Unfortunately, women in leadership roles face stereotypes and prejudices that make it harder to be taken seriously by potential employers (can’t you just picture my eyes rolling?). For example, some employers may assume that women are less assertive or competent than men. This is especially true for working mothers. Once employers (and colleagues) discover that a woman is a mother, their appraisal of her competence drops. I have two things to say about this before moving on (brace yourself).
- This is a completely unfounded assumption. As a mother to 6 children (yes, you heard me correctly — I said 6) and a female CEO who built a successful business from the ground up (debt-free, with no outside funding) to a 7-figure company with a team of 15+ talented writers — many of whom are also working mothers — I find this assumption offensive and bogus.
- In what kind of society are the people considered primarily responsible for raising the next generation seen as less competent? (That’s a rhetorical question.)
I digress…Back to business.
To counteract these stereotypes, focus on being assertive in your communication style, emphasizing your leadership skills, and providing concrete examples of your accomplishments demonstrating your competence. This last one is important because women tend to summarize and describe on their resumes instead of using strong action verbs, measurable results, and common/proper nouns.
Experts agree that it’s also important to seek out opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge in your field. Consider attending conferences, taking courses, or pursuing certifications that can enhance your expertise and demonstrate your commitment to your career. By continually learning and growing, you’ll be better equipped to overcome any stereotypes or prejudices that may come your way.
Crafting a Powerful Executive Summary
Your executive summary is the first thing that recruiters and hiring managers will see when they review your resume. Therefore, it’s crucial to make it powerful and attention-grabbing. Your executive summary should be a concise and compelling summary of your skills, experiences, and personal qualities that make you the ideal candidate for the job.
Here is an example of what NOT to do when writing your executive summary:
Accomplished and results-driven executive with over 15 years of experience in driving business growth and managing high-performing teams. Proven track record of developing and executing strategic plans, managing budgets, and leading cross-functional teams to achieve ambitious objectives. Recognized for exceptional leadership, communication, and negotiation skills. Seeking a challenging role as a Senior Vice President to apply my expertise and contribute to organizational success.
For the record, chatGPT4 wrote this when I asked for an executive summary for a female executive. So, I’d definitely steer clear of using it for resume help unless your goal is to blend into a sea of thousands of other candidates saying the exact same thing.
Here’s an executive summary rewritten to be measurable and specific; it uses common/proper nouns and avoids helping language.
Revolutionized marketing strategies as Director of Marketing at ABC Tech, achieving 50% year-over-year revenue growth and 35% increase in customer retention. Pioneered adoption of AI-powered analytics tools, optimizing marketing ROI by 45% and bolstering brand equity. Delivered game-changing impact as Chief Marketing Officer in cutting-edge organization.
Highlight Your Unique Value Proposition
Your unique value proposition is what sets you apart from other candidates in the job market. It’s the combination of your skills, experiences, and personal strengths/qualities that make you the ideal candidate for a particular role. To highlight your unique value proposition in your executive summary, use strong action verbs, and focus on the results you’ve achieved in your previous roles.
For example, if you’re a marketing executive, you might say something like:“Increased brand awareness 40% through targeted social media campaigns.” This communicates your skills and shows potential employers that you can deliver results.
It’s important to remember that your unique value proposition is not just about your skills and experiences. It’s also about your personal qualities and their contribution to your success. For example, if you’re a highly motivated and organized individual, you might say something like: “Delivered 100% of projects on or ahead of schedule by optimizing time and task management.” This shows potential employers that you’re not only skilled but also capable of delivering results under pressure. It’s a way to work in a soft skill like time management within the context of a result.
Show Leadership and Vision
As a female executive, exhibiting your leadership skills and vision is particularly important. You want to show potential employers that you have the ability to lead teams, develop strategies, and make tough decisions. Use concrete examples from your previous roles to denote your leadership abilities, such as the outcomes of projects you managed or the strategies you developed that led to increased revenue.
It’s also important to showcase your vision for the future. As a female executive, you have a unique perspective and set of experiences that can help you identify opportunities and challenges that others might not see. Use your executive summary to showcase your vision for the future and how you plan to leverage your skills and experiences to help your future employer achieve its goals.
Write About Your Accomplishments in a Concrete, Measurable Way
Your accomplishments are the tangible results of your hard work and dedication. They express your value and illustrate your ability to contribute to an organization’s success. To exhibit your accomplishments in your executive summary, use specific metrics that highlight the results you achieved. For example, you might say that you increased sales 20% or reduced costs by $500,000. This shows potential employers that you’re not just making empty claims but delivering results.
It’s also important to draw attention to your accomplishments in a way that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a sales executive position, you might state how you boosted sales or acquired new clients. If you’re applying for a marketing executive position, you might write about how you developed successful marketing campaigns or increased brand awareness.
Make these statements concrete, specific, and measurable. Here’s how to do this:
- Start with an action verb. (Here’s a list of 178 you can download).
- Avoid summarizing/describing.
- Be specific about the details by using common and proper nouns.
- Avoid helping language (collaborate, assist, plan, volunteer, communicate).
- Include measurable data. Quantify where possible.
Your executive summary is your chance to make a strong first impression on potential employers. By spotlighting your unique value proposition, pointing to your leadership and vision, and showing your accomplishments, you can create a powerful and attention-grabbing executive summary that sets you apart from other candidates in the job market.
Emphasize Your Skills and Expertise
In addition to your executive summary, it’s important to emphasize your skills and expertise throughout your resume. This will give potential employers a more well-rounded understanding of what you bring to the table.
When it comes to showcasing your skills and expertise, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First, you want to make sure that you are highlighting the skills and attributes that are most relevant to your industry and the specific role you are applying for. This means taking the time to identify your core competencies before you start crafting your resume.
Identify Your Core Competencies
Identifying your core competencies is an important first step in creating a strong, effective resume. Your core competencies are the skills and attributes that you excel in and that are most relevant to your industry and role. These might include things like:
- Data analysis
- Programming languages (e.g., Python, Java, C++)
- Financial modeling
- Statistical analysis
- Project management
- Graphic design
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
When identifying your core competencies, consider the professional, technical, and academic skills that have helped you succeed in your past roles. Consider the feedback you have received from managers, colleagues, and clients, as well as any awards or recognition you have received.
Once you have identified your core competencies, highlight them throughout your resume. This might mean including them in your executive summary, as well as in your skills section and throughout your work experience descriptions.
Align Your Skills with the Job Requirements
When applying for a particular job, it’s important to tailor your resume to the job requirements. This means highlighting the skills and experiences that are most relevant to the role. Use keywords and phrases from the job posting throughout your resume, particularly in your summary and skills section.
Take the time to carefully review the job posting and identify the key skills and attributes that the employer is looking for. Then, make sure that you are highlighting these skills and attributes throughout your resume. This will help demonstrate that you are a good fit for the role and increase your chances of getting an interview.
Reveal Your Industry Knowledge
In many industries, having a deep understanding of industry trends and best practices is essential. To showcase your industry knowledge on your resume, include any relevant certifications, training programs, or speaking engagements you have participated in. You might also consider including a brief section on industry trends or insights in your executive summary.
When highlighting your industry knowledge, it’s important to focus on the areas that are most relevant to the role you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a marketing position, you might highlight your knowledge of digital marketing trends and strategies. If you are applying for a finance position, you might highlight your knowledge of financial regulations and compliance.
By showcasing your industry knowledge, you can demonstrate to potential employers that you are passionate about your field and committed to staying up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices.
Leverage Your Professional Network
Networking is an essential part of any job search, particularly for female executives. Use your professional network to your advantage by building a strong LinkedIn profile, networking with other female executives, and utilizing professional associations and groups.
Build a Strong LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is a powerful tool for building your professional network and showcasing your skills and experiences. Make sure your profile is up-to-date and highlights your unique value proposition. Connect with other professionals in your industry and engage with industry-specific content to stay on top of trends and best practices.
Network with Other Female Executives
Networking with other female executives can be particularly powerful. These women understand the unique challenges and opportunities of being a woman in leadership and can offer valuable insights and support. Attend networking events and join professional associations that cater to women in leadership roles.
Join Professional Associations and Groups
Professional associations and groups can offer a wealth of resources and support for female executives. Consider joining groups that focus on your industry or on women in leadership roles. These groups can provide networking opportunities, educational resources, and support for overcoming challenges.
Attract Better Offers
As a female executive, crafting a powerful and effective resume can feel like navigating a maze blindfolded. However, by highlighting your unique value proposition, emphasizing your skills and expertise, and leveraging your professional network, you can create a resume that attracts offers from employers who want only YOU — and won’t settle for anyone else.
Ready for help? Schedule a free resume strategy session to work with us on your executive resume.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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