As an executive looking to advance your career, you likely have a long history of experience and accomplishments that should set you apart from other job applicants and easily capture the attention of hiring managers and executive recruiters. And while your work history does set you apart, it needs to be presented well in your cover letter and resume to get the attention of the people you want to get an interview with. An entry-level employee may be able to get away with a standard, black and white, one-page resume that is just a chronological list of work history, but as an executive, you can’t afford to take that route.
So why is it more important for executives to have a professional-looking resume than it is for other job seekers?
Simple—you have a long history as a professional. You need to show it with how you present yourself. Your resume will also be in a stack with others that have a long and impressive career history and you need to set yourself apart immediately.
What makes a good executive-level professional resume? Let’s take a look at some of my tips for crafting a compelling executive resume to get the attention of hiring managers, get you an interview, and get your career moving.
Start the Executive Resume Writing Process by Asking Yourself the Right Questions
Okay, so you’ve got Microsoft Word open, you’ve got your old resume out to work from, and you have a job in mind and contact information for potential employers. But the words just aren’t coming. Before you even start working on a resume for a specific job, get yourself in the right mindset by asking yourself a series of questions that can guide your resume writing. Some of the questions I recommend are:
Where do you see yourself professionally in the next 5 or 10 years?
What is your professional passion?
What is your proudest career achievement so far?
Why do you want this job? Why did you want the job you currently have?
What makes you unique? What is your personal brand or specific area of expertise?
Who are some of my ideal prospective employers?
Resumes at the Executive Level vs. Entry-Level Resumes: Make It Clear You’re an Executive
By the time you’re an executive, you have an extensive list of accomplishments whether you have been with one company or several throughout your career. If you’re not yet an executive, but hoping to move into an executive position, it is still important that your resume reflect the executive position you are seeking. You know the old adage “dress for the job you want”? Well, have the resume for the job you want.
An entry-level resume may be just one page, and it may be more heavily focused on skills and experience rather than accomplishments. A good executive resume, however, needs to have actual, tangible achievements listed. What were some of the successes you oversaw during your time as an executive at X, Y, or Z company? Use action verbs and use numbers when discussing achievements! Add in charts or graphics to emphasize important points—really show that you put time into resume and that your work experience has been far more than just showing up every day.
An executive-level resume should also be longer than a resume for an entry-level position. There is no hard and fast rule that a resume should only be one page. Keep your executive resume to two or three pages, though. If you’ve been with the same company for years and don’t feel like you have enough material to expand beyond one page, check out some of these tips for lengthening your resume – https://greatresumesfast.com/executive-resume-too-short-here-are-some-ways-to-lengthen-it/.
Be Sure to Feature These Important Executive Resume Items
An executive resume should be focused on branding yourself for the job you are seeking. To get to the point right away, include a branding statement at the top of your resume. This is so important that our writing services include a conversation that helps get to the core of your personal brand.
A personal branding statement should include an overview of why you—yes YOU—are a good fit for the position. A branding statement is not the same as an objective statement—it doesn’t say what job you want, but instead says WHY you are a good fit in one or two sentences. Check out my three-step formula for an outstanding personal brand statement here: https://greatresumesfast.com/3-step-formula-for-an-outstanding-personal-branding-statement/.
Your executive resume should also include the five executive core qualifications (ECQs). As a C-level executive or prospective executive, you need to include information on your resume about how you have succeeded in the following areas: leading change, leading people, business acumen, and building coalitions. You also need to demonstrate that you are results-driven. For more on ECQs and how to use them to craft a good executive resume, you can take a look at my article on the subject here: https://greatresumesfast.com/what-are-executive-core-qualifications-and-how-can-i-incorporate-them-into-my-resume/.
Don’t Feature These Items on Your Executive Resume
Since we just had a “do” item, it only makes sense to move on to a “do not.” The first thing you should not do with your executive resume is include a ton of information unrelated to the job you’re applying to. Sure, you might have decades of experience in the industry, but not all of it is going to be directly related to the job you want now. Carefully consider how each piece of information you include is relevant to the job you are targeting.
You should also leave behind the objective statement. As discussed above, use a branding statement instead.
And you need to stay away from weak, cliché terms. As I mentioned above, as an executive you have accomplishments to talk about so don’t rely on fuzzy, feel-good terms like “exceeded expectations” and “team player” that everyone else uses but that don’t really say much about how you fit this job.
Keep Your Executive Resume Focused
Related to the “do nots” above, especially the point about keeping the information on your resume relevant, an executive resume needs to be focused. It needs to be directly targeted at a specific position, and not at a general position in an industry. Sure, you know that you’d be happy working for any one of six companies as a CFO, but every company you apply to wants to know what you can do for them and them alone. A potential employer doesn’t care about your generic career goals, or all your work history details all the way back to college. They want to know what experience you have that can you put to work for them right off the bat.
As you go over the questions listed out in the first tip provided in this article, consider asking yourself the same questions but with a different job in mind each time you rewrite your resume. When you frame the questions around a specific job, you might find your answers about accomplishments, goals, etc., are slightly different.
Recruiters and hiring managers simply don’t have the time to read irrelevant details or try to suss out how your skills translate to what they need. You need to be concise, focused, and put the information right in front of them to keep their attention.
Those are five tips for executive resume writing to get you started—five more to come soon! In the meantime, you can read through our extensive article catalogue for much more career advice, or take a look at a resume sample or two on our resume samples page: https://www.greatresumesfast.com/Samples.htm.
Research, Research, Research
As I discussed above, you need to keep your executive resume focused. One way to do this, and do it well, is to do plenty of research on the position and the company you are applying to.
Use your network to ask questions and learn both about the job and the company. Even if you don’t know anyone who works at the specific company, you may know a client of theirs or someone who has consulted or done work adjacent to the company that may be able to give you insight.
And, of course, use every job seeker’s best friend in the modern world—the internet. From the company website to LinkedIn to social media, you can discern information about the company’s culture, goals, and recent achievements that can help improve your resume and give you extra discussion fodder for an interview.
By understanding a company’s needs and goals, you are far better prepared to address on your resume how your strengths and skills can help that company.
For more information on researching companies during your job search, you can read this Great Resumes Fast blog post on the topic https://greatresumesfast.com/researching-target-employers-to-enhance-your-executive-resume/ or head over to The Balance to read some of their advice on the topic here: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/tips-for-researching-companies-before-job-interviews-2061319.
Use Keywords, But Not Meaningless Clichés
Keywords are important both for getting your resume through artificial intelligence resume tracking mechanisms, but also for catching the attention of the person reading your resume. If you are applying to a job for which a job description is available, it is easier to determine what keywords to use—often they will be right in front of you in some form in the job description.
When deciding what keywords to use, focus first on the industry lingo that demonstrates your long-term, executive-level knowledge and skill set and how it relates to the specific job you are applying to.
Below are ten that I suggest starting with as you write your resume. Of course, not all will be relevant to you or to your target job, but this list is a good starting point:
● P&L responsibility
● New business development
● Corporate administration
● Organizational leadership
● Crisis management
● Multisite operations
● Consensus building and team building
● Joint ventures and alliances
● Best practices and benchmarking
● Performance optimization
As you use these types of keywords to describe your experience and accomplishments, be wary of using clichés that only describe soft skills. I touched on it above, but it bears repeating that terms like “effective communicator” or “team player” only serve to weaken your resume once you have reached the executive level. Let your accomplishments show these skills; you don’t have to tell a prospective employer about them.
Use a Modern Format: The Value of an Executive Resume That Stands Out
An executive resume should be eye-catching both in terms of the information on it and the visual format of the resume. This doesn’t mean you need to go overboard with colors and creative graphics, but at the very least you need to consider the set-up of information and if it has enough white space to let the reader easily scan and digest information.
That said, though, I am a proponent of including visual elements on an executive resume. A graph that shows how you’ve increased revenues will immediately catch a hiring manager’s eye in a way that reading through bullet points of accomplishments simply won’t.
Other ways to incorporate visual elements include quotes from professional references, or simply using colorful graphics to emphasize particular strengths, as in the example below:
To see more of how Great Resumes Fast incorporates visual elements into resumes, take a look at some of the resume samples on our website.
Use Other Professionals’ Words on Your Executive Resume
In discussing resume format above, I noted that you can include quotes/testimonials from supervisors, colleagues, etc. on your resume. Think of it like an author’s blurb on a book jacket, or, perhaps more directly, like when you get a reference from someone on your LinkedIn profile.
Having another person speak to your accomplishments lends validity and strengthens your case for being a valuable asset for a company. As an executive, you should have a network of people ready to speak on your behalf and whose name or position will be recognizable and impressive to a potential employer. Don’t just list references’ names and phone numbers or say “References Available upon Request.” Instead, put those references and their supportive words right in front of a hiring manager’s eyes.
Don’t Be Satisfied with the First Draft of Your Executive Resume
Once you’ve finished writing your resume, you might be sick and tired of it and want to just be done and shoot it off to the hiring manager. STOP!
This could one of the most important emails you’ve sent for your career. Have you proofread your resume? Have you had someone else proofread it? Have you considered your word choice, and gone back over your accomplishments to make sure you’ve really included the ones you want to and need to?
Now, there’s a fine line between driving yourself crazy with reading and rereading and reconsidering the information you include, but you should go over your completed resume at least once yourself and have someone else look it over at least once.
By the time you’ve written your resume, you are too close to it to catch any small mistakes. You know what you want your resume to say, so you may very well read typos as what they are supposed to say, not what they actually say. A typo on a resume is bad news for an entry-level resume, but it’s even worse on an executive resume. If you don’t show attention to detail and a passion for perfection on your own resume, how can a company trust you to be a good steward for their reputation and profits?
Also, having another person look at your resume provides another perspective that can be beneficial. A trusted coworker, mentor, or even your spouse might remember an accomplishment that you had forgotten about, or be able to frame an accomplishment or strength in a way that you hadn’t yet thought of that can help make your resume even more impressive.
Too Much on Your Plate? Not a Writer? There Are Advantages to Using Executive Resume Writing Services
If you’ve read through these tips and are thinking that writing an executive resume is just not something you want to tackle right now, consider the advantages of hiring a resume writer. At Great Resumes Fast, our resume writers are human resources professionals and certified resume writers who are experts in creating successful professionally written resumes.
We don’t work from executive resume templates—instead we actually get to know you through conversation and then we work to craft and convey your personal brand through a resume with a sleek, modern format. You won’t have to spend time filling out questionnaires only to get back a standard, dull resume. You won’t have to spend time yourself agonizing over wording and what information to include on your resume.
Instead, you can spend your time focusing on your career while our resume writing professionals work on a resume to help you get ahead.
If you’ve considered using an executive resume writing service, you’ve probably wondered what a professionally written resume costs. For information about Great Resumes Fast’s rates, you can read this article: https://greatresumesfast.com/cost-of-an-executive-resume-writing-service/.
Are you tired of your resume being rejected by applicant tracking systems? I know how frustrating it is to submit your resume and receive no response. I hate seeing qualified people never breakthrough the screening process. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s why I created this guide and I encourage you to download the FREE PDF so you can start seeing better resume response rates!
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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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