When was the last time you took a good look at your executive resume? In fact, when was the last time you really used your resume?
For plenty of individuals at the executive and c-suite level, they may not have necessarily needed a resume to get noticed, or land a role.
Or, maybe they have, but it has been a while since the last update. Ensuring you possesses a document that is up to date with current industry standards and best practices is critical from both a point of creating a compelling case for your candidacy, but also establishing your executive brand.
An outdated resume can be more than a detriment, it can be disqualifying.
As an executive, you need a comprehensive, authoritative document clearly articulating your experience, accomplishments, leadership impact, and vision.
You need a multifaceted document that is both visually captivating, but also optimized to yield excellent results in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Striking this balance can be difficult, but throughout this piece, we will walk you through adjustments you can make to your position to stand out in a competitive market.
Executive Resume Layout
Before developing the content and defining your brand get underway, it is good to think of a top-level perspective of what needs to be included in a resume and the length of the document.
For anyone at the executive level, a two-page is going to be the standard. Some candidates might worry that this will be too dense of a document for someone to read, but there are a few things to consider on page length:
- Your competition will almost certainly also be using a two-page format. By not utilizing a similar style, you offer individuals seeking to land the same role that much more space to list their experience, skills, and accomplishments.
- Two pages allows for a candidate to tell a story. You can clearly illustrate the vertical trajectory of a career, or diversity of experience over your career.
- It provides the space required to include all aspects such as experience, professional summary, education, certifications, skills, and experience without compromising visual appeal.
- This layout offers ample room to list career highlights and major projects with supplementary quantitative information, or relevant data.
Beyond the two page layout there are several other key aspects that require your attention, which we will address in the following sections.
But similar to the consideration of a two-page resume, one thing for an executive to always focus on when developing or revising the document is to create something that is readable. Utilizing an effective framework for the document will allow a hiring professional to easily and logically not only move through the document, but your professional experience, ultimately increasing the likelihood of an interview.
First impressions are crucial to establishing your case as a candidate. Now, the aforementioned layout is key part of this, but you need to stick the landing in that opening summary.
PRO TIP: Do not use an objective in this section. Not only is this an increasingly outdated practice, but it is assumed that your objective is to obtain the role you are applying for. Moreover, it achieves nothing in terms of explaining WHY you are a fit for a role like this. Executive summaries are a better encapsulation of not only the type of roles you are hoping to land, but what makes you qualified for them.
This is why the executive summary matters—it is an extension of your ability to lead, and your ability to engage. From the very beginning of the resume you are demonstrating your ability to strategically communicate and drive home a message.
Now, nailing down what matters is an entirely different challenge. However, always begin with the basics in a topline overview spanning the first sentence that conveys your current title (OR the title you are hoping to achieve), years of experience, and experience and accomplishments most pertinent to your success.
While you can include quantitative information in the summary, this is really more about establishing your professional brand, so it can often be more valuable to develop this from a more strategic, topline perspective. The rest of the CV will incorporate critical numeric and statistical data that effectively show scope of impact for initiatives you have led.
Additionally, good things to focus on in a professional summary are going to be leadership style and opportunities to focus on culture building, in addition to process-driven achievements. It is important to capture not only the value you bring to an organization, but how you do so and what strategies you employ. Highlighting the methodologies and approach that contribute to your success is what will make you stand out as a candidate.
Use the below as an example of what an executive summary might look like:
Laying out the executive summary similar to the above presents the scope of your expertise, some of your key focus areas, how you deliver successful outcomes, and leadership experience.
Within just a few sentences, you have delivered a concise, informative, and persuasive modern elevator pitch to sell your candidacy, and highlight the impact you can make at the next company.
Creating a Skills Section
A “Core Competencies” or “Areas of Expertise” section is key to ensuring that your resume not only captures the attention of hiring professionals, but also performs well in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Use this section to not only showcase your skills, but to effectively align yourself with impactful industry words and phrases that signify a strong grasp of the essentials expected of an executive:
- Organizational Leadership | Workflow Optimization | P&L Ownership
- Strategic Planning | Business Development | Coaching & Mentoring
- Program Management & Launch | Revenue Generation | Process Improvements
Employing key words and phrases like the above as a supplement to both the career summary and achievement will enhance the performance of the document, while allowing a hiring manager to quickly glean core abilities and expertise.
Additionally, the section is visually appealing and helps to segment the resume in a way that further lends itself to readability. Finding ways to section off information creates a logical progression of questions someone hiring for a role expects you to answer, and defines your executive professional brand in the process.
PRO TIP: this section can create an advantage against the competition from a key word standpoint by adjusting the selected words in this section according to the job posting you are applying for.
Developing Engaging Experience
How you present your responsibilities and accomplishments is important. Simply stating tasks and duties isn’t only boring for someone reading the document, but it does not distinguish a candidate. Employers want to know what sets you apart, and how you frame that answer can significantly alter the performance of a document.
First, be authoritative in your sentence structure and avoid using a passive tone. For example:
- Responsible for talent acquisition during an enterprise changeover by sourcing leaders, resulting in a robust team of internal stakeholders with a cohesive objective and work philosophy.
- Prioritized key talent acquisition during the enterprise changeover period, sourcing dynamic leaders to develop a robust team of internal stakeholders with a cohesive objective and work philosophy.
By simply reframing the sentence it makes it sound less like an accomplishment just happened, but illustrates that you were the driver behind it by creating an action and a result.
Also, eliminating phrases like “Responsible for…” and replacing them with action verbs such as championed, accelerated, drove, spearheaded, marshalled, etc. dramatically changes the conception of your role in the experience listed. While it is not necessary to invoke florid language or artistic flourish to the content, it should still be engaging and remind the hiring manager that YOU are the consistent theme throughout.
Similar to this, avoiding straightforward job descriptions is not enough, candidates should be establishing and elaborating on their big wins and accomplishments. This is the best strategy to ensure you are viewed not as a task-oriented individual, but a results-driven and accomplishment-focused executive. The best way to do this is to quantify your achievements as much as possible.
These bullet points below offer a structure idea of what a proactive and results-driven resume look like:
Including a numeric supplement, or relevant data to illustrate scope of impact bolsters your case. It is a simple and effective addition to buttress the content itself and increase the interest of any hiring manager.
Should you have a separate section dedicated solely to major career highlights and accomplishments?
At the executive level for a resume or CV, this is an excellent way to further enhance the visual appeal of a professional resume while ensuring the key achievements are highly visible in the document.
A select accomplishments section can increase readability by offering another distinct section shows definitive results. This can be especially useful is your career spans different industries and business verticals, it is a chance to show diversity of engagements.
So, where should it go?
The best place for a specific highlights section is after the summary and before the regular experience. The top third of the resume including an engaging executive summary, core competencies, and select accomplishments section provides a clear and easily comprehendible picture for any employer almost instantly when viewing the document.
How to List Executive Education
Plenty of discussions revolved around the notion of how to design and appropriately list education on a standard CV. There are certainly a variety of approaches that can be taken, but there are also something things a candidate should avoid when listing their degree.
Here are some recommendations to create a concise education section that provides the necessary information.
Education Section of a Resume – 5 Key Tips
Employ these industry best practices the best way to list your degree on a resume or CV:
- Include the key information necessary: official degree title, major, minor if applicable, and university attended.
- List the highest education completed at the top.
- Do NOT include the year of attainment, unless you returned to school well into your professional career. It is not necessary to date your education in one way or another, what matters is the degree.
- If you have graduated from college, delete high school education.
- Do not overcrowd the section. Adding too many additional aspects such as scholarships, GPA, extracurriculars, etc. can make the section a bit dense. Let the degrees stand by themselves, as someone at the director level does not need to be worried about these other subjects.
Professional Leadership & Certifications
Depending the on the amount of additional qualifications you possess, you may need to build out sections separate from the standard education itself. This might include courses taken, certifications, public speaking engagements, publications, licensure, etc.
You maybe combine them under a branch of “Development & Certifications” such as the example below:
But this may require additional sections as well, such as one for speaking engagements:
Now, whether or not you will be able to include everything is never a certainty depending on the amount of additional information you have. But, since the standard is primarily going to be two pages, make your considerations within that scope of length.
If you need to streamline in some manner, consider only including the most relevant or significant engagements and certifications. You can always include more information in an interview setting, but it is likely not beneficial to compromise achievements and content for additional qualifications.
In this section, do what works for you, but remember that this can be an important place to showcase a commitment to professional development and industry expertise.
Additional qualifications such as those above can really enhance the value proposition of a candidate by positioning them as highly motivated and active within the industry.
Resume or Executive Curriculum Vitae (CV)?
“Is there a difference?” this is a common and important question, because while slight, there is a difference. This is where knowing your target audience and requirements of the job positing play a key role.
The primary difference is in length: a resume is often limited to two pages, while a Curriculum Vitae (CV) can extend as long as needed. Additionally, an executive Curriculum Vitae (CV) is more often found in positions within academia, allowing for the candidate to include all the relevant information such as research and publications.
An executive resume maintained at two pages will be the more commonly used document, but be sure to note what the position is looking for to ensure you are in accordance with the guidelines for application.
Executive Resume & Executive Curriculum Vitae (CV) 2020
Utilizing these tips and recommendations can make a major impact on how you present yourself as a candidate, but they can also help keep you on message in an interview.
A well-defined and clearly developed document creates a template for engagement and stimulates further conversation on what qualifies you for a role.
As a reminder, follow these key suggestions to land that next interview:
- Include your contact information (without hyperlinks) in the header of the resume so it is clear and easily readable for a hiring professional.
- Create an authoritative executive summary to highlight your experience, while also building your professional brand.
- Use a skills and select accomplishments section to enhance the visual design and information positioning for critical points of the document.
- Quantify your accomplishments, and avoid the passive voice.
- Know your audience and the requirements of the role you are applying for.
Following these recommendations will be sure to mark you as a qualified and compelling candidate at the top of their field, ready to further expound on your ability to execute in the interview session.