By now, you’ve heard that most recruiters, even at the executive level, only spend a few seconds looking at each resume that crosses their desk. You might be wondering what they could possibly see in that time — after all, a few seconds are barely enough time to read even a few lines.
Most recruiters look at resumes for a few key bits of information, such as years of experience, the types of jobs the applicant has held, and their education level. Only when they see what they are looking for right away will they spend more time looking closely at the resume. Because of this, it’s in your best interests to include a summary at the beginning of your executive resume that hits all the highlights in a few succinct seconds, so the recruiter feels compelled to look at your application more closely.
Writing an executive summary is tricky for many people, though. Many confuse the summary with an objective statement. However, the primary difference is that objective statements, besides being outdated, tend to focus on you and what you are looking for. Employers are most interested in what you can do for them, and aren’t as concerned about what you want from a job or your overall career. A summary, then, is exactly that: A succinct, compelling overview of your experience and accomplishments that gives the reader a glimpse into what you’ve done so far and how you match the requirements of the position.
An executive summary is a must for anyone looking for a leadership or upper-level position. Employers hiring for these roles are comparing multiple candidates with similar levels of experience, and the summary provides an apples-to-apples comparison of candidates’ achievements at a glance. Because this summary is so important, take care and follow these tips when crafting yours — or work with an executive resume service to write the best summary possible.
Establish Your Executive Brand
In the early days of your career, writing an executive summary would have been challenging, as you likely didn’t have many accomplishments yet. However, now that you are headed for the C-suite, you need to establish your brand and craft a summary that shows employers what sets you apart and makes you the best candidate. Look at your summary as a brand statement: It should tell the reader who you are and what you bring to the table.
As such, the ideal executive summary should be four to six lines and tell a short “career story.” It needs to speak to your professional accomplishments only, highlighting your core skills and strengths, your professional experience with key functions, and your greatest achievements, preferably in a quantified format. Tailor your executive summary to each individual position that you’re applying for, incorporating key words from the job posting or company materials, and highlighting the experience and accomplishments that are most relevant to that particular position.
Again, your executive summary should focus on your professional experience and accomplishments only, not your personal experience or extenuating circumstances. This isn’t the place, in other words, to discuss an employment gap or other weaknesses in your background. Keep it positive, keep it focused, and sell yourself.
Things to Avoid
Your executive summary is going to be the first thing that recruiters read, and the part of your resume that will keep them reading, so you want to make sure it sets you apart. Be specific, and describe your experience and skills in concrete, quantifiable terms. And if you are changing careers, be sure to highlight your transferrable skills, rather than focus on what you have done in the past. Connect the dots for the reader — show them why you are the best person for this opening.
Keep in mind, though, that the executive summary is just that: a summary. Remember the four-to-six-sentence length, and don’t write a novel that completely rehashes your resume. The executive summary is intended to be a preview of what’s to come, not the entire feature. Stay focused and save the details for later in the documents.
When writing your executive summary, begin by listing three to five traits that define you as a professional — your brand proposition, if you will. Are you a great salesperson? Do you have a track record of leading change? What are the things you are best known for, and that will benefit the employer? Write these down, then support them with quantifiable proof. For example, you might write “Experienced in managing a portfolio of multi-million-dollar accounts, with consistent sales growth of at least 10 percent annually.” Try to match your brand proposition to the requirements of the job. This might mean developing several summaries, but spending that time will be worthwhile when you have a calendar full of interviews.
Writing an executive summary that grabs recruiters’ attention takes time, but it’s worth the effort. If you are struggling to find the right words, contact Employment BOOST at 888-468-6495. Your executive resume is too important to leave to chance.