The Definitive Guide To
Writing Your Executive Resume In 2021

Resumes are still relevent. Yes, even in the age of LinkedIn,  a resume is still the core document presenting your experience, skills, education and achievements.

 

That being said...

 

If a recruiter called with a great today, would your resume be ready?

 

If your job was eliminated today...or you were told you have to interview for your job, would your resume be ready?

 

If a promotion opened up today, would you be able to send your resume ASAP?

 

If you answered no to any of these questions, now is a great time to update your resume with your recent wins. Trust me, leaving this to the last minute with a ticking application deadline clock hanging over your head would be the worst thing you could do.

 

In The Definitive Guide To Writing Your Executive Resume In 2021, I'm going to share the concepts and strategies you need to create an executive resume that attracts attention and generates interviews.

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Contents

getting started

Chapter 1

Getting Started

Chapter 2

Visual Layout and Design

Chapter 3

Keyword Optimizing Your Excutive Resume

Chapter 4

Summary Section

Chapter 5

Work Experience

Chapter 6

Graphs, Text Boxes and Tables

Chapter 7

Education

Chapter 8

Next Steps

Chapter 1

Getting Started

Most people mistakenly think they need a resume only when they aren’t working. Not true. You are actually doing yourself a disservice waiting until you are unemployed.

 

And frankly, doing your resume after losing your job is the worst. I see the dread in reactive job seekers who lost their job but now need to write a resume all the time. It looks like this:

 

—They feel pressured to do the resume quickly so they can start looking for a job ASAP.

—They have a “kicked in the gut” feeling that is hijacking their confidence at the exact time they are supposed to be tooting their own horn. It’s tough!

—They can’t recall specific achievements because they no longer have access to their performance data. The company cut them off to that essential information when they were terminated.

 

In Chapter 1 I'm going to give you an overview of do's and don'ts so you can start to piece together your executive resume.

 

The 4 Keys to Crafting a Winning Executive Resume

As you’re sitting down to refresh your executive resume, here are four key pieces of information that you'll need to convey to your target audience quickly and effectively. Follow these guidelines and you'll stand out as a candidate, whether you’re in the public, private or non-profit sector:

 

1.  Who

Rather than beginning your resume with an objective, use a title – for example, as outlined in this Chief Operations Officer resume sample (shown below). You can also include a brief elevator style pitch below that, succinctly outlines why a company should hire you. This should serve as a compelling positioning statement that sets the stage for the rest of your resume. According to the study, while elite schools still hold sway at the top levels, the majority of corporate executives today went to public universities. Whatever your education background, your qualifications are important and degrees earned should be included along with any other relevant professional certifications. Space on your resume is valuable, so ensure any qualifications you choose to include pertain closely to your roles and competencies. We'll drill down into each individual section of what you'll need to include in your resume a little later in this guide.

2.  What

It’s helpful for someone viewing your resume for the first time to be able to see where your expertise lies. When addressing relevant topical items in your resume, under a Core Competency Section as shown in these executive resume samples, you fulfill the keyword optimization required by humans reading your document and resume databases digesting your document. Provide an overview of the areas you have experience in (finance, operations, sales, marketing), what kinds of industries you’ve been exposed to (consulting, manufacturing, food and beverage, consumer goods) and what levels of responsibility you’ve held. This will provide context for your achievements and core strengths.

3.  Where

Following on from the last point, explain (briefly) what each organization did and put it into perspective. Was it publicly or privately held? Regional, national or global? What markets and regions did you work within? It may be helpful to describe the size of the workforce or the company’s annual revenue. Don’t assume everyone is familiar with individual companies or even the industries.  Outlining how to effectively define size and scope when describing current and previous employers is shown here:

4.  How

Particularly at the executive level, demonstrating performance is crucial. Let your accomplishments speak for themselves. Provide evidence through specific examples – what you achieved, when, and where – that will also implicitly communicate your mastery of your profession. Sales success is easy to quantify, but other functions might not translate as easily to numbers. You may be able to point to cost savings you achieved, processes that you made more efficient, productivity increases, projects delivered on time and on budget, or other initiatives successfully deployed. Use active verbs that reflect your role in each, such as ‘spearheaded’ and don’t waste time with generic and empty adjectives. Here are some other questions to ask yourself when building your executive resume:

  • How have you been involved in setting a vision and carrying out strategy for organizations? How have you used ‘big picture’ thinking to initiate change?
  • Have you hired, fired and built teams? What about personal development - have you mentored more junior employees?
  • Have you been responsible for budgets, fundraising, high level negotiations or other financial matters?
  • Have you been involved in any mergers or acquisitions, or other major business initiatives you can point to?
  • What kinds of business relationships do you have and at what level? How do you deal with stakeholders, clients, and suppliers? Do you have a valuable network of contacts?
  • What kind of experience do you have with public speaking, writing or giving presentations? How have you represented your organization to the community and the wider public?

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(Includes a full copy of the resume referenced above, as well as 16 other executive resume examples)

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Chances are it's been awhile since you've updated you resume so before you set to pen to paper I'm now going to share some common misconceptions about how to write and structure your executive resume.  

12 Executive Resume Myths from an
Executive Resume Writer

Misconception # 1: Executive summaries are overrated. Objectives are okay.

Objectives only state what you want. Summaries outline how what you offer can meet the needs of the prospective employer. Simply put: nobody really cares what you want only.

Misconception #2: Adhere to a page rule: one page or two pages, max! Do not write a longer resume than 2 pages.
• It is important to realize, no matter how long as you make the resume, one page resumes included, it is never guaranteed that the reader will read the entire document. Keep your audience interested in 5-10 second increments to keep the scrolling and reading. If that is one page, so be it. If that is three or four pages, it is OK.

Misconception #3: Your executive resume needs charts and graphs to be impressive.
• While I put charts and graphs in executive resumes for some of my clients, it is not the norm. Most clients can have achievements properly outlined in well-written content and have a great effect. Charts and graphs are often not digested by applicant tracking systems (ATS), so should be used strategically and not automatically.

Misconception #4: Jamming keywords into your executive resume gets through the ATS.
• While this may actually work, when the recruiter reads your keyword stuffed resume, they will think you are spending more time trying to game the system versus outlining why you are qualified.

Misconception #5: All companies use ATS systems.
• Every company does not use an ATS, but most have a resume database in some capacity.  As a result, having your resume keyword optimized is as essential as me having my coffee in the morning. You just would not want to see me without it.

Misconception #6: All executives who interview and hire staff should be able to write their own executive resume.
• Would you be your own lawyer? Try to sell your own house? While there are some people who can write their own resumes from the hiring expertise they possess. But for the majority of us, it is best to hire a professional to handle these matters.

Myth #7: Every ounce of experience you have should on your resume. Impress the reader with everything you ever did.
• As a general rule, I do not go back more than 15 years. Even if what you did 25 years ago is applicable to what you are targeting today, no company will hire you for what you did 25 years ago. I believe, in most cases, putting 20+ years experience on your resume only dates you and does not really help your candidacy.

Misconception #8: Stretch your dates to reduce or eliminate your employment gaps --- no one will find out.
• You can find out what your neighbor ate for dinner last night on the internet. You don’t think today’s background check technology can find out that you are fudging dates. Yes, they may not find out…but they also may find out. Don’t do it.

Misconception #9: Put your references at the bottom of your resume.
• Put your references on a well-crafted reference sheet. And don’t put ”references available upon request” at the bottom either. It is implied.

Misconception #10: Use the same resume for all of your job applications and submissions.
• Review the job requirements and customize each submission showing how you meet the needs of the job description. One size does not fit all.

Misconception #11: A great resume is the magic elixir to landing a job.
• Not just the resume....but a great resume with an excellent job search plan, keyword optimized LinkedIn profile, robust network, superb follow up skills and an amazing attitude land you a job. The most fabulous resume alone will not get you a job.

Misconception #12: My old resume will work just fine.
• Sure...The same way your shoulder padded jacket or skinny tie will work at the company party this weekend. Go for it.

Contact Information

The first component of your resume will be your contact information. Your name should be larger than the main font, but not the largest font. Put your name at the top of the document, whether you center, right or left align. Place your contact information in the document body and not the header or footer. If you went to a reputable or well-networked school, use your .edu email address. Use one phone number. Ideally use a mobile phone number so you can accept texts. Use live social media icons or actual URL links to relevant social media pages.

The Executive Resume Heading Title

Your heading title is a great place for you to strongly correlate your experience with the position you are applying for. Make it as easy for the recruiter as possible by showing them that you are already qualified for their position. Handing in a resume for a high level position without a title may cost you the interview. The reason is because you’re failing to give the person glancing at your resume any idea of what kind of job you’d be good for.

 

You can fix this by using a descriptive title at the top of the resume. For instance, if you simply state “Accounting” as a title it’s rather vague and could refer to any position in the accounting department. Instead you should write titles such as “Chief Financial Officer”, “Manager of Accounts Receivable”, or “Head of Accounting Department.”

 

The same concept can be applied to a number of positions in departments across the board. The point is to tell the reader exactly what you do in a quick manner.

 

For example, if you typically use a heading title of Digital Marketing Executive but are applying for a Digital Marketing Manager position, update your heading to: Digital Marketing Manager. There is no guessing left for the recruiter and you will have piqued the recruiter’s interest from the very beginning.

 

Important note: if you are not applying for a specific position, but are seeking general opportunities or an exploratory interview, use your broad title – in the example above Digital Marketing Executive, to be considered for various roles.

Chapter 2

Visual Layout and Design

First and foremost, your resume needs to be easy to read.

 

As a former search firm recruiter, I am often asked “How long do you take to screen a resume ?”

 

Really that question is based on an inccorrect assumption. Most recruiters don't read resumes. They are scanned the way most of us scan websites looking for information. Think about the last time you did a web search and started clicking through the results. We don’t read websites, we scan them looking for specific keywords and phrases, and we assess the visual feel to decide if we should keep clicking or move on to the next search result.

 

That process can take most of us as little as 15 seconds. Similarly your resume may be getting as little as 9 seconds of attention before a recruiter or hiring manager decides to dig deeper into your resume or pass you by for the next candidate.

How To Format Your Executive Resume

Make it short, simple and sweet.

Format using white space and a balance of prose and bullets. This format leads the eye through the document. You don’t have a lot of room on the screen of a mobile phone, so your resume should be short and concise. Use one line to describe the company environment. Make sure your achievements are bulleted. Avoid big blocks of text and long bulleted lists.

 

Test your resume on different devices to ensure it opens properly.

Mobile recruiting doesn’t always refer to a phone, it includes tablets too. Furthermore, an Android phone and an iPhone have different screen sizes and programs for opening documents such as PDFs.

 

Make sure to test your resume and cover letter files on different devices. Check for how it reads on the screen (you don’t want any words being cut off) and if it even opens at all. There’s nothing more embarrassing than sending your resume to someone and them not being able to open it.

 

Use your mobile number instead of a landline on your resume.

So much of the hiring process these days can be done over text messaging. In fact, if a company is using an applicant tracking system they could very well be corresponding with you via text message as well as email. It’s easy, convenient and typically much more effective for getting a candidate’s attention. That’s why it’s important to make sure you have a mobile phone number on your resume. This way you’re not leaving out any modality that can be used to contact you.

Ask Yourself: Is My Resume Ready for Mobile Recruiting?

Can your resume ready be viewed on a smart phone?

 

Your resume and job search has to now contend with smart phones, iPads, iPhones, Android phones, Blackberries and every other type of old and new tech device in between. The job search and the recruitment model is going mobile like the rest of business and every other industry—if they are smart and want to stay ahead of the competition.

So how can job seekers be ready for these technological adjustments and what should they expect? 

(1) Make your communications ridiculously concise. Cover letters should be as short as a screen shot. For certain social media channels, you have to convey your intent in 140 characters or less to get the ping back from the job poster to contact them offline.

(2) Test your resume and cover letters on various mediums and devices to ensure they open and appear properly. I have been opening resumes on PDAs, and now smart phones, since 2006 (maybe 2005). Some recruiters have been doing it much longer than me. Resumes in dated Word versions have a lesser chance of opening on a newer phone. Are your Mac docs compatible with PC, Droid and other non-Mac gadgets? Can your PC-based docs open on iPhones and iPads? Perform some quality controls with your documents and see what can open where.

(3) Use your mobile phone number on your resume—remove land lines from your applications. This will enable you to receive recruiting SMS text messages from employers who use this technology. ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) such as Bullhorn and Bond Adapt house this information in applicant data files and can send out mass job alerts via SMS text, as well as email, automated phone messages, etc. Landlines cannot receive texts—and who knows if your kids or parents will answer the phone!! Yikes!

Chapter 3

Keyword Optimizing Your Executive Resume

Optimizing your executive resume means your executive resume must be “SEO friendly” to be found by recruiters looking for candidates like you. More specifically, this means that it has to be rich in keywords that are relevant to the position you are applying to, in order to get past the online screening process and the human being reading/scanning your resume.

 

There is a very fine line, however, between having the right number of keywords to get you through to the next level, and matching the job description so closely that the system will think you are a spammer.

 

Here are six ways to find keywords to optimize your executive resume, and how to ensure your resume gets passed on to recruiters.

How To Find and Incorporate Keywords Into Your Executive Resume

1. Use the Occupational Outlook Handbook (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The Occupational Outlook Handbook found on the Bureau and Labor Statistics website, can be a wealth of information for executive career advancers and career changers. Choose your target occupation and you will find relevant keyword clues on the What They Do, Work Environment and How to Become One pages. These profiles tend to be more specific for scientific, engineering, healthcare and technology positions. Yet chief executives, sales professionals and creative positions are well represented with data, as well.

 

2. Learn how to use AutoCoder

AutoCoder is an effective tool, from O*Net OnLine, for recruiters and job hunters that most have worked with before. Here is where you can get your edge. Essentially, you input the job title and job description for any position, and it will output a standard set of position matches and keywords for that role. This information will help you identify the critical keywords for that position; the same keywords that the online application system will be searching for.

 

For example, if you were interested in landing a Director of Business Development position, you would run a specific job posting through the system with the title, and end up with a list of keywords including Sales Director and Director of Marketing as potential job titles along with how often certain words come up in the job description.

 

The frequency and score of certain phrases indicates what needs to be contained within your executive resume. In the example above, you should include “sales manager,” “manager,” “development manager,” and “business development” on your resume, weighted in value.

 

3. Target keywords through visuals

When you have a job description, you have the necessary information to understand what is important to the hiring manager. Unfortunately, in text versions, it’s very difficult to figure out the priority of different values or emphasis on various actions.

 

That’s where online word cloud tools come into play. Sites like Wordle and TagCrowd allow you to enter the text of the job description, and then you get a visual emphasis on the critical components. Using the same job description used above, here is the TagCrowd graphic with a strong emphasis on engineering, client, military and development – different words than position-specific keywords from AutoCoder.

 

In addition to visualizing the job description, you should also get a visual for your current resume, cover letter, and any other job search materials to cross-reference keyword needs. Once you’re in the interview phase or ready to target a specific company, you can also enter the company mission statement or “about” information to get a better understanding of what they value, company-wide.

 

4. Meet the company’s keywords halfway

Your resume’s keywords should not only match the required necessary skills, but the company’s overall culture and environment should be represented as well. Companies are looking for employees that “complete them,” just like that famous Jerry Maguire line.

 

Your resume should contain culture-specific references, ideals and values that are important to company culture. If you are seeking an innovative culture, then your resume should include examples of innovation and that word should be present. If you want to work at a

 

Fortune 500 company, then your resume should have that phrase in it, and so on.

Show the target companies that you possess the softer-skills they are seeking, not only the tactical delivery of the position. Using keywords is an easy way to reinforce your overall culture fit.

 

5. Using the right language and different versions of expression

There are few things that will confuse an online application more quickly than using the wrong “language.” Many resumes do not make it through the initial screen because they only contain various acronyms or use titles that are not widely accepted/known. Use both the proper name, the universal term and the acronym so all of your audiences will be familiar with your expertise and your resume will have multiple chances to make it through the ATS system.

 

People outside of your current organization do not understand the acronyms you use, so spell each of them out unless it is a widely accepted industry standard. An example of an accepted acronym: GAAP for accounting and finance positions. All other acronyms that do not meet this recognized standard, will serve you better by having the relevant words spelled out in your resume.

 

Titles are not standardized across industry or company, so it is critical that you include the right descriptive information when referring to current/previous titles. When you default to using your company-specific titles only, you may end up with something like this: Manager.

For a recruiter or the online system, it is very unclear what your actual duties were as a “Vice President.” You are missing a functional or departmental descriptor, something like: Vice President, Internet Marketing. Be sure to include these details in your executive resume.

 

6. Employ SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Techniques to Optimize Your Resume

Include an SEO approach to enhance your resume with keywords to increase your odds of getting through the initial “robot” review of your resume and get your resume in the hands of the hiring manager. Not only will it help your resume be seen, but it will also increase your subject matter credibility, instantly.  Learn optimization techniques from websites such as SearchEngineJournal.com, SocialMediaExaminer.com, and SearchEngineLand.com to learn how keyword phrases are discovered to use the best processes and tactics to employ to construct your resume. Once you learn these techniques, hop over to Google AdWords Key Word Planner, open a free account, and start to hone in on the right keywords for your target position, based on the information discovered from the first five tactics.

 

Using these tools to identify the right keywords and use them most effectively in the content of your resume will optimize your resume in an expert manner. While nothing is a replacement for sending your resume to a human, you need to make sure that your resume can beat the technology systems where your resume may be housed until the right match comes along. The overall goal is for your resume to quickly be found in a technical search.

Core Competancies

The Core Competancies section of your resume is one of the places where you can really leverage the keyword optimization strategies listed above to make your resume highly tailored for the job you're applying for. Employ keywords from target job descriptions that reflect relevent accomplishaments. Use topical nouns instead of verbs to highlight your skills and to increase recognition from the applicant tracking system software.

This is a great place to grab an executive recruiter’s attention by highlighting your technology expertise. In a world where companies are quickly moving to online programs and computer software to help them streamline their businesses, it’s imperative that you let them know you are up-to-date on all the changes.

 

You can use your technology expertise to beef up your resume’s skills section. For instance, if you’re heavily involved with your current company’s sales department you’ll want to note that you are familiar with the software they use (ex. SalesForce or other popular Client Relationship Managers).

 

If you work in an extremely technical field, such as healthcare, you’ll want to use both the long hand version as well as the abbreviated version of any technology or software. The reason being that when recruiters look for you on LinkedIn or in their own applicant tracking system sometimes they won’t think to search for both forms.

 

Finally, if applicable, this would be the perfect place to mention any technical certifications you hold. For instance, CIO’s should be familiar with all the different networking and IT certifications out there. This often times requires that your certifications be up-to-date.

Chapter 4

Summary Section

Today, hiring managers are increasingly pressed for time as they scan hundreds of resumes looking for the perfect candidate. Resume summaries can be the key to having your resume examined versus just being tossed into the trash.

 

While you may think the interview is the most difficult process of your job search, the truth is just getting your foot in the door and getting an opportunity for an interview is often far more difficult. However, you can improve your chances just by crafting the perfect executive resume summary.

 

A well-crafted executive resume summary will help you get noticed and allow you to quickly put your best foot forward so hiring managers will give your resume a closer look.

7 Must Have Components for an Eye Catching Executive Resume Summary

1. Formatting Your Executive Resume Summary Title

I make the target title slightly bigger than the candidate name. The writers said they made the name bigger so the hiring manager could always find the name and know they are on the right resume. Except on first glance, the name doesn't really matter. As a hiring manager, I wanted to know was this resume I am reading right for the job I am recruiting for. During my 13 year recruiting career and I always felt a resume with a bigger title made me make an assessment faster - if it was the right candidate. The name had nothing to do with the assessment.

 

2. Clear Target Position in the Title

Hiring managers scan hundreds of resumes when they are searching for the right candidate. Studies have shown that they often make the decision to call you or just discard your resume in only a few seconds. So, you need to hook them quickly if you hope to have a shot. When creating your executive resume summary, begin with something that will make them do a double take and encourage them to read on. This will increase your chances of making it into the call pile. DO NOT START THE HEADING WITH “SUMMARY.”

 
3. Emphasize Your Top Selling Points

Once you have their attention, you need to then quickly emphasize your best selling points that demonstrate why you are the right person for the job. When hiring managers are searching, they will quickly skim resumes looking for the right criteria. In order to increase your chances, put your best foot forward right away and show them what makes you the best candidate for the job.

 
4. Correlate Career Achievements to Job Requirements

Once you have them reading and they know your best selling points, it is time to briefly go over your career so they get an idea of how your experience is relevant to their position. This gives them an insight into your experience so they begin to understand what you can bring to the table if they decide to bring you on board.

 
5. Communicate Motivation

While the simple objective statement may be out of style today, that doesn’t mean you can’t briefly share your motivation, when applicable. Each company is different with a different culture and goals in mind, if your motivation doesn’t fit this mold, you may not be a good fit even if you have all the skills they are looking for. This isn’t good for them or you in the long run. Go ahead and briefly explain your goals but don’t focus on it compared to your selling points and career.

 
6. Be Concise

You may be tempted to give great detail about your career and your top selling points. Remember, you have the rest of your resume to explain in detail everything you have accomplished and why you would be the perfect candidate for the position. The goal with your executive resume summary is to be just that – a summary. Resist the urge to explain everything in detail and only give them a glimpse of what you have done over the years.

 
7. Don’t Underestimate Keywords

While you should never just write your resume for keywords, you shouldn’t forget about them entirely. When creating your executive resume summary, go ahead and make sure it is rich in keywords so it makes it past the automatic resume scanners and actually reaches the desk of the hiring manager who may be giving you a call. We'll talk about how to identify and incorporate relevent keywords in Chapter 9.

Chapter 5

Work Experience

Here’s a pill that may be tough to swallow: most people have lackluster resumes. They tend to write extremely generic resumes that only showcase basic job duties. As a result, recruiters think they are dealing with someone who can only do the basics.

 

Achievement based resumes, on the other hand, help you stand out from the crowd because they give concrete examples of what you can do on the job.

 

Achievements are those things that made a lasting impact on the company or the client. Below you’ll find some tips on how to write an achievement-based executive resume.

How To Write An Achievement Based Executive Resume

Here is a work experience example, pulled from an executive resume using the achievement centric style that we're going to continue to talk about below.

Often times people fail to use specific verbs in a resume, which leads to a very basic depiction of what they actually did on the job. Anyone can say “worked in accounting” but that doesn’t really say anything about what your job entailed. Consider using verbs that stand out such as “spearheaded” or “streamlined.”

 
2. Don’t shy away from highlighting your accomplishments.

Many people don’t give themselves enough credit because they think it will make them sound conceited. The truth is that a resume doesn’t require humility. In fact, recruiters want you to tell them why you’re the right fit for the job!

 

As such, make sure to highlight your accomplishments in your resume. You can start by taking a look at any awards and recognitions you received while on the job. You can then list off any other achievements that perhaps you didn’t get public recognition for. From there you can start narrowing down the best choices and writing them in bullet form.

 
3. Show them the results.

Recruiters want to see that you produce results. You can do this in several ways including providing examples where you saved a company money, increased revenue or increased team productivity.

Make sure not to use stories or paragraphs on the resume (save those for the interview!) and keep it to simple bullet points.

 
4. Add numbers to those results.

Using quantitative examples (examples which include numbers) helps paint a very clear picture for the person reading your resume. One key question to ask yourself when looking for how you yield results is “By how much?”

 

For instance, perhaps you increased company revenue. This is a great achievement to highlight, but you can’t just leave it at that. This is when you ask yourself “By how much?” in order to remind yourself to find some numbers that prove it.

 

Granted, you may not be able to get your hands on sales reports or other confidential information. Especially without giving away the fact that you’re up to something (in this case looking for work elsewhere). If this is the case then you can always start tracking your own progress a few weeks in advance.

 
5. Highlight something you initiated voluntarily.

Recruiters always have an eye out for self-starters. After all, once you get to a certain level the last thing they want is someone who needs to be micro-managed.

 

This is why you should highlight projects that you initiated yourself. Did you get new business on your own? Did you volunteer to put the company 5k together? Are you mentoring other employees out of the goodness of your heart? These are all great examples of how you set out to achieve things on your own.

 

Writing an achievements based resume is a great way to highlight why you’re a great fit for the job. By highlighting your successes you give the recruiter exactly what he’s looking for right off the bat.

The 3 Secrets of Writing Achievement-Based Executive Resume Bullets

An achievement-based executive resume is one that focuses on what you accomplished while at your previous jobs. Ideally, this type of resume gives concrete examples of what you can do for your potential employer.

 

Writing achievement-based executive resume bullets are a sure-fire way to stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of being called in for an interview. Use our tips below to make the most of your achievement-based executive resume bullets.

 

Focus On CAR or STAR

Using well respected interview techniques can make your resume writing process a lot easier when trying to focus on achievements.

CAR, for instance, stands for Context, Action, Result. The objective is to introduce a problem that you solved by providing the story behind it. STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) is similar in so far as you are also telling a story and highlighting how you are the hero in a situation.

If you’re writing a achievement-based executive resume bullet you can call upon these two techniques to help you find content. Obviously you don’t have room to go into the entire story on your resume (save that for the interview!), but you can use it to help you find the achievements.

 

Let’s say your company was running up against a major sales deficit. Your current model wasn’t working and as the Global Operations Director you noticed that perhaps you needed to adjust pricing and focus on some cross-selling. The end result was a huge increase in company revenue. A bullet in this case may read, “Increased margins by 14% and revenues by 27% with pricing and cross-selling initiatives."

 

Ask yourself some key questions while writing achievement-based executive resume bullets.

For every job description bullet, you should ask yourself "How do you know you did a good job?" or "What did that good job look like?"

This helps you focus on the results you achieved while at work. Ultimately, by helping yourself paint a picture you can then do the same for the person reviewing your resume.

 

It’s important to note that these numbers may not be so focused on revenue numbers. For example, if you are an HR executive you may have helped expand the company into new markets. That may read like this, “Led HR function on 2006 Asian expansion, which currently has 240 offices and 7000 employees.”

 

Focus on size and scope of environments worked.

When it comes to resumes, numbers talk. Figures can be extremely telling if what kind of environment you worked in and what results you accomplished.

 

For instance, strategic planning for a $5 million startup tech firm is a different job than strategic planning for a $200 million division of a $1.7 billion consumer products firm. So be specific with business situations when describing duties. This is when you can mention the size of budgets, number of employees and how much a company is worth.

How Far Back Should I Go On My Executive Resume? 4 Rarely-Discussed Strategies

As with most tactical executive resume development questions, the question “How Far Back Should I Go On My Executive Resume?” is no exception in receiving the “It depends” answer. However, these are the X guidelines we use in making decisions on how much do we include and how far do we go back on resumes for executive-level clients with 15 to 35 years of work experience.

 

Generally speaking, we recommend focusing on the most recent 15 years of work experience, but this answer can vary based on each person. The nature of the experience, and the various forms it can take, when compared to the target positions is the main factor in determining if we will consider using the earlier information on a resume:

 
(1) Pedigree of the Organization Pertaining to the Profession:

If the executive job seeker is a CFO with a CPA credential, and the earlier experience is working at Coopers & Lybrand in 1990, then we have left it on for someone with this background. The reason for this decision is the caliber of this company, that has since been merged with Price Waterhouse in 1998 to form PriceWaterhouseCoopers, shows the fine caliber of training and professional development the CFO has had in his/her career. If the caliber of earlier employment is not impressive or communicating quality training, it may be best to be left off the executive resume.

 
(2) Pioneering Status of the Company Pertaining to the Industry:

A leading digital entertainment/media executive may have started their career in the advertising department of MTV.com in the early 1980’s combined with always working for pioneering firms in the marketing, entertainment and digital spaces. Mentioning the start in MTV in a “Prior Experience” section can punctuate this person’s reputation as a consistent thought leader in these industries. If the job seeker has not maintained working for pioneering organizations, it may be best to leave off the early information, as it may unnecessarily date the candidate.

 
(3) Proof of Desirable Traits throughout Career:

This part is particularly essential for career changes, but anyone can really benefit from this if it is relevant. Starting out in my career, I graduated from The Cornell Hotel School and went on to work for the premier hotel chains, Four Seasons Hotels and Pebble Beach Company. What does that have to do with recruiting, executive resume writing and job search coaching? Well, directly? Not much… but I have been hired by staffing firms and currently by clients who see that I have a high-caliber service background that they believe will be carried through in all of my pursuits (and they are right).

 

This top quality and service mentality is something that is pervasive in everything I decide to do. When job seekers have experience that demonstrates these desirable traits by the organizations that hired them and experiences they have had, and it is relevant to a career change or promotion, we can decide to include earlier experiences that show this pattern.

 
(4) Industry or Profession Dictate Best Practice:

Some industries, such as healthcare, value their executives to have more experience than less, so we go back to college graduation, no matter how far back it is. While advertising industries can value the new experiences, so we focus on the most recent accomplishments in the document. Based on the candidates target job prospects, we look at what will be most relevant and helpful to showcase what is valued by that industry and profession.

Chapter 6

Graphs, Text Boxes and Tables

While not always necessary, graphs, text boxes and tables are a means to present your achivements quickly and effectively to prospective employer.

 

Remember that your resume has only seconds to make an impression and stand out.

 

While I don't advocate these design elements for every resume, they can be very effective depending on your role or industry.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), the software that is behind all of your online applications, has come a long way, but it still does not work well with graphical components. Items such as tables or special character bullets or shapes, do not come through well when you apply online. Use MS Word borders and shading functions to create simple, digestible graphical elements that will work in most of today’s applicant systems.

 

In order to get around this, you can apply using a PDF version of your resume – but know that you may lose the keyword optimization strengths going this route. Another option is to have a simple version to use specifically for applying online. You can create a graphic-free version of your resume by removing the non-text elements and saving it as a .txt file. This file is as bare as you can get – and it will show you if any additional items need to be removed.

 

Similarly, when you apply to a position via email, you should minimize the graphical elements. You never know how the recruiter or hiring manager will be opening/viewing your resume, so it’s best to be on the safe side to ensure a visually appealing resume – instead of a garbled mess.

Chapter 7

Education

Last but not least is the Education section of your resume.

 

In this section you're going to want to include education, certifications and other training when relevant.

 

You can choose to include dates for degrees over 15- 20 years old, but be consistent in what you choose to include or exclude.

 

Remember GPA's do matter in financial industries.

Chapter 8

Next Steps

So reading through our guide you might be thinking what's next?

 

Ask yourself...

 

"Am I a dedicated DIY'er or do I need support from an experienced team of executive resume writing professionals?" 

 

Our proven 4-stage META Job Landing SystemTM, which draws from our experience as corporate recruiters, executive search firm recruiters, and Fortune 500 HR consultants, organizes your executive job search into focused stages.

 

Master the techniques behind presenting powerful documents, conducting impactful outreach, delivering unforgettable interviews, and confidently negotiating an incredible offer.

Choosing the Best Executive Resume Writer for You

When researching and selecting the best professional resume writer for you, I suggest that you find an employment and job search expert with both practical recruiting experience and executive resume writing expertise. Real world hiring experience held by the resume contributed heavily to the job seeker’s success. Use the following criteria in hiring an executive resume writer:

 

• Have they been a search firm and/or corporate recruiting experience in their past career? What real world hiring and recruiting expertise do they have? How recent is that expertise?

• Have they worked directly with ATS systems before and understand how resumes look in applicant tracking systems. Will know how to format your resume accordingly?

• Do they provide resume samples for you to review their work?

• How familiar are they with your industry?

• Do they know and teach effective job search tactics and understand the resume’s role in that process to ensure the document is optimized and designed effectively?

• Do they have articulated results from their resumes and job search techniques?

• How many professional resume, job search and career certifications do they have? Do they belong to career and HR related organizations?

• What is their resume development and coaching process? Do you work with the writer one-on-one who help you invest in your resume package? Does the writer do all the work themselves or collaborate with a team behind them, but you still have the writer as your point person? Does the person who sold you the package partner you up with another writer on their team from the start? Are you filling out questionnaires only? Do you get to speak to the writer throughout the process?

• How familiar is your writer about social media and marketing skills? How prominent of a social media presence do they have? Do you find them easily in many corners of the internet? (LinkedIn, , Google Search, Facebook, Twitter, etc…)

• Is their business model a high-volume operation (low-cost subsidized by high volume of clients) or a low-volume operation (higher cost with a lower volume of clients)? Do you need personalized attention? Higher priced resume writers will be able to spend more time with the client on custom materials whereas the lower priced resume writer will pull in client information into a template to accommodate many clients.

• Do they charge for a detailed evaluation or offer free evaluations that cite common resume ailments? A detailed evaluation takes time and a busy writer, aka one that is in-demand, will charge for that detailed evaluation and give you actionable items to fix.

• What services are included and what additional services do they offer to ensure you can use the resume properly to land a job?

• Do they offer a guarantee? Executive resume writers will not make promises they cannot keep or guarantee what they cannot control (i.e. market conditions and job seeker efforts). If they are genuinely interested in your success, they will not sign you on as a client if they believe they cannot help you to generate results.

Lisa Rangel and The Chameleon Team are the only executive resume writing, LinkedIn profile development and job landing consultancy that has been hired by LinkedIn, recognized by Forbes and created the
4-Stage META Job Landing System stemming from our 100+ years of recruiting expertise.

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