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Executive Resume Writing: 9 Areas to Emphasize at Executive Level

19 Nov, 2018

Executive Resume Writing: 9 Areas to Emphasize at Executive Level

There are numerous checklists out there featuring do’s and don’ts and what to include or not include in a resume. By now most everyone from entry level to executive likely knows that you want to include a summary up top, intersperse keywords throughout and possibly in their own section as well, show accomplishments, and omit statements about “references on request.”

Relevant sections for most all resumes include the previously mentioned Summary, as well as Skills or Core Competencies, Work Experience, Education, and Affiliations. With the executive-level resume comes a subtle shift in emphasis in several areas:

1)  Headline

A headline that encapsulates who you are (e.g., General Management Executive, Marketing Executive, Chief Financial Officer, etc.) and in what you excel makes the range of roles for which you are suited obvious to your reader without spelling out an objective that will be either too generic or pigeonhole you unnecessarily.

2)  Position Scope

The scope of your positions across organizational functions and boundaries, and quantified level of responsibility are looked at more closely. Recruiters will be considering staff size and types/titles of lower level managers and executives supervised, as well as operating and capital budgets.

3)  Company Descriptions

Details about the company you worked for in terms of annual revenues (where this information is not considered proprietary), size in terms of total employees, and markets served and national or global reach are considerations as you are evaluated for potential positions. Serving as VP of a startup is not the same thing as holding a VP role in a multi-billion-dollar Fortune 500 company.

4)  Accomplishments

Focusing on accomplishments versus granular detail about job duties or waxing eloquent about your soft skills becomes more important than ever. Those hiring for executive positions are certainly looking for knowledge and skill sets as well as leadership and team building qualities, as do all hiring professionals.

However, with the executive candidate, concrete evidence of ability to deliver business results is paramount while interest in specifics of day-to-day duties fades. Excessive extolling of personal and leadership qualities will quickly lose your reader’s interest–recruiters I’ve talked with call this “fluff” and say “Don’t tell me, show me!”

5)  Categorization of Your Contributions

Categorize your accomplishments if warranted. Those at earlier career stages typically will not need to do this, but an executive’s scope of responsibility is broader and thus their accomplishment lists can get pretty long. To avoid excessively long bulleted accomplishment lists, group your contributions in an employment entry into categories. This has the added benefit of more clearly delineating the true scope of your role.

6)  Limited Work Chronology

Very briefly summarize or drop early experiences altogether. An executive often has a career spanning two to four decades. Hiring executives are going to be most interested in what happened in the last 10-15 years, and going much beyond that in detailed coverage will almost inevitably make the resume too long.

7)  Employment Dates

Especially at executive level, listing employment entries by month/year let alone day/month/year is not necessary. It is customary to list your work history from year to year (e.g., 2014 – 2017). More details are generally not needed except when completing an employment application.

8)  Professional Affiliations & Activities

Highlighting your membership in functional skill-related or industry organizations becomes more important, as this lends credibility to your status as a respected executive in your field.

9)  Board Service

Similarly, selection to serve on the boards of companies or of humanitarian or community organizations imparts gravitas to your credentials and shows the ability to apply your skills in different settings.

Almost as important as knowing what to include is knowing what does not properly belong in your executive resume. For example, an objective statement which may make sense in some lower level resumes is rarely necessary in an executive’s resume. Here is a list of 13 items you’ll want to leave out of your executive resume.

A quick question: You are hopefully striving to contact and deal directly with recruiters and hiring executives where possible and not routinely sending your resume off into the blue to be lost in someone’s ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) system, aren’t you?

Good for you, if you are. However, realistically, at some point your executive resume will still likely wind up in either the company’s or the recruiting firm’s ATS system.

As critical as keywords are in piquing your reader’s interest and enabling him or her to see you possess important skills for the job, they are especially critical to faring well in the ATS system. (More information on how to write a keyword rich  executive resume.)

One final note: It is important to integrate your keywords and phrases throughout the content of your resume, versus including them only in list form. Many ATS systems (and recruiters) will calculate how many years of experience you have in a particular area by how often they occur in your work history.

Copyrighted — Laurie Smith. May not be used or reproduced without express permission.

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