Crafting a killer resume is hard for most of us. Talking about ourselves in a robust, compelling manner tends to make us feel like cocky braggarts, so we often undersell our capabilities. We get tangled up in the so-called structural rules. We hear that we need to include “the right” key words, but what are they? Who decides which words are the rightest, and which ones are flat-out wrong?
If you’re an executive (or striving to become one), you’ve got one additional level of complexity, and it’s not a small one: You’ve got to make your resume “executive-y” enough so that you can play ball with the big dogs.
It’s not an easy task, but if you’re heading for the C-suite, here are a few reasonably simple tips that will help you position yourself well.
1. Create an Executive Summary
Ding dong, the resume objective is dead, especially if you’re an executive.
Yes, yes, we know. You’re a detail-oriented go-getter with a proven track record of success looking for a rewarding opportunity in a growing organization that values its people. Aren’t we all? Scrap that says-nothing resume objective at the top, and replace it with a hard-hitting executive summary that positions you as a dead-on fit for the types of roles you’re pursuing.
For our executive resume clients, we typically showcase four to five bullet points that highlight the person’s overarching value proposition (or, as we call it, her “So what?”) specific to the target job. For instance, if you’re gunning for a COO role within the manufacturing sector, you certainly may benefit from positioning yourself as an expert in agile methodology and one who has driven significant growth or revenue results. Or, if you know the organization you’re eyeing is struggling, you may want to position yourself as a turnaround specialist (assuming you are one).
This is your most valuable resume real estate. It’s your chance to position yourself as a “smack-in-the-forehead” obvious fit for your next leadership role. Make the most of your executive summary. (Here’s a bit more on how to do it right.)
2. Show Financial and Business Impact, Fast
While qualitative results are nice—and can certainly help the reviewer get a feel for what kind of person you are—decision makers working to fill executive spots are looking for impact. You are not likely to land an executive role for simply being a good guy. You’re going to be hired to make money, drive growth, reduce costs, streamline operations, optimize staff performance, and, well, deliver.
The best way to make it instantly clear that you know how to do this? Show the results. Show the numbers. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is by creating a sub-section within each job you’ve held called “Key Accomplishments” or “Key Highlights.” Bold the most impressive quantitative stuff, so that it’s beyond easy for people to find this information quickly.
3. Include a Core Proficiencies Section (That Screams “Executive”)
Here’s the key words conversation that everyone always wants to have. Now, I’m going to argue that, if you’re an executive, you probably should not be spending much time applying for jobs blindly via online applications. You should be networking. But even if key words aren’t imperative from the standpoint of the resume scanning software, you still need them. You need to showcase core proficiencies that speak to your executive-ness.
While your strengths in Excel and staff supervision may be important, these are not executive-level areas of expertise. You want to, instead, highlight things like employee development, P & L, change management, mergers and acquisitions, process reengineering, global strategy, and so forth. Put these in a standalone section (called “Areas of Expertise” or “Core Proficiencies”) right under your executive summary. And then, if you have technical skills that you feel are still vital to your future role? Note them at the end of the resume in a section called “Technical Skills.”
4. Choose Highlights That Align With Your Target Role
By the time you get to executive level, you surely have much to be proud of professionally. You probably have a lot of accomplishments that you are (understandably) dying to share. But it’s important to not overstuff your executive resume. This isn’t an autobiography, it’s a marketing document. It’s a marketing document you’re using to entice a specific audience. That said, you should share the career highlights that best align with the specific needs or requirements of the roles you’re targeting. Leave off the fluff, and leave off the highlights that won’t likely matter that much to your next role.
If you’re ready to play in the big leagues, give yourself a solid advantage at the front end.
Look the part.