Once you reach the upper levels of your line of work, competition for executive roles becomes fierce. In the interview seat, you'll have the chance to prove that you have the attitude and temperament for a leadership position. But for the best chance of landing an interview, the first step is a logical, engaging resume that illustrates all you've accomplished.
1. Make your case
Summarize with style
The executive summary section is where your resume should truly shine. It could be your first and last chance to make an impression, since recruiters may only give your resume a six-second glance.
Use this section to (briefly) outline your experience and qualifications. If the job description places a strong emphasis on years of experience, emphasize that you meet or exceed that requirement.
Pay close attention to specific skills the employer mentions and tailor your summary to that list. You may be a software designer with a broad skill set that includes several languages, but the company or organization might be focused on finding someone with experience in a specific language.
Emphasize that specific skill in your resume to catch the hiring manager's eye.
Let the numbers do the talking
A list of specific accomplishments will highlight that you know how to make an impact. Get creative with your accomplishments, such as numbering how many:
- Customers you served in your role
- People, projects, or teams you managed
- Bids you've won
Show them the money
Dollar signs stand out on a resume. Even details about a company's annual revenue can be helpful context. A potential employer will be looking for indications that your past roles make you a good match. When possible, highlight details such as:
- Monetary budgets you've managed
- Revenue you've generated
- Amount of money you've saved a company
Use percentages to quantify how much you've improved efficiency or use measurable timelines to show how far ahead of schedule you completed a project. If you improved a process that shortened the length of time it takes to complete a task, now's your chance to shine. After all, with senior positions often come senior salaries — and employers want to know you're a worthwhile investment.
2. Be specific to get noticed
Ditch the generic jargon
As you rise through the ranks of your industry, requirements for advanced positions become much more specific. Even if the title looks like a broad generalization, pay close attention to the job details and highlight whenever your experience matches the specific skill set they're searching for.
Here's an example: the title for "marketing manager" could mean different things at different companies. Let's say you're an email marketer who's dabbled in social marketing, but this organization places heavy emphasis on social media. You should include plenty of details about your specific experience with a Facebook marketing project, for example.
Beat the bots with keywords
Many companies use recruiters to find qualified candidates. If you're applying for a position with the government or in a larger company, those recruiters will probably use a computer to quickly identify resumes that contain the appropriate keywords. They may rule out resumes that don't include the keywords without reviewing them.
Resume Builder Pro Tip: Pay attention to industry standards for your profession. You may want to align your skills and experience to achievements and terminology that are industry-wide. Recruiters use keyword searches to seek candidates who meet their role requirements before accepting resume submissions.
With a keyword-rich resume, recruiters can easily find and contact you about other roles you might be interested in. Many employers also use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to weed out resumes that fail their keyword searches. Be sure you make the cut!
Research the company culture (and fit right in)
Employers are looking for more than the perfect skill set — they want to understand your leadership and work styles and gauge whether you're an overall fit for the company. Be on the lookout for indicators of company culture. Some companies have adopted a specific project management methodology and may strongly prefer candidates with experience in it. If you have this background, display it prominently in your resume.
3. Choose a relevant format
Build a (backwards) timeline
For an executive position, choose a chronologically-ordered resume that takes the reader on a journey through your career, walking back in time to show how you got here. Early in your career, your newly minted degree was your primary qualification. At that stage, career counselors might have advised you to display your education prominently at the top of your resume. However, once you decide to reach for a high-level position, expectations change. You'll need to adjust your resume's format accordingly.
The further you advance, the more important your experience will become. If you're applying for a more advanced job, listing education at the top will suggest that you don't have noteworthy career accomplishments to highlight.
Resume Builder Pro Tip: Check out our Resume Templates for formats that match your industry and experience levels. For job seekers looking for an advanced position, we recommend using the Professional, Acclaimed, Distinguished, or Esteemed templates. We also offer a combination format for candidates with longer career histories and a number of Executive Resume Samples from different industries.
Find your ideal length
At the executive level, you're no longer looking at a one-page resume. At this point, it would be impossible (and inadvisable) to compress your experience and credentials down without omitting valuable information.
Still, the advice is rooted in wisdom – limit your job history and skills to make room for the ones that are most relevant to the job you seek. For instance, at the executive level, don't include internships, part-time college jobs, or entry-level positions. Common practice suggests limiting your job history to the last 15 years. However, if you've recently made a career change, devote your job history section to your relevant new industry.
As you build your resume for a more advanced job, make sure the finished product is clear, concise, and easy to navigate. With our Resume Builder, you'll find the best resume formats, guidelines on what information you should include, and built-in style suggestions for details like typeface, font size, and headers.