As an executive, you may believe that your experience and reputation precede you when throwing your hat into the ring for a potential new job. While that's true to some extent, you still cannot avoid putting together an executive resume – and that resume is a key element in your successful quest for the position.
Of course, an executive resume is often different than one where someone is applying for an entry-level job or a mid-level position. Executives, for example, have reached a level in their careers where they are able to show their distinct value to a company or industry, and potential employers want to know more about it.
In addition, companies expect those at the executive level to provide some concrete ideas about how they will use their talents to make the company more successful or competitive – or even solve some specific problems.
"Hiring managers have short attention spans and do not want to be overwhelmed with everything a candidate can do. As a recruiter or hiring manager reads your resume, they want to know, 'Can you do what I need done?'" writes Lisa Rangel of Chameleon Resume.
With that in mind, here are some ways to make sure your executive resume stands out:
1. Use numbers
If you increased sales by 35 percent in the first two years of leading a division, say so. An executive resume is going to be read by other executives – they're going to be looking for someone who can state that he or she had specific goals and met or exceeded them.
A critical note here: Don't fudge numbers. A company may (and most likely, will) ask for proof of your claims. You must quantify the accomplishments you profile on your resume!
Once you've got an executive resume in hand, don't think your work is done. In fact, you'll need to customize the resume for every job you apply for (hopefully, this won't be news to you). Don't focus on the number of obscure tech programs you know when you're going for a top position in sales.
"A succinct resume summary at the top of your document bears out your most important attributes as they relate to a particular position," states John Krautzel, vice president of marketing and member experience at Nexxt, Inc.
PS: You can customize a resume with LiveCareer, via their Resume Builder.
3. Embrace your passion
Gone are the days when executives were expected to function like heartless machines. Executives like Virgin Group co-founder Richard Branson and Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett are known for their success, but they're also not afraid to talk about things that excite them. Can you imagine Buffett saying in his executive resume that he "works with money?" Does that convey the drive he's had for decades to build his business and success?
You want to show passion for what you do – employers aren't going to want someone who seems bored or indifferent about the job, especially at the executive level.
4. Avoid word-for-word templates
"Resumes are meant to be a genuine reflection of who YOU are—not some random person on the Internet," says Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, president and CEO of Great Resumes Fast. Templates can be a good roadmap, and they can provide a solid backbone for you to build upon, but again, customization is key to helping your unique abilities stand out in your executive resume.
5. Avoid clichés
Each year LinkedIn releases a list of the most overused words from the professional profiles of it its 400 million users. Here are the words for 2018!
6. Satisfy the ATS
An applicant tracking system (ATS) is used by employers to initially scan a submitted executive resume. This means that you need to be aware of common ATS systems or your resume may never make it through to a human being.
James Hu, the founder of Jobscan, advises that while there can be various systems, you can improve your chances by using keywords often present in a job description. Hu explains you must use exact keywords – don't change the tense of the word or make it a plural when it has been used as a singular.
7. Don't be boring
"If content is king, then aesthetic value is queen," says Debra Wheatman, president of Careers Done Write. "I would stay away from Times New Roman. That's the sweatpants of font." It's also okay to use charts or graphs – visual elements can help you stand out and attract attention. The important thing here is to not go overboard.
8. Don't be too concise
You probably started the early part of your career hearing that a resume should only be one page. But when you've got at least a decade's worth of experience, it's okay to have a two-page resume. Still, don't try to cram everything you've ever done into those two pages – you still want to write a compelling yet concise story of your career, one that fits an employer's needs.
For additional guidance on this topic, check out this LiveCareer article: The Scoop on Resume Length: How Long Should My Resume Be?
9. Leave the 1980s behind
Avoid looking like a dinosaur by updating your resume with an email address that isn't AOL or Yahoo; listing your cell phone rather than your home phone; and ditching your scholarships or honors you collected in college, advises Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers. Also, add your LinkedIn URL to your name and contact information section, and don't include your home address here.
Safani also advises using an updated version of Microsoft Word (after 2003), or the formatting could be wonky when it's sent to the employer. Also, create a PDF resume out of the Word document you create, and send that in with your other application materials.
Also, don't include an objective section. Resume objectives are outdated and have been replaced by the resume summary section. I touched on this above but it stands to be reiterated.
Finally, an executive resume should address your leadership abilities, such fiscal oversight, strategic initiatives, staff training, or employee development. Most companies looking for an executive will also be interested in how you've worked with internal and external stakeholders, as well as experience in partnerships or collaborative efforts with outside organizations.
Peruse the LiveCareer selection of executive resume samples, or check out an executive resume template for Word, complete with writing guidelines.