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What to Include in an Executive Resume

The term "executive" covers a lot of ground as a job category, and the information you include in your resume will understandably be specific to your career path, education, and work experience. Since no two careers are the same, no two resumes are the same. There's not just one right way to craft an executive resume, but there are some common structural similarities no matter what format you decide to use.

The chronological resume style is the most commonly used and most familiar to hiring managers. It's well suited for those with no employment gaps and a traditional career path. It allows you to list your previous employment in reverse chronological order with 3-5 bullet points indicating accomplishments for each job. The recommended sections for this format are:

    • Contact info (name/phone number/email)
    • Resume summary
    • Work experience
    • Skills
    • Education

If, however, you have a difficult-to-explain employment gap, you're making a career shift, or you've held countless highly similar jobs, the functional format may provide you the opportunity to focus more on your achievements than on previous employers. You'll insert a section solely for accomplishments between the summary and work experience sections. By creating 6-8 bullet points that focus on your transferable skills and accomplishments that are applicable to the open position, you can guide the employer to visualize you as a part of their organization. The sections of a functional resume differ slightly from the chronological:

    • Contact info (name/phone/email)
    • Resume summary
    • Accomplishments (new section)
    • Work experience
    • Skills
    • Education

You can review executive resume samples in both of the above-mentioned formats as well as a combination style, which brings together the best of both worlds.

How to Write the Executive Resume Summary Statement

While every section of your resume is important, since the resume summary comes first, it bears much of the burden of capturing a potential employer's interest and encouraging them to continue to read. As a short paragraph of only 2-3 sentences, every word counts.

In addition to reviewing executive resume samples to see how a well-crafted summary is written, you should refer to the job description for insights into what talents the employer is looking for. While you may be very proud of your financial analytical abilities, if the employer is looking for someone with strong negotiating skills or market research experience, that's what you should lead with. There's room later on to tout your other talents, but with the resume summary, you want to draw them in by mirroring their requirements.

In addition to the executive resume samples you have at hand, here are two examples of resume summary statements related to different business sectors:

Sales manager with over 15 years of experience in increasingly senior roles; responsible for preparing budgets, analyzing sales statistics, and assigning territories and setting difficult but attainable sales quotas. Planned training for sales staff to enable their success and profits for the company. Determined sales potential and inventory requirements that satisfied customer needs without warehousing excess product, saving on shipping and storage.

Experienced executive director at a mid-sized manufacturing organization who was responsible for establishing policies and procedures aimed at meeting corporate goals. Coordinated operational activities resulting in cost-cutting measures, improved performance, and gained approval of the board of directors. Dividend payments increased each year by at least seven percent.

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How to Write the Executive Work Experience Section

The chronological, functional, or combination format styles contain some commonalities, but the work experience section is where they have pointed differences. So if you haven't made up your mind as to which format you'd like to use, now is the time. It won't hurt to review format styles of executive resume samples to see how best you can highlight your work history for a potential employer. There's no right or wrong choice, just what feels right for your situation.

For the chronological style, each job, with the most recent job first, will be a sub-heading, like:

ABC Products - Cleveland, OH
January 2007 - Current

The fewer jobs you identify, the more bullet points you should use to identify your accomplishments. At an absolute minimum, each position should have at least 3 stated accomplishments in the form of a problem/a solution/the result. Keep in mind that your goal is to become the employee the company is looking for, so do your best to match your accomplishments to the requirements stated on the job description. Whenever possible, try to show quantifiable results.

In the functional format, the added "Accomplishments" section will contain at least 6-8 accomplishments with measurable results. The advantage is you don't have to stick to a chronological profile, nor do you have to link your accomplishments to specific employers. This can work in your favor if you're considering a career change or if you have accomplishments that run across several positions.

In a functional format, because the highlights of your work history will reside in the accomplishments section, the work experience section will be a simple list of previous jobs. In this format, you don't have to include employment dates, which will help you avoid any employment gap issues.

Action Verbs to Include in Your Executive Work Experience Section

As an executive, you want your future employer to build a dynamic image of you in their minds. Use action verbs to make this a reality. Following are some action verbs that apply to executive positions:

    • Establish
    • Direct
    • Manage
    • Consult
    • Negotiate
    • Appoint
    • Analyze
    • Identify
    • Formulate
    • Collaborate
    • Oversee
    • Plan
    • Evaluate
    • Initiate
    • Develop
    • Create
    • Determine
    • Resolve
    • Project
    • Assign

While this list is provided to prompt active descriptions of what you do, you can certainly find more by quickly scanning executive resume samples.

How to Write the Executive Skills Section

You may think you're beyond listing your skills on a resume, but if you don't take this section as seriously as the others, you'll be missing an opportunity to impress. Technical Skills can include supply chain management or strategy and planning software, which are valuable at the executive level.

Interpersonal/Personal Skills are considered valuable as well, as they provide a snapshot of who you are and how you manage. Once again, refer to executive resume samples and the job description for inspiration. You'll recognize those good qualities in yourself when you see them, and you want to make sure the potential employer sees them too.

Examples for you consideration include:

    • Critical thinking
    • Conflict management
    • Establishment and enforcement of organizational standards
    • Relationship building with supporting departments
    • Conduct of market research

How to Write the Executive Education Section

At the highest level of executive positions, especially if a company hires from the outside, they'll often begin their search looking for an MBA with extensive experience. For most executive positions in sales, marketing, or advertising, a bachelor's degree combined with industry experience is enough, but any additional courses of study that are industry related should be mentioned.

Your education section should begin with your formal education, listing your highest degree obtained first. The employer simply needs to know the school/school location/degree.

An additional sub-heading, if applicable, might be "In-house Training or On-going Education." Many organizations offer management development courses or advanced executive education, and if you've been beneficiary of any programs of this type they are certainly worth mentioning.

You might also want to consider a subheading of "Certifications/Affiliations." While most executives or high level managers don't require certification, depending on the industry in which you work, there could be certifications earned along the way that would indicate commitment to your occupation. The same goes for memberships in industry organizations.
TIP: Need a cover letter? Click here to view our Executive Resume Samples.

Should I Include References in my Executive Resume

If you look at the executive resume samples you've identified, you won't find references listed on any of them. For one thing, they take up important resume space, when the simple statement "References available upon request" is more than enough.

On the plus side, you'll know the potential employer is interested when they request your references. You can call the people on your list to give them a heads-up, and you can ask them to let you know if and when they receive a call. Take that opportunity to find out what kind of questions were asked and how they think the call went. This could be valuable information for a job seeker.

Your references should be Managers or Directors to whom you've reported or peers in other departments with whom you've worked closely. In certain cases, if you're not bound by a non-compete agreement, using a client, especially one that might appeal to the employer, could be a plus.

Executive Resume Fails: Mistakes to Avoid

    • Since many organizations have implemented applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan for keywords and cull those resumes without them, it's important to be cognizant of the words used in the employer's job description. They're probably the keywords that will get you past the automated gatekeeper, so mirror them where you can. It's a fact of life that you're probably writing for an ATS as much as you're writing for a potential employer.
    • Another issue with ATS's is that they're easily confused by fancy formatting like embedded tables and graphics. If you submit your resume electronically, it's likely it will run through an ATS first, and if the system can't read it, it will get kicked out. Keeping it simple is always good advice.
    • There likely have been times in your career when you've been reading a document, and you've found a typo or a mistake. Without making a conscious decision, your opinion of the author probably went down a notch. Don't let that happen to you. Proofread once. Then proofread again. If at all possible, ask a friend to proofread.
    • If it's been a while since you updated your resume, you'll be doing yourself a disservice if you don't check out executive resume samples to see what's changed in the resume world. If you're a seasoned professional, you still want to present yourself as up-to-date, even in the composition and format of your resume. 

Job Prospects in the Executive Industry

      According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected employment growth for all occupations from 2012 to 2022 is 11 percent. The three main categories of executives shown below are very much in line with the projected average growth.
Top Executives

      The employment of top executives is projected to grow about as fast the average for all occupations. Growth will be determined by industry and rate of industry growth. The expansion of existing organizations and the formation of new ones will create a corresponding demand. There will be strong competition for jobs, and at the highest level, those with an advanced degree and extensive experience will be most competitive.
      The categories in this job classification and their corresponding projected growth for the same period include:
        General and operations managers - 12 percent

Top executives - 11 percent
Chief executives - 5 percentAdvertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

      In the marketing sector, advertising and promotions manager positions are projected to grow at 7 percent. While the position will continue to be essential, the platform is shifting. Newspaper publishers are in decline, but the increase in the use of electronic media will require digital advertising. Those with digital skills will fair better in the job market.
      Employment of marketing managers is projected to grow slightly above the average, at 13 percent. Marketing managers will continue to be necessary for organizations that want to expand their market share and to attract specific customers.
Sales Managers

      The employment growth of sales managers is projected to be 8 percent, but will be determined by the expansion or contraction in the particular industry. With the increase of online shopping, there will be more emphasis on business-to-business sales than individual customers. Because an effective sales department is a revenue generator, sales is viewed as a critical function. It's unlikely that these jobs will be sent offshore.