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How to Write a Resume to go from Leader to C-Suite

Ready to make the leap from executive to the C-Suite? Check out these tips from our executive resume writers to elevate your resume and career.
How to Write a Resume to go from Leader to C-Suite

As a leader, you have a lot of experience and expertise to offer organizations. But how do you get your foot in the door for those coveted C-suite jobs? By writing a resume that highlights your unique skills and achievements, and by branding yourself as a leader in your industry. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Start with a summary.

This is your chance to briefly introduce yourself and explain why you would be the perfect candidate for the job. A resume summary is your chance to briefly introduce yourself and explain why you are the perfect candidate for the job. People will skim your resume, so including a summary enables them to get your elevator pitch. Use this opportunity to convey an impactful message that will set the tone for your interviews.

A resume summary should be short and to the point. It should be about 3-4 sentences long and should be included at the top of your resume. The purpose of a resume summary is to give employers a snapshot of who you are as an executive and what you can bring to the table. When writing your resume summary, you should keep the following things in mind:

  • Your experience: As an executive, you likely have a lot of experience under your belt. Your resume summary is not the time to go into detail about everything you have done in your career. Instead, focus on highlighting your most relevant experience and accomplishments.
  • Your skills: In addition to experience, it is important to highlight your skills in your resume summary. What makes you stand out from other executives? What unique skills and perspective can you bring to the role?
  • Your goals: Lastly, your resume summary should include information about your goals. What are you looking to accomplish in this new role? How will this position help you achieve those goals?

2. Focus on your leadership roles

No one starts out in the C-Suite, but the best executives know how to tell their story with a focus on the most relevant details. This means consolidating your older roles and spending the bulk of your resume on the executive positions that you have held. Be ready to tell your progression, but people in the C-Suite know that those older roles don't matter when it comes to landing their next role.

There are a few reasons why you should focus on your leadership roles when applying for jobs in the C-Suite. First, executives know that older roles aren't as relevant as more recent ones. Second, they want to see a clear progression in your career. Lastly, they want to hear about your successes in a leadership role.

When it comes to applying for jobs in the C-Suite, it is clear that more recent roles are more relevant than older ones. This is because the skills and experiences that you gained in those earlier roles might not be applicable to the executive position that you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a job as a Chief Financial Officer, an executive position that requires significant experience with financial reports and forecasting, then a previous role as a customer service representative isn't going to be as relevant as a role in which you managed a team of financial analysts.

In addition to wanting to see more recent roles on your resume, executives also want to see a clear progression in your career. They want to know that you have taken on more responsibility over time and that you have been successful in each role. For instance, if you are applying for a job as a Chief Operating Officer, they will want to see previous roles in which you managed multiple departments or oversaw large-scale projects.

Finally, when executives are reviewing resumes, they want to see examples of successes in leadership roles. They want to know that you have been able to successfully manage teams and accomplish goals. Therefore, it is important to include specific examples of successes from your previous leadership roles on your resume.

3. Use data to highlight your achievements

As a leader, you are expected to bring tangible results. So use data from your previous roles to show just how effective you have been. Organizations of all sizes are using data to make decisions and are now looking for leaders that know how to gather and apply data. Thus, moving into the C-Suite now requires demonstrating that data-driven approach on your resume.

Data is a powerful tool that can help you demonstrate your achievements and successes. When used effectively, data can show just how impactful you have been in your previous roles. Here are some tips on how to use data to highlight your achievements:

  • Choose the right metric: Not all data is created equal. When selecting the data that you will use to highlight your achievements, make sure you choose a metric that is relevant and impactful. For example, if you are trying to demonstrate your sales abilities, choosing a metric like 'number of sales calls made' would not be as effective as choosing a metric like 'sales increase year over year.'
  • Tell a story: Raw data is not particularly interesting or compelling on its own. To really capture people's attention, you need to tell a story with your data. Find the trends and patterns in your data and use them to craft a narrative that demonstrates your successes.
    For example, let's say you increased sales by 20% last year. You could tell the story of how you identified the key areas that needed improvement and then implemented strategies that led to the desired results.
    Or maybe you decreased costs by 10%. You could tell the story of how you worked with different teams to find areas where cuts could be made without affecting quality or service levels.
    The possibilities are endless - it's up to you to find the most interesting way to tell your story!
  • Make it visually appealing: No one wants to look at a huge spreadsheet full of numbers. When presenting your data, make sure it is visually appealing and easy to understand. Use charts and graphs to clearly depict trends and patterns. If possible, include images or other visual elements to really capture people's attention.

By following these tips, you can ensure that your data makes a positive impact and helps you achieve your career goals.

4. Don't forget the details

While you want to focus on your broad accomplishments, don't forget the little things that make you stand out. Providing the context of what you did to obtain the achievements reflected in the data is just as important as the numbers on your resume. These add credibility to your experience and show that you are not just a one-dimensional leader. Here are some ways to include the details for your achievements:

  • Management style. Include details about how you manage people, what approach works best, and how that engages your team. This helps to explain how you guide them through the challenges and reached the desired outcome.
  • Team and Project Approach. Provide details on the size of your team, the people on it, and what methodologies were used in managing the teams.
  • Partners & Vendors. Who were the organizations or vendors involved in the initiative? What was your role in working with them? What results did they see and how did you influence or otherwise hold the external stakeholders accountable in the process?

5. Brand yourself as an expert in your field.

Writing articles, speaking at conferences, or teaching courses related to your areas of expertise. These activities will not only make you more visible within your industry, but they will also show potential employers that you are passionate about what you do and that you are always looking to learn more and stay ahead of the curve.

6. Highlight your board experience

If you have served on boards, this is a great way to show that you have the experience and gravitas to be a C-suite executive. Be sure to include the name of the organization, your role on the board, and any significant achievements.

In terms of style, the entries for your board experience on your resume can look slightly different from your professional experience. For some, it makes sense to simply list the roles and organizations. For others, it makes more sense to include the details about the organizations and your results with the board. The key is to remember that this section should reflect your overall message and not depart from your core themes as an executive leader.  

7. Tailor your resume for each job

With so much experience, it can be tempting to create a generic resume and send it out to multiple organizations. But this is a surefire way to get rejected. C-suite hiring committees are looking for leaders who are the right fit for their organization, so take the time to tailor your resume and highlight the experiences that are most relevant to the job.

8. Get help from a professional

Writing a resume is not easy, especially when you are trying to land a C-suite job. You have a lot on your plate as an executive and often delegate things to accomplish your goals. Writing your resume is no different. Many executives will get professional help to build their resumes so they can focus on what matters most in their job search.

Working with executive resume writers like The Contingent Plan can make a huge difference in your search. They specialize in building the perfect message and they know the best practices. So don't be afraid to get help from a professional resume writer. They can help you craft a resume that will get you noticed by the right people.

Follow these tips and you'll be on your way to writing a resume that will help you land the C-suite job of your dreams.