How to Write an Executive Resume for 2022
An executive resume requires a unique approach to connect with the right decision-makers. You need to convey your past experiences and connect that message with your overall leadership brand. The way that companies fill their senior-level leadership and C-Suite positions has changed through the pandemic. Here is what you need to know to build an effective executive resume in 2022.
What an Executive Resume Should Be
An executive resume is a marketing document. It needs to be well-written and succinct. Your executive resume should convey your prior experience in a way that positions you for the job you want next - not merely report on your history. This means that your executive resume should highlight your unique value proposition. Those pillars are the foundation for your interviews and need to be on the executive resume to make it to the next step in the hiring process.
Your executive resume should also be focused on your leadership message. The document should be no more than 2 - 3 pages. And, it should focus on the most recent, relevant details while also providing a full snapshot of your career history.
Use the Right Format
Executives will pursue their career moves through a variety of avenues - networking, recruiters, and applying to jobs. When networking, you may not want to send your full resume to your contacts. Instead, you may simply need a professional bio that conveys those big talking points. A professional bio is basically a brochure that is designed and helps to visualize your message. The professional bio is also used by executives for speaking and to pursue board seats where the organization does not require a full resume.
Regardless of the strength of your network, all executives will end up going through the HR process at some point in the hiring process. That means that you will also need an executive resume that is optimized for the applicant tracking systems (ATS). This means that the resume should not be highly designed or contain a lot of formatting. Instead, it is the words on the page that matter most. Here, you will want to detail the results and experiences that you have. And, you will need to make sure that the keywords on the resume match up with the job and company that you are in conversations with.
Bullet Points or Narrative?
Good executive resumes include both bullet points and narrative sections. You do this because different people will look for different things on a resume. Remember that you are not building this executive resume for yourself as a hiring manager. Instead, you are building it for many others and all of those people will be skimming your resume.
Build your executive resume so that it is easy to skim. Do this by identifying the intent and purpose of each part of your resume. Make sure that every sentence is clear and not longer than 2 lines. Narrative sections should be no longer than 4 - 6 sentences. Bulleted sections should be 4 - 8 bullets each.
To make the most of each line on your resume, make sure that each line conveys a different concept or result. This will make your overall message stronger and enable you to cover more ground in a shorter length.
Emphasize Relevant Details
Your executive resume should not be a comprehensive history of your career. Only include the details that are relevant to the job you want next. And, make sure that you can back up those claims with data or stories.
One way to emphasize the most relevant details is through a skills-based approach. This will require you to identify which skills are most important to the job you want and then list them prominently on your resume. You can do this by putting them in a special section or grouping them together at the top of your resume.
This is not to say that you should have a functional-style resume. Instead, the best executive resumes are a hybrid style. Meaning that the hybrid executive resume has a highlights section to pull those skills and foundational concepts forward. However, the hybrid resume also has details under the professional experience entries that are most recent (typically the last 10 - 15 years). The older roles will be included on the resume, but they may not have details under those positions.
The reason for this format is to maximize the performance against the ATS. The hybrid resume will also help you to stand out as a leader because it makes it easier to compare you to other candidates. Your unique value propositions are clear and easily identifiable right away in this format. And, the people who want to know what you did at a particular organization will also be able to see that information clearly with this hybrid-style resume.
Quantify When Possible
People need numbers to understand the scope of what you did in your past roles. Including numbers on your executive resume is key to helping people in the hiring process to visualize what you have done.
You can include numbers in your resume by using percentages, dollar amounts, or statistics. For example, you may want to say that you "Increased sales by 25% over a two-year period." Or, "Led a team that increased profits by $200,000."
Numbers help to quantify your experience and make it easier for the hiring manager to compare you to other candidates. Sometimes those numbers can make you seem over or underqualified. Be strategic about which numbers you include. And, consider including ranges as well to show the range or versatility of your experience to work in large and smaller environments.
Convey Your Leadership Style
When writing an executive resume, it is important to remember that you are not just selling your skills and experience. You are also selling yourself as a leader.
In order to do this, you will want to focus on your personal brand. This includes your values, mission, and vision. You can also talk about the types of organizations that you are drawn to and the challenges that interest you.
Make sure that all of this information is included on your resume so that hiring managers can get a sense of who you are as a leader. This also means talking explicitly about how many people you have led, the size of the overall organization that you have led, and the talent that you have developed.
In the current talent market, it is particularly important that executives address the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their leadership style. Account for how diversity plays into your leadership style and how you create an inclusive environment that advances equity in your highlights or achievements. Also, consider including bullets about any results that you have achieved as a leader in advancing diverse talent in your prior organizations.
Detail Your Recent Experience
The best executive resumes will also provide details about the responsibilities and daily roles that the person had in their most recent positions. HR and others in the organization may want to know how you did something in the past and whether you have tackled similar challenges to what they are experiencing. You can include this information in clear responsibilities bullets in your executive resume.
Responsibilities for an executive are always about leading their teams to achieve the vision of the organization. This can mean reporting to the board of directors or aligning the resources to achieve the results. Whatever your function was at an organization, remember to frame that day-to-day up in a manner that is relevant to what you want to do in the future. This means that you can downplay the functional things that you want to avoid doing in the future so that you can emphasize the types of things that you would prefer to do.
Connect Your Skills to the Company
Executives are expected to have a relevant message to the types of roles and organizations that they are hoping to lead. This means that you will need to tie that prior experience to the places that you would like to lead in the future. You can do that by explicitly identifying the relevant concepts and keywords on your resume for the types of roles that you are looking at next.
For example, if you want to move into a Chief Operating Officer role in the future, then make sure that all of your skills are relevant to that position. You can do this by including keywords like "operations," "strategy," and "tactics." If you have experience in other industries or functions, you will need to find the keywords that are specific to the organization that you want to work for.
The keywords are essential to the performance of your executive resume. As noted above, your resume will likely be run through the applicant tracking systems. These programs are all driven by keywords and some ATS are highly customizable. So, make sure that you are using the right keywords for the types of jobs that you are applying to and accounting for the variations that the particular organization may use to ensure that you can pass through the HR process.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Last but not least, make sure to proofread your executive resume multiple times before sending it off. Typos and errors will reflect poorly on you and may cost you an opportunity. Present a polished, professional message to best convey your executive message. It seems simple, but many executives forget the basics. Use the spelling and grammar check to make sure that you aren't missing the important basics. And, make sure that all font, font size, and spacing is consistent across the resume. The words on the page matter, but the details about how they are conveyed on your executive resume will also matter.
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