If you’re writing or updating your resume, you’ll find a plethora of articles on the topic. However, few pieces cater to the specific needs of executives with lengthy careers and impressive accolades. Consequently, as a career coach specializing in senior managers and executives, I frequently get asked questions about the nuances of writing an executive resume, including:
- “How do you write an executive-level resume?”
- “Do I need an executive summary on my resume?”
- “What do I include in an executive resume?”
- “How long should my resume be if I’m an executive?”
- “Are there mistakes to avoid when writing an executive resume?”
These are just a few of the many questions I receive about executive resumes. Continue reading to get these questions (and more) answered.
7 Tips For Writing An Executive Resume
1. Begin with an executive summary.
To start, recruiters only spend a handful of seconds reviewing your resume on the first pass (yes, humans read your resume, not bots). Thus, you want to begin your resume with an executive summary (also known as a career summary or professional summary) that consolidates your qualifications for the role you are applying for.
You can use your executive summary to briefly speak to the following:
- Career highlights and major wins
- Major awards and media mentions
- The names of companies you’ve worked at
- Relevant knowledge and skills
- Education, advanced training, and credentials
2. Highlight your years of experience.
Next, executive-level roles require candidates with an impressive track record of success, and your resume needs to reflect one. While many professional resume writers and career coaches recommend only listing the past 10 years of work history on your resume, this advice is ill-advised when you are applying for an executive role that mandates 15 or 20+ years of experience.
At a minimum, your resume needs to list at least the number of years of experience stated in the job posting. Better yet, include all your relevant work history on your resume, then summarize your early career.
3. Think twice about resume length.
Another common myth is that your resume needs to be a single page in length. Given the demands placed on executives these days, you will likely need more than a page to effectively convey your experience, accomplishments, qualifications, education, and skills.
For context, more than 95% of the resumes I partner with senior managers and executives to develop are two pages in length, and some even extend to a third page.
To put it simply, you are doing yourself a disservice if you submit a one-page resume for an executive-level role.
4. Use action verbs strategically.
While action verbs should be strategically deployed in all resumes, you need to be particularly mindful of the ones you include in an executive resume, as your brand becomes increasingly important as you climb the leadership ladder.
You want to replace any weaker verbs, such as “assisted” or “supported,” as they fail to articulate your impact and leadership process. Stick to more precise action verbs that clearly explain your specific role as well as how your efforts transformed the company.
5. Focus on your accomplishments and value.
Speaking of the language you include on your resume, you also need to effectively convey the influence you have had over the tenure of your career. You want to avoid the mistake of crafting a resume that mirrors your job description. Instead, use your resume to highlight your career accomplishments and biggest wins, using numbers and percentages whenever possible and appropriate.
6. Communicate your unique value proposition (fabulousness).
Securing an interview and landing a role as an executive is about more than simply being able to do the job at hand. You must also articulate what sets you apart from fellow applicants. Therefore, your executive resume needs to communicate your unique value proposition, or as I like to call it, your fabulousness. When writing about your accomplishments, for instance, speak about your distinct approach or methodology.
7. Inject your personality.
Another way to highlight your fabulousness is to add some of your personality to your resume. Speaking to your personality is particularly important as a leader, as you will be the face of your department, division, or organization and want to provide the hiring team with a sense of what it will be like to work with you.
Importantly, though, you don’t want your personality to overshadow your experience and accomplishments, so be mindful of what you ultimately include in your resume.
On a final note, if you’re feeling stuck as you craft your executive-level resume, consider partnering with a career coach to support you. You only get one first impression, so you want to make it the best one possible. You’ve got this!