If you’re like most leadership professionals, you aren’t sure where to start when writing or updating your resume. You might search online for examples in your field or just start jotting down thoughts. Either way, the task can seem daunting, especially if you are trying to convey your true strengths, personal brand and competencies.
Within today’s aggressive career marketplace, the tone and leadership message of your resume must be carefully designed in order to generate an impressive presentation.
Consider the following five strategies when creating an executive resume that is designed to gain more attention and speed up your search:
1 - Position the Key Details First
All too often, critical information is buried on the second page of a resume. Remember that the top half of the first page is prime real estate for your strongest credentials. That’s where you’ll need a tightly worded summary that reflects your qualifications and closely aligns with your precise job target.
Profiles that gain the most attention include distinguishing information. This includes references to expertise in a target industry, accomplishments, prominent degrees and special abilities.
Here’s an example focused on achievement and leadership style, in addition to hard skills:
“Intensely motivated and forthright operations executive with an exceptional record of multi-million dollar cost control. Excel in highly charged settings requiring focused analysis, crisis management and tactical execution. Top achiever, Northwestern MBA and change agent who revitalizes operations through strong service, budget and staffing improvement.”
The benefit to using a profile is that the reader can quickly skim for relevant facts that screen you in, rather than out, during the hiring process.
2 - Include a Branding Statement
Do you remember some of the key slogans used by major companies to advertise their brands? Nearly anyone can recall taglines used by companies such as Nike or McDonalds.
Now the product being marketed is YOU. This means that these same marketing strategies can be applied to the materials you prepare for employers.
A branding statement, in particular, is a short sentence that serves the same purpose as a marketing tagline and is used at the forefront of the resume. You can develop this sentence by jotting down some ideas on what you bring to the table that others don’t.
Here’s an example of what an operations executive with a strong record of workplace improvement could use to sum up relevant qualifications:
“Driving crucial technology utilization, staffing, cost control and process changes that resulted in continual 90-plus percent improvement to operations dynamics.”
Remember to keep your tagline short and to spend considerable time tuning it to reflect your unique value proposition.
3 - Walk the Reader through Your C-A-R Achievements
Many people can assess the results of their work by looking at quantifiable figures and facts – but it’s the story BEHIND the accomplishment that really conveys your personal brand. The C-A-R (Challenge-Action-Result) formula was developed for precisely this reason and is often used as a guide for formulating career success stories.
Think of your past results and work style in terms of the situation you first encountered (the Challenge), what you did to address it (your Action), and what happened next (the Result).
Now, using this model, formulate each achievement into a concise story that reflects each of these components. Remember that these success stories are best represented in bullet-point format on your resume.
4 – Focus Your Message
Too often, a resume at the leadership level will contain so much detail that the overall goal gets lost. In addition, many executives find that they possess a wide range of core competencies that may lend themselves to different jobs.
If you find that your strengths lean towards more than one career goal or job type, so be it; create an offshoot of your original resume that focuses concisely on one position.
You will also need to consider whether the industry focus in your resume truly reflects your goals. Transitioning into another arena? Then remove industry jargon and acronyms that can hold you back in your search.
5 – Back Up Your Success with Testimonials
If you’re familiar with the 360 degree review process, where feedback about your core strengths is used to form a composite picture of your leadership abilities, then you know that what others say about you tends to reflect your true brand. A quote, in particular, can be a striking addition to an executive or senior management resume.
In the context of a job search, feedback from others can be crucial. In addition to supervisors, don’t forget that colleagues and clients can be a strong source for positive feedback.
After you’ve obtained these testimonials, pull out a shortened version to place on your resume as an endorsement. This information can be placed at the beginning or end of your professional profile, or within a separate section on the front page.
For example, a global sales executive can reinforce a brand message of superior results by including a quote from a top corporate officer on a resume, as shown below:
“Drawing on the collective knowledge of those around him, Ken facilitates team communication and collaboration, leading to our strongest year yet.”
As you can see, there are many angles from which to compose your executive resume. Developing a masterpiece that gets attention from employers’ top-tier hiring managers requires a well thought-out resume strategy. Remember to take data prioritization, content and a compelling presentation into account along the way.
Laura Smith-Proulx, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Certified Interview Coach, is the Executive Director of An Expert Resume, a career services firm that caters to organizational leaders. Published in six career bestsellers, she is a former corporate recruiter who works with executives and IT leaders to present a powerful and compelling leadership brand.