The executive job market is more competitive than ever! Your resume must show current experience, leadership influence, and strategic thinking.
However, many executives simply top off their old college resumes in preparation for re-entering the job market.
Don’t make this mistake! You’ll only add more miles to an already outdated document.
To avoid this problem and ensure your resume stays competitive with current resume trends, apply these high-ROI strategies:
Spice up your resume presentation.
If you’re still using a plain-Jane document format, Microsoft Word template, or Times New Roman font for your executive resume, you’re definitely selling yourself short.
Consider adding a new headline separating out specific skills (see An Easy Way to Express Your Personal Brand in Your Resume) for a more compelling message and presentation.
You can also download newer resume templates online, but be crystal-clear on your personal brand and value-add before filling them in.
Even a simple change to borders and colors, as shown in this sample Chief Data Officer Resume (featured among my 2021 Executive Resume Samples), can set off important information and make your resume easier to navigate.
To ensure compliance with ATS systems, save your resume as a plain text (.txt) file. You’ll quickly see what the ATS sees! If you’ve added data in tables or text boxes, re-add it under the right job. Use this version for online postings and send your presentation resume directly to contacts.
Keep your resume profile summary short.
No one likes to read a paragraph more than 4-5 lines deep at the top of your resume. This outdated practice can inadvertently make it look as if your experience is stagnant and inconsistent with today’s click-happy audience.
To keep employers focused on your value proposition, unearth it from heavy detail, with a short and sweet description of ROI.
Consider the above example of a concise resume summary to help craft your own focused executive profile.
Show you’ve embraced today’s communications methods.
Still adding two spaces after the period in your resume sentences? Get with the times and drop this habit.
Listing only a land line phone number on your resume? You might be turning off recruiters who prefer to TEXT interview confirmations or questions to you.
While these habits seem minor, they also tell employers a lot about your readiness to move ahead in your career – or about your ability to compete with next-generation leaders eager to claim their spot ahead of you.
Trim outdated affiliations and experience.
Nothing says “inattentive to detail” like an executive resume that drones on for 6 pages or contains awards from decades past. Conserve employers’ time by keeping your resume to a maximum of 2-3 pages, or you’ll come across as unfocused.
If you’ve served as chapter President or Board member for an industry-related organization, then it makes sense to retain these details. However, your long-ago membership in an obscure association should be dropped from your career story.
Heavy emphasis on outdated experience also makes a resume difficult to read (attention spans are short!).
Instead, condense positions from decades past by rolling up older jobs into a few lines that convey basic facts (such as “Verified product performance for smartphone components” or “Opened EMEA territories enabling first global sales results”).
Consider the relative age of your email address.
Small impressions add up to large ones, and this applies to your email address, particularly since it’s at the top of your resume.
If you’re still using the same address from more than 5 years ago, ask yourself if it represents you and your fresh executive brand.
An email address from Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL, and other providers of their era can signify outdated thinking, especially in technology or engineering fields where you’re expected to remain on the cutting edge.
Not sure if your email address is affecting your search? It takes just minutes to set up a new Gmail address reflective of your leadership skills.
Strategically tune every date in your executive resume.
At a leadership level, employers expect to see 20 or more years of experience. However, it’s best to carefully assess every date on your resume (and LinkedIn Profile, too) for what it implies about your background.
In other words, feature your dates for a REASON.
For example, you might possess work history dating back 25 years in a high-tech occupation, but trimming experience to 15 years will put the focus on your expertise in emerging 2020 technologies.
When it comes to education, consider what your graduation year conveys. Engineering degree programs from 30+ years ago taught now-obsolete technologies, so it’s best to keep the degree and lose the date. In a non-technical field, however, your history of steady promotion can speak value to prospective employers.
Again, decisions on dates should be customized to your unique situation, industry, and goals.
Re-imagine the section headings in your resume.
Instead of the long-used Professional History, why not call your work experience Career Progression? Or you could create an achievements section named Examples of Leadership Performance.
These headings convey executive acumen and readiness for a 2021 role:
- Technology Improvements of Value to Financial Institutions
- Sales Leadership & International Growth Wins
- Value-Added Contributions to Operational Excellence
As long as your section heading makes sense, there’s no need to stick with old-school titles. Caveat: create a version with traditional titles when applying to an online job posting, as your resume is likely to be parsed by Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) systems.
The best way to ensure your executive resume hits the mark?
Think about WHO is likely to hire you, WHAT they’re seeking, and what YOU’RE conveying with the style of your writing.