Has your executive resume failed to produce results?
It might contain irrelevant details crammed into too-few pages.
If you copied flowery phrases from other resumes, described yourself as “highly accomplished,” or left out metrics when describing achievements, your resume could be STARVING employers of the data needed to make a decision.
Do any of these resume space-wasting sins look familiar?
1 – Minimal distinguishing details.
The top third of your executive resume must immediately capture attention – but does yours start out like this?
“Accomplished and results-driven executive with a distinguished 20-year career in… ”
This type of “fluff” forfeits valuable space that could be used for specifics on your leadership achievements, educational credentials, and stature.
Instead, write a qualifications summary DIRECTLY related to your brand value, using keywords and powerful metrics that support your goal:
“Senior corporate strategist and President sought to head divisions of multinational companies, attaining 23%-45% CAGR in positions requiring sales, IT, supply chain, and operations acumen. Consecutive 6-year Infinity Award winner for excellence in business planning. Columbia MBA.”
2 – Text-heavy paragraphs stuffed into a single page.
Of course, you WANT to put a clearly written, readable document in front of employers, but there’s no reason to sacrifice pertinent details because you’re trying to meet an imaginary page limit. (see How Long Should Your Executive Resume Be?)
Your resume should be just as long as needed to convey performance and value in your next role. Most resumes fit into 2 pages, but some complex careers require 3 pages.
Use borders, shading, color, or graphics to help condense data.
The idea, as shown by this TORI award-nominated Chief Nursing Officer resume, is to help the reader navigate your career story.
By blending metrics and examples of ROI with graphic elements, you can clearly convey success stories. This is much better than squeezing excess words into a tight space with a hard-to-read font.
3 – The same headings as everyone else.
Why is your summary of achievements called Summary of Achievements?
What if you used a customized resume heading that supported your goal of a CIO role, such as Examples of IT Leadership, or promoted your qualifications for a CMO position, using Profit & Sales Results From Marketing Initiatives?
Select otherwise-boring areas of your executive resume, such as Core Competencies, Education, or Professional Profile, and think of more meaningful terms (as shown in this example of an IT Director resume).
This way, you’ll be able to use Sales Prospecting & Closing Skills, Technology Education, or Qualifications for Regional CFO as reinforcement for your value proposition.
Don’t corral your executive career into a boring resume presentation!
Broaden your imagination and maximize valuable resume real estate to convey your value proposition and compel employers to contact you.
A resume headline can help get you noticed – faster than anything else you add to your document!
Headlines, or taglines, in executive resumes are a simple concept that can help you write about yourself, helping steer readers toward notable accomplishments that prove your value.
Try these resume headline tips to write a headline (or a set of headlines!) that infuse your executive resume with a dose of power and confidence:
1 – Write a resume headline showing your reputation for results.
As shown in this award-winning CFO resume, this resume headline demonstrates career goals and successes in a single glance:
Senior Executive Team Member Enabling Triple Revenue & Profit Results in 4 Years
To write a resume headline like this, string together your job function (President, IT Director, COO, etc.), along with a short description of your performance (Leading Sales Growth, Delivering On-Time Projects).
After writing your headline, simply place it under your career goal (CFO, in this case) to expand on your worth as a leader, as in these examples:
Managing Director & CEO: Executive Leader for Multinational Portfolio Companies
Business Development Executive: Sales Driver Behind Millions in Revenue
2 – Group achievements under an employer-specific headline.
In the same CFO resume, these sentences direct the eye to specific achievements:
Building Pro Plus: CFO Enabling Peak Profitability With Sharply Reduced Costs
Launching a job search? You’ve probably thought about hiring the best resume writer you can find.
There’s a plethora of resume writers advertising services online and through social media – but how do you know if an executive resume writer will market you effectively?
What if the final product doesn’t represent your brand or industry – or you don’t understand the writer’s work? What should you look for (and ask) when vetting the best executive resume writer for you?
I recommend setting out to qualify writers with these 7 questions, which will give you a good idea of the quality, responsiveness, and attention you’ll receive. After all, most executive resume writers represent a sizable investment (from $500 to more than $4,000).
Resume Writer Question #1 – How long have you been in business?
Resume writers who joined the industry during the economic recession sometimes did so because they saw a need during the downturn.
However, others did so because their own job search failed, which is a concern for anyone relying on them to drive a successful job-hunting effort.
Use the following queries to gain a better idea of an executive resume writer’s purpose and mission in the resume industry:
What made you decide to offer executive resume writing services?
When did you launch your business?
How will I know you are in this for the long haul?
What training have you completed?
Will you still be in business 5+ years laterwhen I need an update?
Resume Writer Question #2 – What was your background prior to executive resume writing?
Even though the best resume writers (both in the US and abroad) can pick up facts about your business background, there’s a striking difference between writers with a corporate history and ones who’ve only read about it.
You’ll need to carefully ask about the writer’s experience in a corporate setting, using these type of queries:
Have you ever looked for a job yourself?
What do you believe employers look for in a resume?
How many interviews have you attended – as either an interviewer or job seeker?
What is your experience in hiring or recruiting?
In what industries and professions do you have hands-on experience?
When writing about the business of your career, a corporate or hiring background is essential to producing technically accurate, business-focused documents.
Resume Writer Question #3 – Will you write my resume yourself?
Be very cautious with this one. Some writers will tell you they are “involved with” or “direct” work in their businesses.
What this means is that your executive resume is handed off to a subcontract resume writer, who will develop the majority of (if not all) of your document.
Senior executive resume writers at the top of their game will write your resume themselves – period. They might have assistants or a team to help with other documents, but they’ll rarely (if ever) turn over the writing of your core document to another resource.
Your best bet is to look over the executive resume writing samples posted by each expert. Are there at least some similarities in style and the tone of the writing?
If it looks like each sample was developed by a different person, this can be a tip-off that you will not have a voice in selecting your own writer.
Resume Writer Question #4 – Have you won industry awards or accolades?
Again, this is an area in which to be cognizant of resume industry practices. The ONLY legitimate resume award competitions are the Toast of the Resume Industry (TORI) Awards hosted by Career Directors International,the NRWA ROAR (National Resume Writers’ Association – Recognizing Outstanding Achievement in Resumes) contest, and the Professional Association of Resume Writers competition.
The TORI contest, revered by resume writers in the US and internationally for its intensity and the preparation required to win, is judged annually by recruiters, grammar experts, careers industry leaders, and past award-winning writers.
If you find resume writers who have won other awards outside of these contests, be sure to ask questions to determine whether these achievements ensure quality and accuracy in the resume writing process. Some ratings sites contain “Best Resume Writer” lists of top writers, but these are often advertising tools.
Resume Writer Question #5 – What do you know about my field?
While some resume writers are experts at pulling out your work history, there are some careers (such as IT) where you’ll fare best with an industry veteran.
As an example, some resume writers come from writing or liberal arts backgrounds, with limited experience in business or tech fields. These writers can struggle when trying to grasp the complexities of a career in a field requiring technical precision – and may not understand how to position you as a leader in your industry.
Particularly if your career is in finance, operations, or IT (or you’re seeking a federal position), you’ll benefit from asking industry-specific questions, such as:
Can you tell me the difference between a CTO and a CIO?
How would you describe the use of Lean Six Sigma practices?
What is your familiarity with credit swaps, derivatives, etc. (or other terms corresponding to your industry)?
How can you guide me through the federal job application process?
These may seem like questions for subject matter experts; however, a resume writer truly skilled in your field will be able to provide reasonable answers. Don’t be afraid to ask writers what strategy they would use for your field; the response can be quite telling.
Resume Writer Question #6 – Where did you gain your writing expertise?
Here’s where you’ll get a glimpse into the writing ability of each professional. While it’s not unusual to have a knack for writing, the best writers have undergone university training (in addition to resume industry courses). You may find English majors, business writers, or journalists in your quest for an executive resume expert.
However, be cautious if a writer tells you that his or her only credentials include reading resumes all day (in HR or recruiting). The same way reading books doesn’t make you a novelist, reviewing resumes is only part of a writer’s preparation.
Creating a compelling executive resume requires hundreds, even THOUSANDS of hours of education, training, and devotion to painstaking detail and marketing strategy, with plenty of constructive feedback from other resume experts.
Resume Writer Question #7 – What credentials do you hold?
Resume writing certifications are not the only indicator of expertise. However, providers with credentials are required to follow stringent industry standards (in addition to a code of ethics)—and their skills have been independently tested and verified.
Look for MULTIPLE certifications to ascertain whether a writer has pursued ongoing professional training (an indicator of a serious resume professional).
If you’re unsure of the value behind a specific course of study, just ask! Most writers will be happy to describe the curriculum and requirements for gaining a specific certification, as they’ve often worked hard to get and maintain their credentials.
When hiring the best executive resume writer for your project, you’ll benefit from thorough due diligence to select the right provider for your needs.
Probing questions and careful assessment will help you find a competent, strategic partner for one of the most important transitions of your working life.
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“As In-House Counsel for a Fortune 1000 company, I retained Laura to revamp my resume. As a result of her attention to detail, Laura was able to highlight my broad skill set, with a product worthy of my accomplishments.
I highly recommend Laura to all others who want to get on the fast track to success.”
“As an executive in transition, I vigorously endorse Laura and her work. After many hours of speaking with me, she crafted an amazing new rebranded set of credentials.
I am still astonished at how someone who has not known me for 20 years could define my brand so succinctly.”
– Chris Dancy, Global Technology Executive
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