3 Reasons Why Your Executive Resume Isn’t Working

In the midst of an executive job search – but getting little to no results from your resume?

In today’s job market, the sheer volume of competition means your executive resume faces more hurdles in landing an interview.

An unmistakable brand message that clearly positions you as a leader is a must, especially when distinguishing yourself among other executives!

If you’re frustrated with the lack of action from employers, read on for some common problems that can prevent your executive resume from conveying your true status – along with corrective tips:

1 – You’ve chosen mid-career language to describe yourself.

By the time you’ve reached at least the Director or C-suite level, “highly motivated,” “proven ability,” or “results-oriented” aren’t going to cut it anymore.

Not only are you up against candidates that are portrayed in stronger terms, but this type of language shows that you’re struggling to articulate your personal brand and executive qualifications.

A better strategy? Wrap a signature achievement into each statement or paragraph—allowing you to clearly assert your value proposition.

BEFORE: Here is classic, mid-career phrasing within a CTO resume summary:

“CTO with strong track record in technology software product development and proven ability to build high-performance teams in international locations. Work closely with executives on strategies for entering new markets.”

AFTER: Here is the same information, but with an executive slant:

“CTO and executive team collaborator supplying technical and new-market insight behind 240% growth in 18 months. Foster tight-knit cultures (despite globally dispersed teams), increasing productivity while retaining 100% of technical talent.”

The second example includes just one additional word, but the metrics and strength of the language clearly position the candidate as an executive leader.

Need some ideas and examples of executive-level terminology? Try a Google search on executive resume samples to see the word choice, tone, and presentation styles that win interviews.

2 – Your leadership impact on the company is missing.

Reaching an executive or Director-level role is a career game-changer, requiring your focus to shift from your department to the strategic direction of the company.

Yet, many executives write their resumes as if their function is isolated – with little effect on the rest of the firm.

Case in point: This “Before” version of a CFO resume describes taking on the IT functions of a company, spelling out only tactical details:

“Maintained facilities, offsite storage, and software licensing to support company investment in IT and communications systems.”

In reality, these systems played a crucial part in accelerating the company’s growth, and the AFTER (more relevant) statement looks like this:

“Set stage for growth with IT automation solutions; managed first infrastructure, vendor, and solutions used in HR, tax accounting, and regulatory filings.”

BEFORE: Consider this phrase on another example of an IT Director resume:

“Held responsibility for the strategic direction and leadership of the enterprise architecture.”

AFTER: A whole-company perspective changes the tone of the sentence:

“Headed IT enterprise architecture strategy that positioned company for expansion, leading infrastructure improvements and upgrades supplying 34% additional network capacity.”

These changes illustrate ways your executive resume can show strategic impact, rather than merely focusing on the tactical duties required of your position.

3 – You didn’t provide metrics on your achievements or span of authority.

When writing your executive resume, specific and quantifiable figures are critical. A leadership resume that lacks metrics is difficult for recruiters to navigate, as it requires them to make assumptions about the positive effects of your work.

Not sure where to start in adding figures to your resume? Look for phrases used in lieu of a figure, such as “significantly” or “substantially.” These words can often be replaced with a dollar amount, percentage, or range of numbers.

At a minimum, ensure your executive resume contains these figures, which help quantify the scope of your leadership roles:

  • Size of teams or budgets managed
  • Division or company specifications in terms of volume of employees or revenue
  • Market rank for your employer in a particular segment (if prominent)
  • Increases in EBITDA or profit margins
  • Contract or cost savings

If you’ve made changes to operational efficiency or productivity, for example, you can specify the time savings gained. Roles in major projects, such as data center consolidations or Six Sigma initiatives that cut expenses, can also verify your ability to create impactful change.

If you can’t recall (or don’t wish to disclose) specific dollar figures, consider using percentages to quantify accomplishments. For example, you may have led teams that produced 82% of the overall company revenue, or drove a change in hiring practices that saved 15% per employee.

Your executive resume NEEDS quantifiable achievements and figures! Without them, hiring authorities can’t discern the difference between your experience and that of a lower-level candidate.

Overall, taking a fresh look at your executive resume – and comparing it to documents used by other leadership candidates – can be a valuable exercise.

There are numerous, yet straightforward, ways to strengthen the tone and presentation of your resume, enabling you to project more confidence and expedite the process of landing the right leadership role.

3 thoughts on “3 Reasons Why Your Executive Resume Isn’t Working

  1. Laura Smith-Proulx, Executive Resume Writer says:


    What a good point! It’s often difficult for job hunters to realize that yes, they HAVE had a significant impact at a company level. While some companies do a great job of reminding top performers of their achievements through performance reviews, there are many that don’t provide the kudos that executives need to hear. We may be the only audience for this information, and it’s crucial to capture it!

    – Laura

  2. Mary DeLuca CPRW CRSFS says:


    As usual, you are spot on. What I encounter a great deal of is those that have progressed through the ranks to now be in an Executive position who don’t know how to own it. When incorporating the Executive level language into their resumes, they are uncomfortable. I then find myself dedicating time to explaining to them that they have earned it, have proven themselves worthy and need to embrace their accomplishments.

Share your thoughts with me

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.