Category: executive resume writing

Think Your Resume’s Ready for 2013? Read This First

Executive reading your resumeDetermined to make 2013 the year you snag that dream job?

The coming months are shaping up to be intensively competitive, meaning you’ll have to be ready to edge out others for that coveted job.

However, if your resume is like most in circulation, it isn’t anywhere near ready for 2013. Why?

Because it probably relies on outdated methods, lacks marketing appeal, or just downright fails to demonstrate the kind of value proposition that captures attention in a crowded market (no matter what year it is).

Here are 5 telltale signs your resume will fall flat in 2013 (along with tips for hitting the mark):

1 – You’ve never considered using an infographic or chart to display your achievements.

Nothing speaks louder than metrics on a resume, but possibly nothing shouts accomplishment and scale more so than a chart.

These graphics are easy to insert into a Word document with the Insert Chart tool. However, you should only use one if you have impressive numbers to display (as shown in this sample of a VP Sales resume). Continue reading “Think Your Resume’s Ready for 2013? Read This First”

How to Write Your Resume When You’re NOT The Perfect Candidate

Man with gaps in work history or no college degree

If your career trajectory contains a few speed bumps (such as a gap in work history or job hopping), you’re among the multitudes in this job market.

Given the state of economic affairs over the past few years, most job seekers don’t fit the classic picture of a “stable” work history at a single employer the way they once did.

I recently sat down with Jacquelyn Smith of Forbes.com to discuss ways of dealing with a not-so-perfect career history for What To Do When Your Resume Looks Like Bad News, reiterating that problematic job situations can often be overcome with just a few key changes to your resume.

Here’s how to address common “sticky” situations (ones that seem to trip up even the most well-qualified job seekers):

Job Gaps

A period of unemployment is no longer an automatic red flag to many employers. Therefore, you’ll want to be as up front and concise as possible when dealing with a gap.

Continue reading “How to Write Your Resume When You’re NOT The Perfect Candidate”

Is Your Executive Resume Stretched Too Thin?

Recently, I had a conversation with an executive who was concerned about the effectiveness of her resume.

While I can’t comment on how well it represented her (since I’m not familiar with her career), I couldn’t help but notice the diverse job goals listed across the top: “CIO – Operations Director – CEO.”

Wow! That’s a lot to ask of any executive resume – and it’s a lot to hang your professional hat on as well during a job search.

Here’s why: the hiring audience looking for each of those executive leaders will be focused on an entirely different part of your experience and competencies. Continue reading “Is Your Executive Resume Stretched Too Thin?”

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. Continue reading “3 Reasons Why Your Executive Resume Isn’t Working”

Does Your Executive Resume Miss Out On the Latest Trends?

Putting together your resume for the first time in years? Believe it or not, resume trends have changed substantially in just a short period of time, due to intense competition in the job market.

You’ll soon find that you’re up against other executives with custom-designed, focused documents. Therefore, you’ll need to ensure that your resume is in line with cutting-edge changes in format and style.

What’s changed? Besides the fact that an objective isn’t workable anymore, many executive resumes now contain a splash of color, a branding headline, or a metrics- and detail-packed summary that replaces tired, overused phrases.

Consider implementing these trends into your executive resume as a way to stand out:

A touch of color.

While color can seem like a huge stretch for a resume, it can also be a valuable tool that makes certain elements stand out. Continue reading “Does Your Executive Resume Miss Out On the Latest Trends?”

3 Strategies for Writing a Bold, Branded Executive Resume

Launching a strategic executive job search – and hoping to make a splash?

In previous years, listing the size of budgets managed, divisions run, or revenue generated might have been enough for a recruiter to hunt you down.

However, in today’s economic climate, executives are being asked to deliver more and brand themselves as well-rounded leaders prepared to tackle industry challenges and obstacles to growth.

Your executive resume will be judged much differently than in the job markets of years past, due to intense competition and the fact that employers can be much more selective.

It’s important to look at your executive resume with a fresh perspective. Have you missed opportunities to market yourself?

Do hiring authorities fail to understand what you bring to the table? Are you being passed over for jobs, even though you’re well-qualified?

If so, these 3 strategies can help you reassess the strength of your executive resume – with ideas for powerful content and leadership storytelling:

1 – Demonstrate strategic, not tactical, value.

Employers are not only looking for your leadership skills – they’re intent on finding a leader that will impact growth, retain top talent, and impress their competitors.

Therefore, your executive resume has to take your brand message a step further than just listing results, and talk about the situations encountered in your career.

Consider whether the following scenarios apply to your background: Continue reading “3 Strategies for Writing a Bold, Branded Executive Resume”

You’re never too much of an ‘expert’ to learn something new

As many of you know, I spent the latter part of last week in Portland, Maine, speaking at the 2011 National Resume Writers’ Association conference.

While my topic, executive resume writing (and the process of digging deep into an executive’s career to find the context of his or her achievements) was a challenge to cover in a short period of time, it was tremendously satisfying to hear the perspectives of all the other expert resume writers in our group.

I came away with some newly crystallized ideas around how to best create a powerful portfolio, help clients who are facing a career change (although you’ll want to go straight to Norine Dagliano for expert help), assist job seekers to navigate social media, and so much more. The learning opportunities seemed endless, and yet somehow, they all fit into just a few days.

Other than pointing out the amazing level of talent in our professional association, I’d also like to say that you can never be too far advanced in  your career to learn from someone else.

Any chance to hear how others problem-solve or use a new tool in your industry can spark a whole suite of ideas that you might not have otherwise tapped. Continue reading “You’re never too much of an ‘expert’ to learn something new”

Copying a Professional Resume? Watch Out For These Pitfalls

Recently, I was contacted by a job hunter who wanted an update to his existing resume, a service that I offer to former clients in my practice.

The resume looked strikingly familiar on some level, but the name didn’t resonate.

Then it hit me: I HAD written it—but for someone else.

Professional resume writers encounter this scenario all the time, and for the most part, it’s flattering to think that our work is compelling enough to be copied (at least if we can ignore the obvious part pertaining to copyright law).

However, here’s what worries me when I spot a copied rendition of a professional resume (mine or anyone else’s): the copier rarely grasps the branding and building process that went behind it in the first place.

Therefore, he’s doing himself a grave disservice by borrowing the format, writing style, and tone, then pasting his career story in between that of someone else.

The worst part? The “borrower” often fails to understand this context, and goes right on using it as if it were a coherent and targeted document.

So, if you’re determined to make your resume look like the masterpieces that you see on sites like mine, here are 6 likely problems that you’ll encounter in doing so:

1 – You can easily unravel the original brand strategy… and be left with nothing.

So… you think you have the same career path and can therefore just “tweak” a word or two? Not so fast.

For a resume to be effective, the strategy is set (prior to any writing) based on how well the candidate fits the desired role and the potential for screen-out factors based on his or her personal career path, age, industry preferences, and a host of other factors.

I often compare a client’s career path and achievements to others in the industry, pulling out any areas of strength or weakness in credentials (including education and former jobs) to make decisions about word choice and emphasis.

The writing process itself only starts after lengthy data mining and analysis of the job goal. Then, content is wrapped around and woven through the strategy, along with personality traits, resulting in a total picture and unique value proposition.

Given this process, any changes to the resume by someone who doesn’t understand the candidate will create problems in the message… and while these nuances may go unnoticed by you, they are all key factors in whether a resume gets read or dismissed.

2 – You might slide into generalizations that blur the message.

Here’s what one candidate did with my power summary that described market-leading achievements (including a 70% rise in revenue over 2 years, a totally restructured team and profitable turnaround effort, plus a total obliteration of the competition):

“Dedicated and hard working professional with over 12 years of experience in the food service sales and marketing industry, Successful experience in strategic planning, analysis of results, and international media relations.”

Ouch.

Now, if you haven’t read lists of overused words for resumes, it might be time to do so.

Words like “hard-working” or “successful experience” are both no-brainers and would not be taken seriously by employers… plus, they’re a dead giveaway that the writer doesn’t know what he is doing when trying to describe himself.

3 – You could repeat yourself…

And put words like “created,” “spearheaded,” and “developed” in the document so many times that they’ll lose their meaning.

Hopefully, you’ll refrain from describing all your achievements as “successful” and reference a thesaurus to avoid using the same word 4 times in one sentence (as I recently saw in a copied document).

Here’s where training in power verbs can really save the day.

Not convinced? Most professional writers count word occurrences (yes, really) and tend to scan documents for our favorite words, just to ensure that employers remain fully engaged in your resume.

4 – Your changes can mess up the formatting.

Professional resume writers are masters of presentation and formatting, to the point that they’ll incorporate tricks and nuances into a resume that escape your untrained eye.

In fact, just moving a sentence or two will often throw an entire page into disarray, because you’ll be challenged by figuring out how to adjust headings or change point sizes for spacer lines.

Worse yet, you might feel the need to shrink the font below 11 points. This should only be done for certain sans serif fonts, and then reviewed on different monitors to verify that the over-40 crowd of employers can read your document.

5 – Your writing might suck up space (or not make sense).

Professional resume writers specialize in something your English teacher never approved of: sentence fragments. That’s right – we boil ideas and full sentences down to the most minute of details in order to avoid that font problem that I just described.

Best practices in journalism (you didn’t know that resume writers use the Associated Press Stylebook, now did you?) dictate that sentences must be short, conveying meaning in the first 5 to 10 words. (25-word sentences are held up as the holy grail)

So, with minimal practice in tight writing, your sentences might be as long as the one I just reviewed in a copied resume: 79 words!

It’s close to impossible for your resume to pass a 10-second scan with a dense paragraph like this.

In addition, lack of parallel sentence structure is a dead giveaway that your resume wasn’t professionally written. Parallel structure means that your sentences are written in alignment with each other (such as fragments that all begin with nouns, or verb forms that consistently appear in past tense).

6 – There won’t be any way to update your “work” professionally.

Your personal work style and energy will rarely (if ever) show up in someone else’s document. So, you’re already operating at a severe brand disadvantage before even trying to have someone update the resume for you.

Think about it: you started with someone else’s strategy, brand message, tone, and presentation, and tried to plop a mixed bag of verbiage over the original text.

Now, it really doesn’t represent you, and this will make it difficult for a professional resume writer to make sense of it without starting fresh (which would have been my advice in the first place).

In summary, you can certainly TRY to adopt a professionally written resume as your own, but the pitfalls that can trip you up along the way can actually hurt your job search results.

You’re better off pulling in some formatting styles that appeal to you, and writing about your own career history—from scratch.

Executive Job Hunting? You’ll Need More Than a Resume

If you’re an executive planning your next career move, it might surprise you to learn that you’ll be judged by more than just your resume during your job search.

In other words, a full resume is NOT necessarily the best fit for every job search contact.

Surprised? You’ll find that recruiters, company owners, Boards of Directors, and other hiring decision-makers often look at your experience through a series of interviews and investigations—which means that your executive resume is just one part of the process.

Here are 4 must-have documents for an executive portfolio designed to capture attention at all the right levels—along with recommendations for the timing of each component:

1 – Executive Biography.
A short, narrative-form document, the Biography often appeals to readers that are not engaged in the technical detail of a full resume.

The best readers for an Executive Biography are usually networking contacts (who are easily overwhelmed by a full resume) or Boards of Directors (who typically interview you in the later stages of the hiring process).

2 – LinkedIn Profile.
While not technically a “document” created just for job hunting, your LinkedIn Profile is a critical—and often underutilized—piece of an executive portfolio.

Most executives set up a Profile very quickly and then abandon it, becoming preoccupied with their work, which is a costly job-hunting mistake.

Your LinkedIn Profile may actually be the first piece of information encountered by a recruiter. Therefore, it must be polished, professional, and keyword-heavy (to aid others in finding you through LinkedIn’s search engine).

3 – Cover Letter.
Despite the myth that hiring authorities rarely read cover letters, some audiences (company owners, CEOs, and Presidents) might not even glance at your resume until they’ve fully digested the contents of your letter.

These groups are usually probing for leadership abilities that they feel are more evident within the letter. Investors, in particular, like to read a very short, bottom-line value proposition letter, in lieu of a resume.

In short, don’t write off a cover letter as an important document in the hiring process, as you might find that it was this part of your portfolio that influenced an interviewing decision.

4 – Full Resume.
Not a month goes by when a social media or recruiting expert poses the question, “Is the resume dead?” No, the need for a resume won’t go away soon. You’ll absolutely be asked to send your resume to many contacts at different stages of your search.

No matter who reads it, an executive resume serves as the centerpiece of your presentation, and therefore must convince employers of your brand, value proposition, and leadership standing—no small feat.

Often, the best readers of a full resume will those that thrive on analytical detail (such as operations or technology executives hiring EVP and Director-level candidates).

In summary, an executive portfolio is a must for serious job hunters ready to assume a leadership role. The days of distributing an executive resume without backup in the form of a Executive Biography, LinkedIn Profile, or Cover letter are gone.

Your job search will be smoother, faster, and more effective with a well-rounded and branded portfolio that appeals to the diverse audiences you’ll encounter.

Need a competitive edge for your executive job search?

As the #1 U.S. TORI award-winning executive resume writer, I create branded, powerful resumes and LinkedIn Profiles that position you as the #1 candidate – PLUS arm you with the job search tools that will get you hired faster.

My clients win interviews at Fortune 500 firms including Citibank, Google, Disney, and Pfizer, plus niche-market companies, start-ups, and emerging industry leaders.

Get in touch with me to experience the outstanding results my expertise can bring to your transition.

– Laura Smith-Proulx, CCMC, CPRW, CPBA, TCCS, COPNS, CIC 

CIO Resumes: Mining IT Projects for Strategic Benefit

Are you a rising star in the IT world eager for a shot at the CIO role? Ascending from IT Director or VP takes more than just showing how you’ve leveraged the technology itself: you’ll need to first put yourself in the C-suite on paper.

As described by my recent article in ComputerWorld, most would-be technology executives stumble when it comes to resume writing at the CIO level.

Transitioning your value proposition to reflect officer-ready qualifications requires a significant transition from the traditional, skills-based resume that helped capture your last job in IT.

Here, I’ve included simple steps that can transform your IT resume from mundane, project-by-project details to a leadership brand message designed to land a CIO role.

First, I recommend making a list of the projects you’ve led, then answer the following questions about each one: 
  • What made these initiatives attractive to stakeholders (in terms of ROI)?
  • Were the benefits external or internal to the company (with impact to either the company’s customers or business users)?
  • How did the company leverage the new technologies from a PR standpoint?
  • And last of all, what competitive edge was gained from the project?

Now, take these project details and add specific budget or cost figures to demonstrate scope, as shown by these examples:

“Contributed to $4M total savings by working with regional CEO to incorporate SaaS and cloud technologies…”

“Delivered automation solutions that increased business productivity 43%—even with $300K reduction in operating costs…”

As you can see by these sample phrases from actual CIO resumes, focusing on the bottom line can help decision-makers review your credentials in a more strategic light.

In a future column, I’ll cover CIO resume writing techniques that showcase (and capitalize on) your executive relationships.