Will Your Executive Resume Make the Grade?

Is your executive resume good enough by Laura Smith-Proulx
As a resume writer who works with executives, I’ve seen many “before” resumes of varying quality and impact.

Typically, the candidate asks, “Is my resume holding me back? Or does it just need a few changes? What do you think?”

Even if your resume was professionally written, you may still have doubts about its effectiveness (especially if your writer didn’t conduct a deep-dive analysis of your personal brand).

Look at your executive resume objectively for a few minutes, then answer these 5 questions to determine whether it needs an overhaul:

1 – Does your resume provide metrics in the TOP HALF of the first page?

Employers want to quickly figure out how you’ll fit their needs and solve their problems. If you don’t connect the dots for them, they’ll comb through your dates of employment and job titles, looking for reasons to rule you out.

Unless you have a perfect job history, a degree from Harvard, or a coveted executive spot at Amazon, a quantifiable summary like the one in this CEO resume is a requirement for a high-powered job. You’ll notice it avoids tired phrases such as “proven ability” or “highly accomplished leader.”

You’ll need to spend time digging up metrics that illustrate your performance, then choosing the best ones to highlight, front-and-center, on your resume.

2 – Is your resume design RELEVANT to the job you’re pursuing?

If you read this question and had to take another look at your resume, it’s probably not eye-catching enough to stand out against competing documents. On the other hand, if you’ve loaded it with neon-green and orange graphics to pursue opportunities in a conservative field, it might be time for a change.

An infographic or chart can make a powerful statement, as long as it covers salient points of your career and is placed appropriately among your success stories. Before making changes, think carefully about the alignment between your message and the audience who will read your executive resume.

3 – Are signature achievements, awards, clients, or employers shown at the TOP of your resume?

Employers will nearly always miss information that’s buried, especially if it is placed as a footnote to your job responsibilities. Career-defining accolades, as shown in this CIO and CTO resume, must land in prime resume real estate (that top half of the first page again), or your audience can get lost finding them.

Don’t neglect to mention your job at a major Fortune 500 employer, especially if you’ve been promoted multiple times there. Why? This tells recruiters that a) you’ve passed a stringent vetting process in the past; b) you have credibility in your field; and c) you offer an edge over competing candidates.

The same goes for graduation from a renowned alma mater, or your ability to secure top, brand-name accounts. (Name drop! Please!)

4 – Does your resume fit into 3 PAGES OR LESS – with an easily readable font?

You have 10 seconds or less to get an employer’s attention! Don’t make employers squint at important details by using a tiny font and listing every detail of the past 30 years.

If your executive brand message doesn’t pop within the first page, with an easy-to-read design in at least 10-point font, most people won’t spend time looking for it.

No one has the time to read your resume cover-to-cover, so don’t bother writing a novel. If you must document a large volume of individual successes, publications, or speaking engagements, develop an Addendum or Achievements listing that can be pulled out for interviews.

5 – When you send your resume out to employers, are you receiving a RESPONSE?

The ultimate litmus test of whether you need resume help, a positive reaction from employers is your only goal.

No matter what I (or even you) think of your executive resume, it has one main job: to bowl over hiring authorities and compel them to call you before their competition does.

If it works, you’ll know it.

One final clue:  if you answered “No” to the majority of these questions, you already know the answer to the first one.

Executive Resume Writer

Need a competitive edge in your job search? As an award-winning executive resume writer, I create branded, powerful resumes and LinkedIn Profiles that position you as the #1 candidate.

My clients win interviews and top C-suite, EVP, VP, and Director positions at Fortune 500 firms, niche companies, start-ups, and emerging industry leaders, enjoying the competitive advantage of powerhouse documents and executive job search techniques tailored to today’s job market.

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



5 High-ROI Resume & Cover Letter Fixes

Resume section headings matterSometimes, you have to feel for the person who is reading your resume on the other side of the hiring table.

Too often, job seekers resort to almost identical phrases on resumes and cover letters. Yet, if you want to generate serious attention, you’ll need to shake things up a bit!

Here are 5 fast, simple ways to think outside the template on your resume and cover letter:

1 – Introduce your resume with a specific, branded title.

Pursuing a global business development or marketing role—one with authority for trend watching and sales in industry verticals?

Sure, you can use Business Development Executive, but Director Strategic Sales packs more impact, plus retains the keywords (Director and Sales) that are needed at your career level.

There’s always more than one way to introduce yourself. Project Manager is fairly specific, but you can give yourself a bit more latitude with a general title such as Project Executive, with a second line that lists Portfolio Manager, Project Director, and PMO Manager as job targets.

2 – Alter your resume headings for powerful impact.

There’s no law that requires your resume to use sections such as Experience, Education, and so forth.

If you’re in sales, you can use the title Relevant Revenue Highlights to describe a selected list of sales successes, while an Operations Manager can create a section entitled Operational Productivity Improvements to show important achievements. This executive resume sample uses a section called Signature Performance Benchmarks.

Light on experience? Group your training under keywords that make sense to employers, such as Sales Education, Leadership Training, or Technology Knowledge.

A caveat: be sure to change your resume headings BACK to typical phrases if you’re submitting an online application likely to pass through Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) – and send the pretty one directly to hiring managers.

3 – Give recruiters something else to read besides your job titles.

Are your job titles very general, such as Associate Analyst or Senior Consultant? Help employers out (please!) by specifying exactly what you do in your career.

Get creative and add another line underneath your real title with more descriptive terms such as Project Manager, Product Development Analyst, or Business Process Reengineering Manager.

4 – Change your cover letter’s enclosure line.

Adding just “Resume” with the notation Enc. after your signature doesn’t quite cut it as a parting shot.

How about Enc: Business Development Leadership Resume or Attached: Senior Leadership Qualifications Summary instead?

5 – Try adding a P.S. to your letter.

The power of the post script (or P.S.) is well-documented. Marketing studies have proven over and over that this may be the most-read sentence of your entire cover letter.

Branch out a little and try a grand finale such as “I’ll be glad to share my ideas for bringing XYZ Company’s Western region revenue to #1 in the nation. May we talk?”

In conclusion, don’t believe everything you read about a single RIGHT way to create a resume or cover letter.

Instead, experiment by adding some flair and road-testing different ways of stating the same information – and you can easily end up with a better response.


Executive Resume Writer

Need a competitive edge in your job search? As an award-winning executive resume writer, I create branded, powerful resumes and LinkedIn Profiles that position you as the #1 candidate.

My clients win interviews and top C-suite, EVP, VP, and Director positions at Fortune 500 firms, niche companies, start-ups, and emerging industry leaders, using powerhouse documents and executive job search techniques tailored to today’s job market.

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


3 Reasons to Power Up Your Resume With Keywords

What’s the best way to give a quick skills overview PLUS pass an automated resume scan? Keywords!

One of the mysteries to resume writing, keywords are simply skills and concepts that humans AND systems look for in your qualifications.

However, many people skip adding this content when writing a resume… and then wonder why the phone stays silent.

Take my client Greg, for example.

Greg had a solid sales background and impressive accomplishments. However, when looking at his resume, I realized keywords were missing. Employers were not able to get a big-picture view of his ability to generate new business.

I recommended adding some targeted keywords, and the next time we talked, I couldn’t BELIEVE the difference! He was weighing offers from several firms. The keywords had pushed his application past that of competing candidates.

Here are some reasons to consider adding keywords to your resume:

1) You can satisfy dual-purpose requirements. Your resume will likely be read by BOTH a hiring manager plus an automated system.

2) Keyword content can demonstrate the breadth of your skills. A new account executive might put “relationship management” on a resume, but a more experienced sales representative could add “revenue improvement” and “profit growth.”

3) Resume real estate is valuable! Rather than taking up precious space to describe your credentials, keywords are a great way to present a quick overview, while driving home your point.

Remember – showing employers that your achievements are backed by a host of skills that THEY seek—meaning keywords—WILL make a difference in your resume’s results.

Don’t List Responsibilities on Your Resume

What? Aren’t resumes supposed to show employers all the duties you have fulfilled in your previous jobs? The answer is yes… and no.

What most employers really want to hire is not just a person that has met the qualifications for a particular role. They need to hire a solution—a candidate that can help solve business problems, lead work teams to productivity, or deliver cost savings to the organization. If you are this solution (or person), how can you get the point across to a hiring manager?

The answer represents a fundamental shift in the way many people view a resume, moving the focus from a dry list of tasks to a compelling description of your work. Here are some ways to highlight your strengths and allow the more mundane responsibilities to fade into the background:

Gather pertinent facts.
Today’s employers want to see consistent proof of performance. So how can you provide it? Start with a list of your contributions to the team and the company, then describe the effect on the employer’s bottom line.

The idea, of course, is to rid your resume of the obvious (everyone knows that an accountant manages the general ledger, managers supervise, and network administrators monitor servers), while giving the hiring manager a clear picture of your capabilities. The results of this exercise will amaze you—and the reader.

Be specific!
Concise description of your accomplishments can land interviews. “Grew revenue by 435% to $5 million by winning major contracts” drives your point home better than “Provided contract negotiation support.”

Remember that figures in this case speak much louder than anything else you can use. Quantifying your contributions is an absolute must in order to make your resume stand above others.

Consider your wording carefully.
How catchy is the phrase “Responsible for…?” If you don’t use interesting verbiage, don’t expect much interest! Countless other words can be used to express how you carried out your work.

Avoid tiring the reader’s eye by using the same word over and over. Use a thesaurus to transform overused verbs like “provided” into “generated” or “revitalized.”

Remember, reading hundreds of resumes can wear down even the most energetic hiring manager. Market yourself as the perfect solution that will produce results by concentrating on your accomplishments… and leave the tedious resume wording for use by your competition.