You already know that having an effective resume is an important part of finding a job. What you may not realize is that the higher the stakes, the more vital it is to have a good resume. Executive-level jobs are harder to find and generally have more competition, so an attention-getting executive resume can make the difference between getting the job and getting left behind.
A successful executive has more than just education and experience - they also have a unique skill set that enables them to handle the scope and stress of their job. Keep reading to learn how to write an executive-level resume that presents you as a well-rounded professional.
Goals of an Executive-Level Resume
Executive-level resumes are geared toward a different type of career, and therefore need to be written a little differently than your average resume. When applying for the average job, you are selling your education and experience; but when hiring for an executive position, employers want to hire you as a person, rather than simply your past. An effective executive-level resume sells your achievements, your skills, and even your personality together - as a package deal.
Highlight Your Achievements
Your executive-level resume demonstrates not only your work history, but also your achievements - which should be impressive enough to justify your salary. Types of achievements that employers want to see include:
- Saving your company money
- Reducing costs
- Saving clients money
- Saving time
- Increasing productivity
- Improving morale
- Resolving long-term problems
- Improving the bottom line (the difference between billable hours and expenses)
Did you notice that most of these achievements have to do with money? There's a reason for that! Employers want executives who save the company money, and they are willing to pay a high salary for the right person. An effective executive- level resume needs to demonstrate your track record of cutting costs and increasing profit.
Sell Your Soft Skills
An employer won't be helped by the money you have saved other companies - they need assurances that you can replicate past achievements. Your resume should therefore sell not only your track record, but also the skills you can offer your new employer. The following qualities are among some of the more important in a successful executive:
- Emotional self-control - An executive needs to be able to think clearly and
maintain control, especially when under pressure.
- Leadership skills - An executive needs to be able to make the best use of
their resources in order to get things done.
- Communication skills - An executive needs to be able to hand down orders that
are clear and concise, to ensure that things go as planned.
- Charisma - Besides being able to communicate effectively, a good executive is
someone who is liked and respected.
- Integrity - Although the corporate horror stories that make the news may
suggest otherwise, most companies look for executives who are honest and
- Vision - An effective executive has the ability to envision where the company is headed, and knows what must be done to improve the outlook.
Remember, the hiring manager's priority is to find an executive who will be an asset the company. Your executive resume needs to clearly demonstrate the skills you have to offer.
How an Executive-Level Resume Differs
Most resumes contain the same information, regardless of the format: objectives, qualifications summary, education, training, work experience and/or skills, and special honors or awards. The executive-level resume differs slightly from this formula. Although you still provide a summary of your qualifications and a listing of your previous jobs, the "slant," or the way you approach the information, is slightly different.
As with any other resume, an executive resume needs to be concise. However, "concise" does not mean leaving out important detail. In order to convey your achievements and special skills, your resume will need to include more detail than the average resume.
The executive resume is typically one to two pages; however, your level of experience should determine the length, rather than a general guideline. As long as you avoid unnecessary words and "filler," the length of your finished resume should accurately reflect your level of experience.
The "Executive Profile"
The key to a distinguished executive-level resume is an attention-getting executive profile. When hiring for such an important position, it is more important to an employer to see what skills you have than what your career goals are. Instead of objectives or a summary of qualifications, a hiring manager for an executive-level position looks for an executive profile.
Although the content is somewhat different, the executive profile does the same thing in an executive resume as the objectives and summary of qualifications sections do in a lower-level resume: provides an at-a-glance summary of your skills and qualifications. The difference is that the executive profile has to be harder hitting.
This section presents your key achievements, essentially setting up a hard sell as to why you would be valuable to the company. If your executive profile indicates that you have what the company is looking for, the hiring manager will continue reading; if not, your resume will be quickly tossed aside.
Work History versus Achievements
The professional experience section of the executive resume also differs from the same section in a normal resume. Instead of presenting your work history in terms of job descriptions, you will focus on your achievements in each position.
Just like in a normal resume, you will start with the most recent position you have held. After listing the company and your job title, however, you will write a short, focused description of the company and why were hired on. For instance, you might write, "XYZ Company is a manufacturer of top-end widgets. Originally brought on board to increase efficiency and cut costs." Remember to be concise, but also be sure that you include enough information to provide an accurate overview of your role in the company.
Following this short blurb about the company and the position you held, you will write a bulleted list of your achievements in the position. Rather than giving vague or general achievements, describe specific events. For instance, one bullet point could explain in a few sentences how you solved a long-term inefficiency problem, thereby saving the company $1 million per year.
Or you could describe how you resolved a company-wide crisis in 24 hours by making the best use of your resources. Providing enough detail will reassure the employer that you can replicate these successes in a new company and a new situation.
Regardless of what achievements you list, they need to be explained in quantifiable terms. This means that numbers - percents, dollar amounts, etc. - are vital if you want to make a serious impression. For types of achievements to list, review the list in the "Highlight Your Achievements" section, above.
The Executive Package
The most important thing to remember when writing your executive-level resume is to consider how it presents you as a whole. In top-level jobs, there is much less room for error, so companies will be more discerning about who they hire. A well-written executive resume will sell your skills, achievements, and other qualifications in such a way that the hiring manager can see exactly why you will be an unparalleled asset to their company.
Jason Kay contributes to career related sites such as JobGoRound.com, which provides resume tips and a review of the best professional resume writers.
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