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Executive Resume Writing Tips

Professional Executive Resume Writing Tips

Talk to any recruiter or hiring manager in today’s market, and they’ll tell you that it’s getting much more difficult to find good candidates. Unfortunately, this is not quite true. There are plenty of candidates, but not enough quality executive resumes that do the best job of selling one’s employment value. And that’s they key – selling your value and putting a stamp on your unique brand.

Frequently, executives believe that their status, title and background should speak for itself. Years ago, that was true in many respects. These executives were found by word of mouth or discovered through a brief, one-page bio. This information contained only short lists of duties, or worse, documents that merely listed the company name and their position title. Without providing clear and remarkable information that outlines bottom-line achievements, these executives are missing out on important opportunities.

An executive resume rarely goes through the normal Human Resource Channels. Rather, the submitted resumes move directly to another top executive or an executive search committee. These corporate hiring phases are time-consuming and costly; in order to maximize their selection investment, they won’t waste time interviewing the executives about which they know very little. Sadly, qualified executives wonder why their phone isn’t ringing or their blackberry not buzzing.

For example, a resume that states only that a particular CEO has P&L authority, management over 200 staff members and accountability for all primary company decisions, won’t do much to tell the reader how they’ve been able to “make things happen.” Recruiters and employers are not mind-readers, nor will they take the time to assume that a primary executive is an effective leader; that resume has to TELL them.

One might think that the title of CEO (or any other C-level title) should be enough for anyone to presume that the candidate possesses the leadership skills necessary to run a profitable organization. However, there is a major difference between the CEO of a successful startup or a CEO of a fledging Fortune company…today, we see CEO’s sitting in front committees trying to justify a multi-billion dollar loss or asking for a bailout. (My, how things have changed!).

When particular accountability is not quantified within the resume, however, it can send up a red flag that suggests that maybe things aren’t as they appear. Conversely, when a resume is full of “fluffy” words without tangible results, the candidate can come across as arrogant and impressed with their own title vs. being viewed as a true executive leader with the vision, problem solving and strategic planning necessary to move through both growth as well as loss or stagnancy! No matter what your industry/function is, the best executive presentation will work based on the following combination of information.

  • A strong profile or summary statement that encapsulates the areas of expertise offered, the ability to make profitable contributions to the targeted company and the potential to continue to do so in a new position. This profile statement is frequently the “hook” that is needed in order to encourage a thorough review of the resume. This is where you state your case and garner further reading!
  • Powerful verbiage that makes the most out of concise actions, in effect, marketing the candidate just as a product advertisement would. The best strategy is to include a number of challenge/action/result statements while keeping the writing style on an impressive yet executive level.
  • An overview of visionary leadership strengths including the capacity to anticipate needs, manage through change and identify new opportunities (or whatever is relevant to the candidate’s own strengths and position sought). These statements should translate into tangible records of profitability or revenue while demonstrating a flexible, proactive leadership style. Even when companies are experiencing loss, it’s good to talk about how you tried to/are preventing that loss. Turnaround, change management, strategic visioning, etc. are all great key words, but only if you have the proof to back those situations up.
  • A strong base of achievements and transferable skills; tell the reader about your experience in negotiating, merger activities, downsizing, restructuring, market expansion skills – anything that proves you can run a major corporation or division as it relates to your specific functional job target.

No matter what the industry, executive resumes are much more complex than a resume for a mid-manager or entry-level professional, merely because the resume must contain a lot of valuable information. Additionally, when selecting a top executive for an interview, the committee needs to be sure that the candidate is even worthy of that top-level salary – if the resume comes across as something put together quickly, it cheapens the overall professional impression and doesn’t say much about the candidate other than no time was put forth in marketing their history and potential to make history with a new organization. Any executive with a very strong commitment to a successful career should realize the importance of making that same powerful executive impression the first time – on paper.

Kim Little is Career Director of, a leading executive resume provider on the Web since 1997.