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Write your own executive resume?
Some job seekers are convinced they can. It can’t be THAT difficult. Other, wiser people understand that it really IS that difficult.
They’ll tell me upfront that they’re embarrassed by how bad their resume is, because they wrote it themselves, often many years (or decades) ago.
And they’ve been tweaking it to death ever since.
Many of them have never needed a resume, as they progressed through their careers to the senior or c-suite level. Or, they haven’t looked for a job in several years.
They know the value they have to offer, but have no idea how to put that on paper so they’ll get the attention they deserve.
But here they are, suddenly needing a resume. So they scrambled, and pieced together some kind of marketing document. But using their home-grown resume was getting them little to no action.
I reassure them that they’re not alone.
Job search is complicated, and so is resume writing.
We discuss how job search has changed in the past several years, and that these days their resume may not be their first introduction to the people they need to attract.
I explain that most recruiters and hiring decision-makers source and assess candidates by what they find in online searches of candidates’ names and relevant keywords that lead them to job seekers.
These hiring professionals may know about them well before a resume is exchanged, unless the candidate has little or no online presence and is basically invisible to them.
I also stress that, since these people search LinkedIn when they’re sourcing and vetting candidates, they’d better be there too, with a brand-solid profile.
I tell them that they’ll still need a resume as they’re networking, and at some point in the hiring process.
As they pull together information for their resume, they should keep in mind that they’ll need to spread this information out across their other personal marketing communications – biography, case studies, other documents, LinkedIn profile and other online branding.
Some people CAN write their own resume.
I don’t mean to imply that no executive job seekers are capable of writing a good resume for themselves.
I’ve seen some who have. They did a good enough job of positioning themselves for their target employers.
But they did do some research and got guidance on what should and shouldn’t be in their resume, like my set of personal branding and executive job search worksheets.
The main reason most executives can’t write their own resume.
In general, most people have trouble distancing themselves enough to objectively assess themselves.
And they don’t understand the complicated strategy involved in writing compelling personal marketing content (for their resume, bio, LinkedIn profile, etc.) to differentiate their value from their job-seeking competitors’.
They don’t know how it should look, what to include, what to exclude and what to highlight.
And they don’t know how to position that information to best showcase their ROI.
Many of the resumes executives write themselves are still partying like it’s 1999.
They don’t know how to write a modern resume. That’s the big problem.
Executive resumes have changed in the past several years.
An executive resume is no longer merely a career history rundown.
Today’s resume is a personal marketing document.
The first rule of marketing? Know your target audience, what their needs are, how you can meet certain needs of theirs, and how you will enhance their business. And then convey that in your resume.
Although there is no perfect format or style or length, the perfect executive resume is one that perfectly positions that executive as a good hiring choice . . . the right fit for the companies/employer(s) and type of role they’re targeting.
6 Mistakes You’ll Probably Make When You Write Your Own Executive Resume
1. You’ll fail to position yourself as the best hiring choice for particular employers.
What I so often see are resumes with no clear target audience in mind. The mistake they make is trying to cover too many bases, showcasing every area of expertise and highlighting every career accomplishment.
Often they end up with a 5-page or more “kitchen sink” resume, with way too much unfocused information, that they blindly use for every purpose.
A generic resume like this will likely get them nowhere.
Step one, before any writing begins, is identifying your target audience, so you’ll know who you’re writing to, and identifying their needs, so you can align the best you have to offer to solve their problems.
Everything in your resume must powerfully position you as someone who is uniquely qualified to meet specific challenges of theirs. Irrelevant and extraneous information misuses the limited space available.
Knowing your target companies and their needs will drive what you need to include in your resume.
Do some research and gather as much information as possible about your target companies before crafting your resume. This post will help, Best Ways and Places to Research Your Target Employers.
2. You won’t understand how personal branding will differentiate you and generate chemistry for you as a good-fit candidate.
You have to entice readers out of the gate by linking your pivotal leadership strengths and unique value proposition with personal attributes.
Breathe life into an otherwise flat document and come alive on the paper, digital and web page.
Give yourself permission to boast about your relevant standout achievements, but back them up with monetized examples (Challenge – Actions – Results success stories) showcasing how you made things happen.
This may be expressed in percentages (%) or dollars ($$$). Read my post, How Storytelling Makes Executive Resumes and LinkedIn Profiles Dazzle.
Give an indication of who you are, in a conversational way that speaks from your own voice. Generating chemistry is one of the goals you should be striving for when writing compelling career marketing communications. It helps you make an instant connection and lasting impression.
For more on defining your executive brand, see my 10-Step Personal Branding Worksheet.
3. You’ll fail to capture attention above the fold.
You’ve probably heard many times that you only have about 10 seconds to win or lose the reader. That means taking advantage of the real estate at the top of your resume.
The mistake I see in the “profile” or “summary” section is vague information strung together through a series of keywords, with no specifics and no metrics.
The people assessing you through your resume want to see exactly how your actions have impacted bottom line, and built business and profitability. By all means, use the relevant keywords and phrases your targeted research has uncovered, but also show them the numbers!
4. You’ll sacrifice readability to keep your resume to 2 pages.
Trying to jam in too much information . . . in a too-tiny font, without enough white space to soothe the eye . . . can turn readers off before they begin.
Remember that, at the senior and c-suite level, you should be getting your resume in front of human eyeballs and not just tossed into a database for scanning. Put yourself in the position of the people reading your resume.
The 2-page resume limit is constantly debated, and not a hard and fast rule.
It’s more important to concentrate on content that demonstrates your good fit for your target employers.
Break up densely packed, long paragraphs into shorter ones of only 2 to 4 lines. Use bullet points to keep readers engaged and draw their eyes down the page.
Don’t fret if, after ruthlessly editing, your resume spills over to a third, or even fourth, page. It’s okay, as long as you’ve structured the first page to stand on its own, with the following pages there to provide supporting evidence.
5. You won’t know how to keep your resume from showing your age.
Many top-tier executives, and those at any professional level, are over 50, which is when age discrimination typically sets in.
It’s impossible to cover up your age entirely.
But with a modern resume you can at least keep your age from being glaringly evident in your resume, so you’ll have a better chance of getting into the running.
Here are some things on your resume that will show your age:
- An ancient email account provider
- Street address in your contact information
- No links to social media or other relevant content online
- Old style formatting
- An objective statement at the top
- Generic, resume-speak and age-identifying information in the summary section
- Years you earned your earlier degrees
- Outdated, irrelevant certifications and training
6. You won’t know that you need various versions of your resume, and how they should be formatted.
The attractively formatted, enhanced resumes you typically see in resume samples and in circulation are not the only ones you’ll need.
To meet the needs of the various kinds of people and technology reading your resume, you’ll need 3 different versions:
- An attractively formatted Word version
- A PDF version of the above so that the formatting will look the same no matter what device it’s called up on
- A plain, barely formatted ATS-friendly Word version (with little to no enhancements) that will make it through any of the several hundreds of different Applicant Tracking Systems software used to match candidates to jobs
Here’s what happens when you send your resume to recruiters and employers, and when you respond to job postings:
- The document is put into a database or ATS, along with thousands of other resumes.
- The ATS attempts to match candidates to jobs. The database sifts through the resumes and parses their content for the relevant keywords they’ve fed into it for that particular job.
- The only resumes selected are those that are formatted in a way that the ATS can “read”. And they have to contain enough of those relevant keywords.
- Resumes are not selected if they are incorrectly formatted, don’t contain enough of the right keywords, or don’t fit the bill in some other way.
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Max Beck says
I love your idea to research the company more to find out what exactly they are looking for in their new hire. My sister just moved to a new city and needs to find a job that fits her career path. She is having trouble finding anything so she needs to tailor her resume to the companies.
Meg Guiseppi says
Thanks for commenting, Max. The best way to position yourself as a good-fit candidate is to determine and communicate specifically how you can help your target employers. Your sister definitely needs to tailor her resume as much as possible.