It’s time to update and revive your over-edited, old-fashioned executive resume. A modern, focused, targeted resume can make all the difference.
When executives send me their resumes, so many of them feel the need to apologize for it.
Over the years, they’ve edited the thing to death, and now they have a disjointed, unfocused mess that they know doesn’t position them in the best light. It doesn’t represent the best they have to offer.
They may have started out with a decent resume years ago, but since then they’ve updated it to reflect new jobs, new responsibilities, certifications, training, etc.
But what passed for a good or good enough resume years ago, may not work so well now.
And they usually haven’t deleted any information to accommodate the new stuff they’ve added in.
Because they’ve been told that their resume must be no longer than 2 pages (a common misconception), they’re left with a document that’s so tightly jammed full of content, in such a tiny font, that even THEY have a tough time reading it.
Pity the poor people they’ve been sending these resumes to.
Some things executive job seekers do wrong with their resumes
- They haven’t targeted or focused their resume to present themselves as a good fit for particular employers.
- The message and formatting are not cohesive.
- The formatting and font choices are inconsistent throughout.
- The formatting – typically an old style from years ago – doesn’t advance the message well.
- They clearly don’t know what a modern, optimized resume looks like.
- The newer content often contains spelling, usage and grammatical errors.
- Someone told them to use a functional format to try to hide employment gaps and other various red flags.
- The content doesn’t communicate their unique value proposition.
- The content lacks personal branding, so it doesn’t generate chemistry by giving a feel for their personality.
All of the above mistakes can sabotage chances and reflect badly on these job seekers, because:
- An unfocused, untargeted resume won’t provide the specifics to show employers how they’ll help them.
- Messy, inconsistent formatting makes it seem like they didn’t want to take the time to do it right.
- An old-style, un-optimized document makes them seem out of date with the digital age.
- If their resume indicates they’re not up to date with the new world of work, it may subject them to age discrimination.
- Grammatical and spelling errors bring into question their communication skills.
- A functional format doesn’t fool anyone.
- The lack of personal branding means their resume probably won’t generate chemistry, and doesn’t concentrate on their good-fit qualities for their target companies.
How to begin the process of updating your old-fashioned executive resume
Instead of working from, and trying to perfect, your out-of-date, old-fashioned executive resume, back up and start at the beginning.
Whether you have no resume, a so-so resume or what you consider to be a brilliant resume, start here:
TARGETING – RESEARCHING – PERSONAL BRANDING
With targeting and research, you’ll know how to define and communicate your personal brand. Branding is built around the unique value you offer specific target employers and differentiates the value you offer, over your job-seeking competitors.
Branding, based on how you’ll meet specific current pressing needs of your target employers, will help you generate chemistry and give a feel for your personality.
Knowing what your target employers will be looking for in candidates like you will drive the content in your resume. Then the content, and the things that need to be highlighted, will drive the formatting.
A few words about spelling, usage and grammatical errors
Please, take the time to re-read your resume several times, and have others review it, before you send it out.
I hope it goes without saying that typos, misspellings and grammatical errors in your job search personal marketing materials (LinkedIn profile, resume, biography, etc.) reflect badly on you as a candidate.
Such errors can actually tarnish your personal brand.
Diligent proofreading is a must. Don’t rely solely on Spell Check. Pay close attention to typos in your contact info, for obvious reasons.
Be aware that grammatical errors can convey the wrong message and even make you look ridiculous. Watch for confusing misplaced modifiers and phrases that distort what you meant to say.
More in my post, Do Grammar and Spelling Errors Really Matter in Executive Job Search?
How to develop content to update your old-fashioned executive resume
Probably the most important things you’ll be updating in your old-fashioned executive resume will be new jobs and responsibilities.
Storytelling is a great way to flesh out new accomplishments and contributions (and relevant older ones), position your value offer and get some zing into the content.
Using storytelling to draw out your top contributions helps people see HOW you leverage your skills and strengths to make things happen. It makes it easier for employers to picture you in action, making things happen for their organization. It gives them an indication of your personality and what you’re like to work with – important characteristics.
A storytelling device resume writers have been using for decades is the C-A-Rs approach, or Challenge – Actions – Results, also known by other acronyms such as S-T-A-Rs (Situation – Tasks – Actions – Results).
Here’s how to develop C-A-Rs stories:
What was the specific CHALLENGE (or Situation) facing the company and/or your team? Were you/the company facing particularly difficult odds with this situation? What were the stakes?
What specific ACTION(s) did you take to meet the challenge and improve things (whatever the goal was or whatever needed turning around)?
What were the long and short term RESULT(s) that positively impacted the company? Did you meet the goal, improve things, and/or turn around the situation? How long did it take to see the results? Monetize the results. Use metrics whenever possible – NUMBERS TALK!
And a tip to do it well:
When writing each short (2 to 3 lines) story, lead with the big result, including metrics, when possible. Here’s an example for a CEO Consultant – Business Process and Profitability Improvement:
Salvaged 65% of over-budget, behind-schedule million-dollar Financial System IT project for $280M utility company. Banked on efforts already invested, redefined the approach, mapped out a new path, renewed confidence, and unified everyone toward the same path of success.
More about developing content in my post, How to Build Personal Brand Content for Executive Job Search.
How to update your executive resume summary section
Don’t just insert new content in the Professional Experience section. Take a look at what, if anything, precedes that in your resume.
If you haven’t included a summary at the top, before the Experience section, get to work on that.
Since it’s the first thing most people will see, think of the summary, or executive profile, as a quick snapshot of your value offer.
Add in new content and attractive formatting designed to resonate with your target employers.
Brand yourself above the fold – the top third or quarter of page one. Busy decision makers generally allow only 10 seconds or so for a resume to draw them in. They may go no further than that initial page view when screening web pages or digital documents.
As much as possible, make this section stand on its own as your calling card.
Some suggestions for above the fold branding:
- Forget the objective statement. Employers don’t care so much what you want. Tell them what you’ll do for them.
- Include your personal brand statement which should contain your relevant keywords linked to your relevant key personal attributes.
- Add a powerful quote from a recent performance review or someone you work with.
- Add a quote from yourself about your work philosophy or something you’re known for saying at work.
- Include 3 or 4 value-driven bulleted statements, leading with any impressive metrics, when possible.
How to format your new executive resume
Do you fret about how many pages your resume should be?
Many executive job seekers have resumes that are 4 or 5, or even more pages. I typically advise keeping it to around 2-3 pages.
The thinking on length has evolved, but it’s often a topic debated among career professionals.
For a time, I was stuck on the absolute 2-page rule. But often enough I found that to best present and market my clients’ unique value promise, content had to spill over to a third page. In some cases, to a fourth page.
Executive resume length and formatting should be driven by the content that needs to be there to market the candidate’s value, and by who will be reading the resume.
Did you know that you’ll need 3 versions of your resume, for various purposes?
1. A nicely formatted, visually appealing Word version.
2. Also save the above version as a PDF, so that formatting of the above will set up exactly as you meant it to.
3. A stripped down, barely formatted text or ATS-friendly version to make it through the Applicant Tracking Systems recruiters and other hiring professional use. This can be created as a Word document.
The main thing to keep in mind when formatting your resume is to make it as easy as possible for people to get to the information about you they need to read.
For the first version noted above, keep the formatting attractive, consistent, and clean. Don’t use more than 2 different fonts (one for headings, another for content), and don’t choose frilly, unprofessional fonts. Use graphic lines sparingly, and avoid underlining text.
Remember that many hiring decision makers review resumes on their phones, meaning tiny screens.
When they open a document or web page, it’s more likely to capture and hold their attention with concise statements surrounded by plenty of white space.
Avoid densely packed, hard-to-read information. Shorter chunks of information are easier to read and will draw the reader’s eye to continue down the page.
The same readability issues apply to people reading your resume on a large screen. Make it appealing looking and easy to read.
More tips to modernize your old-fashioned executive resume
A few tips to modernize and optimize your resume, to show that you’re social media savvy and up to date with the digital age.
Add hyperlinks in your resume to:
- Your LinkedIn profile in the contact information at the top.
- Your other social media accounts in the contact information, if you’re active.
- Any articles, publications or media coverage you’ve noted anywhere in the content.
- Your personal website in the contact information, if you have one.