What’s the Deal with Executive Resume Branding?
Executive resume branding is a personal marketing strategy for job search that helps you distinguish your promise of value to specific target employers, and compel them to want to talk to you.
Branding helps you tell your unique story.
But wait. You do know who you’re targeting, don’t you?
If you’re not working from knowledge of the needs and challenges of specific target employers, you can’t possibly create personal marketing documents (executive resume, bio, cover letters, etc.) that will hit home with them, or anyone.
What is the purpose of an executive resume?
Remember that a resume is not meant to be a long document outlining every bit of your career history.
It’s a marketing document designed to align your qualities and qualifications with your target employers’ requirements and needs, while differentiating the value you offer over your competing job seekers. It needs to contain just the information needed to meet that purpose.
Keep in mind that your paper or digital resume may not be your first introduction to hiring decision makers. It’s much more likely to be your LinkedIn profile, if you have one (shame on you if you don’t!), and your online presence in general.
Here’s how you lay the foundation for all your online and offline personal marketing materials (including your LinkedIn profile):
- Targeting – Identify companies that will meet your career goals, and whose business goals you will help meet.
- Research – Learn about each of those companies and determine current pain points or problems of theirs that you’re uniquely qualified to help them with.
- Personal Branding – Define and differentiate the personal qualities, skill sets and qualifications that you rely on to achieve positive results for your employers.
My personal branding and job search worksheets will help you with all of this.
Your executive resume needs to capture and hold the attention of people assessing you. If it doesn’t do that within about 10 seconds or so, you may be overlooked.
And don’t rely on generic information about yourself that will make you appear the same as your job-seeking competitors. Be specific. Sameness won’t “sell” you. Differentiation will.
How does executive resume branding above-the-fold work?
The top third or so of your resume – what we call “prime real estate” – has the greatest impact . . . and can be considered the most important section of your resume.
Think of it this way. Whatever lands in this so-called above-the-fold location should tell enough of your story to sell you on its own. Everything beyond that provides supporting evidence and further details.
And, well-written content above-the-fold will compel people to read your entire resume, where you’ve showcased all you have to offer your target employers.
Please note: The examples I’ve included below are from actual clients’ resumes, and are offered just as suggestions on how to approach this part of your resume. Don’t even think about copying this content on your own resume.
6 Above-the-Fold Executive Resume Branding Tips
1. Pay attention to the name and contact section
I like to include a tagline or short quote from that person directly under their name. You’ll find an example of this below.
If you’re using an old-time email provider (Hotmail, AOL, etc.), replace it with either a Gmail account or an email address associated with the domain name “yourname.com”.
Also, include only one phone number. And include links to your social media accounts where you’re active.
2. Create a keyword-rich headline block
Readers are likely to zero in on your headline first, so give it a hook to capture and hold attention.
Forget about including an objective statement. Only old-fashioned resumes have them. I mean those dating back several decades. Including an objective could peg you as older right off the bat, and subject you to age discrimination.
Plus, wasting prime real estate on something employers don’t care about (why you want the job) diverts your overall resume focus: Positioning yourself as someone your target employers need.
Create a stacked block (3 -5 lines total) of information setting up something like this:
- The job or role you’re targeting
- Your specific areas of expertise related to the target job (focus on the relevant keywords (or areas of expertise) you uncovered in your research)
- A brief phrase or two spotlighting what you’re most known for
For significant impact I also often include a tagline or an abbreviated quote from job seekers themselves, that sums up the way they operate or get things done. I sometimes place this directly under their name, such as:
John Smith, CCISO, ITILv3, CCNA, CSPO
“I can talk about cybersecurity without using one technical word.”
Here are 3 examples of strong headlines.
For “John Smith” from above:
CERTIFIED CHIEF INFORMATION SECURITY OFFICER
Reducing cost of ownership and capturing the maximum return on security investments
Cybersecurity | Business Optimization | Cloud Operations | Strategic Planning | Change Management
Program/Project Management | Vendor Management | Process Engineering | RFI/RFP | Client Retention
Global Cloud Computing & IT Operations Expert
My enthusiasm for the new IT energizes the entire organization
Cloud Native Architectures | DevOps | AWS | Docker Containers | ERP Systems
Fortune 100 experience with Big 4 consulting background
Senior Healthcare Generalist Consultant
Project & Operations, Change Management & Transformation, Revenue Cycle Finance, M&A, AI
Research & Analytics, Strategy Development & Execution, Governance, Automation
An open-door, empathetic leader, I’m a project and operations guy who finds the right strategy to get things done, ensures the right people are in the room and expertly navigates ambiguity.
As you see, you can mix up the placement of things in your stacked block.
3. Include relevant keywords, in general
Instead of just listing your relevant keywords here, make those keywords and phrases come alive by weaving them into short branded “stories”, using the C–A–Rs storytelling method.
Keywords are especially important in your ATS-friendly resume. This resume version is written and formatted to make it through Applicant Tracking Systems that parse resumes for keywords to help recruiters and employers match candidates to jobs they’re trying to fill.
4. Don’t forget about the “personal” part of resume branding
Generate chemistry by touching on your personality and personal attributes – who you are, what you’re passionate about doing at work, your leadership and management style, what you’re like to work with.
One little-used above-the-fold tactic is to include 1 or 2 relevant, hard-hitting accolades from people you work with.
The way you’re perceived by others is one of the best ways to communicate your personal brand and get some of your personality into your resume.
For instance, here’s one quote I used for a Senior Change Management Executive, that came from his COO:
“Dan understands his business cold. He is creative in finding solutions that are scalable and sustainable, has achieved remarkable gains in our product portfolio, maintained high employee engagement survey results, and driven productivity to unprecedented levels.”
Similarly, you can include a quote from yourself . . . something that reflects your philosophy about your work or the job, or a guiding principle of yours, such as this one for the same client as above:
“Preserving the culture of the company, effectively messaging the direction, collaborating all the way down, and building trust and respect to unleash full engagement . . . these are the things that drive operational excellence.”
5. Back up your contributions and achievements with metrics
Numbers and metrics pack a powerful punch, so use them whenever possible throughout your resume.
But don’t just include them in the “Professional Experience” section. Insert a few of them above-the-fold, using the C-A-Rs stories you developed. Include things that will be most important to your target employers.
6. Bring forward other pertinent information
Another tactic you may not know about – or understand that it’s actually smart to do – is to bring forward relevant information that would chronologically or functionally land on the second page.
Here are some things to consider moving into the above-the-fold position, if they’re the kinds of things you’ve determined from your research that will be important to your target employers:
- Specialized training
- Professional development
- Standout achievements
- Articles/white papers you’ve written or were mentioned in (include a link if online)