Have you ever wondered how a professional executive resume writer knows what to include in their clients’ resumes, what to exclude, and how to position the right information . . . in the right ways?
This 5-part series will help you understand how to create an interview-generating, brand-reinforcing executive resume.
Here’s what you learned, if you’ve read the first 4 parts of this series:
Part 2 – What Personal Branding Is and Is NOT
In the 5th and last part here, I’ll wrap things up for you with some insider tips on editing and finalizing your executive resume.
How To Consolidate All Your Executive Resume Pieces Into A Neat Package
With your clearly defined brand attributes and value proposition firmly in place, you’re ready to put it together, with every aspect and word supporting your mission and brand.
Editing is the hardest part for most people. Since space is at a premium, precision-writing is of the essence. Writing short takes time and courage. Paring down to the essentials can be painful, but remember your mission.
Remember that today’s resume is not a comprehensive career history.
It is a personal marketing tool designed to immediately capture attention, generate interviews, and hopefully, pre-qualify you for a premium compensation package.
Your executive resume needs to provide just enough information to accomplish that. Nothing included should be arbitrary.
10 Executive Resume Do’s and Don’ts
1. Streamline Your Executive Resume Header
To avoid confusion and keep your resume header clean, include just one phone number – the one you’re most accessible via and will frequently check voicemail on. That’s typically your cell phone.
Get a new email address if yours is unprofessional or in any way off-color.
I’ve seen some downright offensive email addresses. Don’t turn people off before you give them the chance to consider you. And a silly, unprofessional email address may land your email message and resume in a spam filter.
Set up a designated job hunting email account, like Gmail, with an address using your first and last names.
For obvious reasons, it’s not wise to use a phone number or email address associated with your employer.
2. Pack a Punch on the First Page
Brand your value “above the fold” (see Part 4 of the series) and design the entire first page to stand on it’s own as your ROI calling card.
Assume that readers will go no further than your first page, because that could easily be the case.
Subsequent pages are there to provide supporting evidence, and include earlier relevant career highlights and education/professional development.
An interest-grabbing first page will lead readers to move beyond it, to the following pages.
3. Tell the Truth!
Your resume must be 100% truthful.
Stretching the truth or outright lies will catch up with you, and damage your credibility and reputation.
Even a little white lie can result in your being suddenly out of the running, or subsequent immediate termination, if you’ve managed to squeak through and get hired.
By the same token, don’t copy the content from someone else’s resume. It could easily get you into BIG trouble.
4. Avoid Blah Resume-speak
Replace stale, overused phrases like “responsible for” with robust action verbs, like accelerated, pioneered, launched, advanced, optimized, etc.
Write your resume from your own voice. You’re not like everyone else. Find the precise words that describe what makes you unique and valuable.
Keep the content interesting and don’t fall back on dull phrases that don’t differentiate you, such as results-oriented, visionary leader, excellent communication skills, proven track record of success, etc.
5. Include Pandemic-Related Content
Although we’re all hoping the pandemic will fizzle out sometime soon, its impact will likely be felt for years to come.
Employers will want to know if you played a signficant role in helping your company deal with the challenges of the pandemic.
Resume writer Adrienne Tom advises that you explain how you as a leader:
“Faced new business challenges, strengthened or expanded your leadership skills, and/or demonstrated a heightened level of resourcefulness and resiliency.”
Here are steps she suggests to get you there:
- Identify the business challenges you managed since the pandemic started.
- Consider which actions and skillsets you utilized to tackle significant challenges.
- Note the results your efforts generated.
She offered an example of a strong Covid-related statement for a resume:
“Initiated creation and launch of new online customer training platform in just 3 weeks, ensuring seamless product training during COVID-19. Secured 90%+ customer satisfaction and retained 95% of monthly revenues.”
6. Don’t Include Certain Personal and Irrelevant Information
These items should be left off your resume:
- Personal information – date of birth, marital status, health etc.
- Hobbies – save those for your bio, if relevant
- Personal/professional references
- Irrelevant certifications, professional development, awards, etc.
- Any superfluous information that doesn’t zero in on your good-fit for your target employers.
7. Formatting Should Be Attractive and Easy To Read
Keep the formatting consistent and clean. Don’t use frilly fonts, or more than two different fonts, and don’t use underlining. This kind of formatting can be dizzying to readers and turn them off.
Concise on-brand statements of value work best . . . surrounded by enough white space to make them pop.
If you’ve done your research homework correctly, these statements will provide clear evidence of your success impacting bottom line, and position you as the best-fit candidate.
Use bullet points for better impact.
Break up long chunks of information into no more than about 3-4 lines.
Overall, keep in mind that many people will be reviewing your resume on the tiny screens of their phones.
8. Think Twice About Using a Video Resume
Don’t put a link in your resume document to your video resume. In fact, it may be best not to use a video resume at all.
Job seekers rarely come off well reading on camera from a script based on a typically boring resume.
Among the many problems with video resumes, there are two major issues that should not be ignored:
First, video resumes are VERY “job-searchy”. Put a video resume out there and everyone (including your current employer) will assume you’re job hunting. That’s a BIG problem for the majority of job seekers who are job hunting under cover.
Second, there are EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) concerns for employers viewing your video resume. They can open up avenues of discrimination in the hiring process based on race, gender, gender identity, and age, as well as health and disability, that employers won’t see by simply looking at a paper resume.
Although you may have a headshot on your LinkedIn profile or elsewhere online that may reveal some of these things, seeing you moving and speaking on camera for a few minutes can also reveal things about you that can cause employers to rule you out unjustly. Things like how you sound and move, and your overall demeanor.
Take it from resume writing/career coach trainer Marie Zimenoff:
“A video resume does not exist—it is a myth. Nobody is watching them. However, video is a substantial part of your overall branding package. It is not going to be on a resume. I would not encourage you to spend the time or money making a “video resume” where you talk about yourself for 90 seconds.
What does work is a video of you presenting something relevant to your field that you can upload to your LinkedIn profile. It can be a short video of you talking about a subject matter expertise. Sharing some knowledge and even a voiceover of a presentation can fill that video gap. You may share your knowledge and your story in the video, but not a verbatim of the narrative of your resume.”
9. What About Resume Length?
Try to keep your resume to 2 to 3 pages. Exceptions are doctors, educators, scientists, and others who may have extensive CVs.
But don’t fret if your resume spills over to a fourth page. The point is that it needs to include what’s most important for those assessing you to know about you.
Think before you include arbitrary information about yourself that your research hasn’t shown to be important to your target employers.
Typically, it’s best to limit your career history to the last 10-15 years . . . mostly because of space constraints.
There may be some situations where going back further than 15 years is advised and/or necessary. For instance, some executive recruiters may want a “kitchen sink” executive resume, because they know their client companies prefer a full career history.
10. Don’t Worry About Having Too Much Information
You’ll be gathering a lot of information for your resume.
Initially, don’t worry that you won’t be able to fit it all into 2 or 3 pages. Nothing will go to waste.
Excess information can be used in your ATS-friendly resume version. It’s actually a good idea for this document to be much longer than the nice-looking formatted version. More content means more of the keywords that will help your resume sail through the Applicant Tracking Systems.
Any excess information you’ve culled can also be used in collateral supporting documents and/or for interview prep.
The entire personal branding and executive resume development process serves as a terrific confidence-builder and energizer to prep you for your executive job search.
The hard work you’ll be doing will set you up to succeed.
The Impact of Doing All the Personal Branding and Executive Resume Development Work
A standout executive resume demands forward-thinking design and bold content.
You have to be willing to embrace what differentiates you from everyone else and makes you unique.
You have to be willing to boast a little about the value you bring to your next employer . . . and back it up with proof, through specific examples.
I always tell job seekers that you’re not boasting. You’re educating people about the value you offer.
Remember that uniqueness is what will sell you.
Sounding the same as those competing against you won’t compel people to want to talk to you. Instead, differentiate your value-offer.
All of your efforts to pull this together successfully will pay off in every aspect of the job search ahead. You’ll be armed with the goods for better networking, interviewing, salary negotiations, and overall healthy career management.
With your personally branded resume in hand, you’re ready to start networking your way into the advertised and “hidden” (unadvertised) jobs at your target companies. More in How to Network Into the Goldmine of Hidden Executive Jobs.