Often when I speak with executives who are in job search, or planning one, the first thing they ask me is how their executive resume stacks up.
Many of them have never been in a job search or haven’t faced one for a number of years.
They’ve either slid easily from one company to the next, without ever having to look, or have progressed up the ladder within one or more good companies.
Often these lucky job seekers haven’t needed a resume, and have missed the boat on the new resume strategies.
They’re woefully out-of-date on how their resume should look and read.
You’ll note that I barely mention job boards here. For executives, especially at the c-suite and other top levels, this method yields dismal results and takes up too much time. Your time is better spent in networking your way into companies and circumventing gatekeepers for at least a time, until you become somewhat known.
First, create 3 versions of your executive resume for various purposes
1. A nicely formatted, visually appealing MSWord version.
2. A PDF version so that formatting of the above will set up exactly as you meant it to. On the receiving end, the formatting on MSWord documents may shift. With a PDF, it won’t.
3. A stripped down, barely formatted text or ATS-friendly version to make it through Applicant Tracking Systems. This can be created as a Word document.
How ATS works
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.
Some career professionals advise creating just one MS Word resume version that covers both bases – formatted for visual appeal but will also get the resume through ATS.
But there are more than 200 kinds of ATS out there. Some accept various enhancements and some don’t. You won’t know which version the company is using and how much formatting enhancement will be okay.
It’s safer to have a designated ATS resume version as I described above for the times you know your resume is going into an ATS. And reserve the nicely formatted Word version for human eyeballs only.
For specifics on building the content for your executive resume, read my post, How to Build Personal Brand Content for Executive Job Search.
And get my set of 4 proprietary worksheets to help you identify the information to include in your resume, and write your resume in a way that will resonate with your target employers.
Which executive resume format(s) to send to which people
Your executive job search campaign will include networking and communicating with:
- Executive recruiters
- Hiring professionals (or Human Resources) at your target companies
- Various other people who work at your target companies
- Your existing network
If you’re responding to job postings on company websites or job boards, upload your ATS-friendly resume version and follow their directions on any other format(s) or documents to include.
If you’re circumventing job boards and company website postings and reaching out directly to recruiters and other hiring professionals, your first communication will probably include your resume, with a brief cover letter/email expressing your interest.
Send these people all three resume versions. You may not know whether they will review your resume on their desktop/laptop or phone, and whether they may pass it on to an Applicant Tracking System, so play it safe and cover all the bases.
Tap employees at various professional levels at your target companies and others in your network for informational interviews, to help you with company research and market intelligence.
Your initial short emails to this second group of people are just “feelers”. You’re not presenting yourself as a candidate yet, because you don’t know at this time where and how you might fit into those companies, so don’t include your resume.
Once you get their feedback and determine the situation, customize your resume to position yourself as a good fit, and send a more detailed email with your targeted, nicely formatted Word resume.
Ultimately, your networking efforts should focus on penetrating the “hidden” job market. That is, coveted jobs that are never advertised anywhere.
What about the length of your executive resume?
Don’t get bogged down by confusing dictates you may have read about resume length, like “your resume must never be more than 2 pages” or, heaven forbid, “keep your resume to 1 page“.
Focus instead on detailing what makes you a good fit for your target employers, based on the research you’ve done to determine their current pressing needs, and how you’re uniquely qualified to help them problem-solve.
Resume length is driven by what information needs to be in it, to successfully market yourself.
A three page resume is fine, especially for c-suite and senior-level executives . . . if you’ve ruthlessly edited down to the essentials, and included only the things that will matter to your target companies.
Include in your resume a link to your LinkedIn profile – which should include the whole story – and direct people to find more details there.
And let me stress that your LinkedIn profile should have a lot more information about you in it than your 2 to 3 page resume will allow. If you have a skimpy, anemic LinkedIn profile, get to work on pumping it up for people assessing you and optimizing it for LinkedIn search.
There are some exceptions about executive resume length
1. Executive recruiters have been known to ask for a lengthy resume (sometimes 5 or more pages) including ALL your career history in depth. Provide them whatever they require. They know what their client companies want.
2. An ATS-friendly resume has no length restrictions. In fact, longer is probably better. More content means it will contain more of the relevant keywords the ATS will be looking for.