At the executive level, the stakes are high. While executive recruiters and hiring managers will generally “slow the hiring process down” as compared to a mid-level search, your resume remains a critical component to landing these highly-coveted roles.
Key Concepts Covered
1. How to write an executive resume?
Before cutting down the proverbial tree, you must first sharpen your axe.
Preplanning is essential before sitting down with a word processor (or worse, an old resume) and a strong cup of coffee.
First, talk with an executive recruiter or gather some senior-level job descriptions from LinkedIn that resonate with your career path.
This phase may feel frustrating to those wishing to jump right into the deep end, however, preplanning will save you time and elevate the final product.
Executive resume writing firms like ours feel that this is the most important step in the entire process.
If you don’t know a recruiter, at the executive level, you’ll find that they’re extremely open to introductory conversations due to the high-value of your search. A cold LinkedIn message to a few recruiters in your region will yield significant results. Even if they don’t have an active role, they’ll have a strong perspective on the market from ongoing conversations with the hiring manager.
During this research phase, take detailed notes on job requirements. The job market is always changing, even for an executive position, and this is your opportunity to gather critical details to address in your executive resume.
Now that you’ve gathered notes from a few sources, start to turn each requirement into a question.
“Experience managing international teams” becomes, “What is my experience managing international teams?”
You should have 5-10 strong questions from your research.
Apply this series of questions to each role going back 10 years.
After responding to these questions in detail, it’s time to structure the responses into bullets.
2. How do I structure executive bullet points?
Bullet points are the core feature of executive resumes and what a resume writer (if you’re working with one) spends the most time perfecting.
Bullets allow the reader to gain maximum information about you in as little time as possible. They are located beneath each of your job roles on your resume, outlining your career history.
In order to get the most out of your bullets, they should follow this predictable formula:
Action verb + action + result + metric/qualification
From the example above, “What is my experience managing international teams?” a bullet could be:
Defined need for and built European sales team in response to opportunity assessment that grew revenue for new widget product line by 34% in Q4
Pay careful attention to verb tenses, your current role should be in the present tense, with all legacy roles and activities in the past tense.
We recommend that you have 5-8 bullets for your current role and reduce to 3-5 for your aged roles.
Roles beyond the ten-year-mark do not require bullets. Simply include the company name, title, and years.
3. What’s the best format for an executive resume?
While we have dozens of executive resume examples below, the one unifying characteristic for all these resumes is simplicity.
Your target audience, a recruiter or hiring manager, shouldn’t have to “learn” how to read your resume, wasting time to wrap their head around exceptionally creative formatting and modules.
While the design should be neat, your content will always take center stage. Formatting should never get in the way of your message and the delivery of your skillset during an executive job search.
With that being said, a traditional one-column format resume will always ensure readability and compatibility.
The first step for a hiring manager or recruiter when they receive your executive resume is to upload the document into a database, like an applicant tracking system. These databases ensure that your qualifications are logged and become searchable within the organization.
Remember, there may not be a role available immediately, so it’s critical to have a document that allows for maximum visibility down the line.
Black and white design, standard ATS friendly fonts, and omitting images or icons will ensure that your resume can reach all interested parties without data loss.
Your executive resume should always include these sections:
Key skills or call-outs matched to the job description
Technical skills (if required by job)
Your executive resume should follow the rule of “diminishing interest”, meaning that a reader will value (and remember) content at the beginning of your resume more than at the end.
Use this to your advantage and include big wins first in your format.
4. How to add contact info to your resume
The most critical area of your resume is sitting innocently at the top of the page, often forgotten by job seekers. An executive resume writer will probe this area first for unusual formatting and typos.
Recruiters and hiring managers alike mention that frequently standard contact information such as telephone and email are missing from resumes.
How is this possible?
It comes down to document compatibility. In other words, moving your resume from the document on your computer to an application portal and then to a hiring manager’s applicant tracking system.
Areas to include in your contact information section:
Email (keep it professional)
Social Media (LinkedIn, Behance, GitHub)
Personal website (optional)
You may be thinking, why, in the digital age, is an address still important on resumes. Besides the fact that hiring managers want to know your proximity to the home office, your address will be used as pre-filtration criteria.
Companies receive thousands of applications from candidates outside of the country, requiring costly relocation, or worse, using a false address.
If you’re applying to a role outside of your geographic region this should be addressed within your cover letter.
5. What is an executive summary on a resume?
An executive summary is a textual equivalent of making a first impression with your target audience. It’s an opportunity for the executive or c level applicant to introduce herself to the hiring manager in a compelling way that highlights unique achievements and demonstrates a fit for the role.
An executive summary should include three core components:
A mention of management style, personality, or core focus
Measurable achievements and scope of influence
A direct connection to the requirements of the market
When written properly, a hiring manager has a clear idea of your fit and capability within their organization.
More importantly, they will have an opportunity to assess cultural fit with your choice of language and what you’ve chosen to prioritize.
Here is an example of a great executive summary from a C suite executive:
Results-driven executive with diverse media success ranging from sports & tech to fashion. Equipped with a proven track record of driving sustainable revenue growth and building new channels, managing digital transformation, and scaling up major media brands to increase shareholder value. A tenacious leader with the ability to build and nurture high-performing teams through open and inclusive cultures.
Notice how this executive began with a trending keyword in his industry “results-driven”, qualified with the diverse range of his experience and provided specific examples of his successes. In addition, he ensures to close the executive summary with a clear statement on corporate culture.
Remember, one keyword or trending term may be “hot” this month and “cold” next. Ensure you do your research to use the right terms in order to resonate with the hiring manager.
Simply, a solid summary in executive resumes makes it easy for the hiring manager, search committee, or recruiter to say “yes” and pick up the phone to call you for an interview.
6. What is an executive profile on a resume?
An executive profile is another name for the punchy, value proposition located at the top of your resume, known as an executive summary.
Make sure to prioritize top-level wins, cultural fit, and quantified achievements in this resume summary.
Keep in mind, this is not an opportunity for a lengthy, skills-based highlight reel.
Keep your accomplishments in reverse-chronological order to satisfy the way recruiters prefer to read resumes.
7. How long is an executive resume? How many pages?
The one page resume rule is dead, especially for executive resumes.
You’ll notice in the executive resume example list below, most resumes comfortably spill onto 2 pages, with 3 pages not being out-of-the-question.
Fortune 500 executives and board members generally have a career history extending beyond twenty years and have numerous achievements to discuss.
With a smaller pool of applicants (and more at stake with the hire), hiring managers and recruiters prefer detail over broad summary. It may take well over a year to hire a Chief Executive Officer for a large, publicly traded corporation.
Do not ever assume that the reader already knows your accomplishments, reputation, and scope of responsibility.
If you’re unsure, consult with your executive headhunter to see what length of resume has resonated with the company in the past.
8. How do I write a resume for a C level executive?
A C level executive, such as CEO, CFO, or CTO should follow the rules explained above, but additionally, plan an iterative phase with their search firm.
This may be as simple as sending over the final draft a week before formally applying or even spending several weeks fine-tuning language with the executive recruiter who is actively engaged with HR or the search committee.
Remember, placement firms aren’t executive resume writers, but they have inside knowledge of the tastes and preferences of decision-makers within a specific organization.
So, even after working with an executive resume writer, this planned phase ensures the language of your executive resume fits the nature of the conversations the search firm has been having with the company.
This can only be accomplished iteratively.
Beyond focusing on your resume, a CEO should also invest resources in a personal website and cleaning up all social media.
Upload a professional headshot to LinkedIn profile
Use generalized aspects of your resume for content within your LinkedIn profile (leave out financials, client names, and sensitive detail)
Purchase your full name as a “.com” domain and upload an executive bio
Ensure your personal social media accounts are set to private or removed altogether
During a search of this magnitude, with salaries in the millions of dollars, information is gathered from every available resource.
Please see our executive resume examples below for handling links to personal websites and social media like LinkedIn.
9. How to put an executive board member position on a resume?
Board memberships are an important component of a C suite resume and they underline a commitment to a specific industry and showcase a valuable network.
About half of Fortune 500 CEOs are active on outside boards.
Board memberships should be formatted similarly to professional experience, including vital details:
Strengths and skills added to the board
As any board membership requires a significant time commitment, these details are critical in establishing the credibility of the role and the value that your involvement will bring to the new organization.
10. What is the cost of executive resume writing?
Preparing an executive resume requires a team of highly-skilled, specialized professionals who are familiar with all best practices of the resume writing process.
The right resume firm can turn a 90-day search into a 60-day search, which is nearly $20,000 in income for folks between roles at the executive level.
Often, the team will be broken-down into specialists who focus on one area of the resume writing process, such as: research, keyword analysis, project management, writing, and final editing.
Team-based executive resume firms price from $600 to $2500 depending on the package, amount of research involved, and length of career experience.
Working directly with a freelance writer can cost less, but the results may vary due to the lack of multi-step editing, depth of research, and technology used in the keyword process.
Make sure to ask your resume firm about their process, areas of expertise, if a team is involved, and how technical their research phase before moving forward.