What Sells an Executive Resume (And What Doesn’t)

You’ve paid your dues and have the skills (and scars) to prove it. How do you convey all of that expertise in just a page or two? Sometimes, there is wisdom in what you don’t say. We explain what that means below with these tips for what sells an executive resume (and what doesn’t).

Start With The Big Picture

You have mere seconds to get a recruiter’s or hiring manager’s attention and convince him or her to spend more time reviewing your resume. Your resume must make an impact from the start.

Are you still using an objective at the top? These statements generally explain what type of opportunity you are seeking and they were the resume standard for many years. Not any longer. They have since been replaced with career / executive summaries.

Why the change? Objective statements were about the candidate’s needs; today it’s all about what the candidate can do for the employer. The summary at the top of your resume provides a prospective employer with a snapshot of your most relevant skills, experience and accomplishments. If  it effectively conveys the big picture of what you can do for the company, he or she is likely to continue reading.

Tell A Relevant Story

Once you’ve captured the employer’s attention with the big picture, now’s your chance to provide additional details in the experience section. As an executive, you undoubtedly bring many years of know-how. While it’s tempting to list all the responsibilities you’ve adopted over the years,  you have only two pages to work with, and you want to make them count.

Think carefully about the employer and job to which you are applying. What prior experiences and responsibilities are most relevant for this position? What expectations can you assume the employer already has of you?  Many essential abilities need not be explicitly stated if they are implied through the descriptions of your performance.  Cut as much extraneous information as possible.

Be Crystal Clear

Clear statements imply skills and abilities while also showing accountability and outcomes. Consider your adjectives carefully, as vague words become meaningless without facts to back them up. So, you say you’ve demonstrated visionary leadership? How have you shown vision? What specifically have you done to positively impact your employer’s outcomes? How have you contributed to organizational growth? What measurable results have you achieved? Providing specific answers to these questions will result in a cleaner resume with greater selling power.

Results Sell

Your resume is a marketing document intended to spark an employer’s interest enough to invite you for an interview. Many people are uncomfortable bragging about their accomplishments, but your resume is no place to be modest.  Employers are interested in the results you generated in the past so they can predict how you might help them succeed in the future.

One effective way to demonstrate results is through P-A-R statements.  P-A-R stands for Problem-Action-Results and including these three elements in your statements illustrates abilities and outcomes. An employer can imply a great deal about your capabilities through these statements.

In a P-A-R statement, you describe a business problem, the action you took to solve it and the positive result that came from your action. Where possible, quantify your results to reveal the impact on the organization’s bottom line.

For example, consider the statement “directed a marketing department with 12 staff members.” Sure, that says you had managerial responsibility, but it says nothing about what kind of managerial skill you have.  Now, consider this. “Reenergized an underperforming 12-person marketing team [problem] by creating desirable performance incentives [action] that resulted in more creative solutions for clients and a 20% increase in department productivity [result].” Doesn’t the latter statement have much more impact than the former? The second statement implies the same managerial responsibility while also revealing creative leadership abilities and specific results.

Give Them Some Space

You can write P-A-R statements all day but they probably won’t be read if your resume looks cluttered. A clean summary section, an experience section that focuses on results and a relevant education section are all important elements, but what’s not there is important too. Leave enough white space on your pages to make the resume easier to scan. A cluttered page can be overwhelming for the eyes and the brain that plans to give this document less than a minute of time on the first go around. So make your words count and save the less important details for that interview.

Are you getting interviews? If your resume is not providing the results you want, we can help!
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