It's never easy to write your own resume, and when you're an executive, or want to be, it is even harder. You probably have several things working against you: you're short on time, you are focused on the big picture rather than the details and you may not have written a resume in a long time.
While the points below can apply to and help anyone writing a resume, this is a breakdown of areas you should specifically focus on as an executive.
Refine your career profile. This is a summary of you as a leader. It is not an exhaustive list of your accomplishments and skills. If it's running a half page, it's too long. Even if you have a long and successful career history, you're still expected to be able to summarize it concisely. You must hone in on what's really important. Some common, though by no means exhaustive, areas you should consider highlighting at your level are: strategy, operations, leadership (of people and teams), innovation, relationship building and change management.
Don't date yourself. Some organizations value young leadership and others value the wisdom that comes with experience. No matter your age and what companies espouse, age discrimination is rampant. Therefore, it's better to say "extensive experience" than "over 30 years of experience," unless you are confident that the companies and roles you are targeting want that exact number (or more) of years of experience. This same principle extends to other parts of your resume. While in most cases you'll include your work history, which will contain years, you do not need to emphasize age by including your graduation dates.
Break down the big picture. A lot of senior executive resumes sound the same -- e.g., you'll see general statements about P&L (profit and loss) responsibility and management. Ask yourself what you do on a daily basis. Here are some questions to get you thinking:
-- What types and levels of talent have I hired and developed over the years?
-- What teams or departments do I lead?
-- Who do I report to, what does that interaction look like in practice and how frequent is it?
-- Have I led business transformations or major changes, and if so, what did I do and how did it change the organization?
Present results without breaking confidentiality. As an executive, there are a lot of key details you cannot share on paper due to confidentiality agreements, especially when you've been working in a private company. So you need to get creative. Perhaps you can't state sales or revenue numbers, but you may be able to use an estimated percentage growth year over year, or over a number of years. Maybe you grew your team threefold but can't divulge exact numbers; that's fine, write that you tripled the size of the team. Also, consider areas you've pioneered or turned around. If a business unit or retail store was underperforming and you made it profitable, that's a result that you can point to without divulging a number.
Highlight key accomplishments. This is a key section for an executive resume, and it should be just below your profile. Go for quality over quantity. After you've compiled your bullets with results, go through them and select three to five that you are most proud of. You may want to ask a friend or trusted colleague if they agree with your choices, or have any others to suggest.
Summarize roles over 10 years old. It's likely that you won't have space for details of jobs over 10 years old, and the truth is, most employers will not take the time to read that anyway. You only need to include your past titles, organizations, locations and years held. If there is anything from that period that you feel is important to expand on, you can do that in an interview.
Include awards and media exposure. Awards and select media should be separate sections. Awards should be listed with titles, organizations and years received. Obviously, if you do not have any awards or media appearances, articles written or interviews, you won't need these sections. If you do, choose five or less media appearances from the past few years, and include a hyperlink on the title.
The rest is up to you. If you have space on your two-page resume (yes, it should only be two pages), and have specialized skills, speak foreign languages, participate in volunteer or philanthropic activities or have hobbies, you may want to include those items in another section. These all contribute to your story and show that you are well-rounded outside of your professional accomplishments.
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