10 Executive Resume Writing Tips to Show Senior Leadership Qualities

Of all the executive resume writers’ tips, I have, effectively communicating “yourself” to better meet the demands of hiring managers and executive recruiters is the most important one.

You’ll see endless lists appearing online and in top business magazines, every year showing the desired skills and attributes looked for in chief executives. These qualities are gathered from thousands of CEOs with hiring authority from the board of directors and executive suites of companies.

As a professional resume writer with 16 years of expertise, it’s not unusual for a resume to land on my desktop for review. It was meant to be targeted to an executive position, but didn’t have any or very few of the qualities listed in the best CEO lists. Sometimes the core competencies are listed, but nothing is provided to back them up through examples, context, and quantifiable evidence.

Showing Executive Level Leadership in Your Resume

1.   Write a Top Executive Level Title and Summary

Your title and resume summary or profile are an essential part of your resume. It’s a snapshot of your key job qualifications. The choice of words you use here will determine “IF” the rest of your resume is even read.

An executive resume profile or summary should:

  • Use keywords that will be picked up in a resume database search or (ATS) applicant tracking system.
  • Reflect the skills and qualifications asked for in the job advertisement.

Do not hesitate to rewrite and reposition your summary to optimize your word choice for the targeted positions. George, for example, is the president who rose through the ranks of a mid-sized company as a top salesperson. He has developed one summary for executive vice president of sales positions – with a stronger emphasis on sales leadership and performance – and another for chief executive positions.

Before the executive resume summary, place the name of the position(s) you are seeking bolder, centered, and in a larger font. Examples of titles include:

Chief Executive/Executive Sales Leadership

International Oil and Gas Consultant

Distribution and Logistics Manager

Business Development Officer

Manufacturing Management Executive

Placing the title of the role at the top of your executive CEO resume will allow the reader to know instantly what job you are targeting.

2.   Use Your Executive Powers to FOCUS

Developing and maintaining a clear message can be the biggest challenge for an executive when writing a resume. At this stage in your management career, you have accumulated impressive knowledge across multiple disciplines and levels of responsibility. If you have made it to the executive suite, you certainly must have accomplishments to speak about in each position.

A useful guide is to match your accomplishments with the desired skills of the job posting. If it’s a sales executive job, for example, focus on your sales expertise and performance that are required in the job posting. Mirroring or matching the job position will help you stay focused. This process will help you develop several different resumes for different executive CEO jobs if required. You will be able to identify weak areas or gaps in your resume. Core competencies such as collaboration or change management may have inadvertently been left off.

3.   Retain Your Voice – It’s Your Branding

One significant mistake, even a professional executive resume writer can make is to dumb down the language and vocabulary. An executive will express themselves differently than, say, an administrative assistant. A company president who has worked himself up from a sales rep to the executive suite will convey wisdom, knowledge, and maturity in his editorial tone.

Two common ways this can happen is by copying and using standard resumes or cover letters such as templates or hiring an inexperienced executive resume writer.  Don’t let your job search documents come across as bland, mundane, or routine. Always make sure that you convey that you are a trailblazer, problem-solver, and leader. A thorough professional resume writing company will provide you with a questionnaire, enabling you to communicate your experience, qualifications, and career objectives showing you are genuine. Answering these questions in detail and your own words allow a professional writer to truly convey your character, experience, and knowledge in all your documents.

4.   Include Evidence of Relevant Soft Skills

An executive must have strong human relations skills to productively interact with employees, shareholders, clients, suppliers, peers and the board of directors. Many resumes list a standard set of traits – team leader, generous, listener, motivator, and so on. These words are hollow if you do not back them up with evidence. Providing examples of each soft skill listed makes them more convincing. These examples may be provided under your practical work experience.

  • Empathetic leader who truly listens to employee concerns through a 360-feedback system, implements teams to analyze problems and applies a performance measurement system to measure progress.

This CEO has three mechanisms for gathering and acting on employee concerns, and no doubt delivering results. They don’t just highlight the skill; they provide a concrete example of how it’s played out to the people they led.

5.   Communicate Executive Level Communication Skills

John Chambers—former CEO and now Executive Chairman of Cisco—has remained at the top of executive performance lists for 20 years. He has consistently delivered sales results. From his early days in the press, something else has distinguished this tech leader – his Southern gentility. Shareholders, the press, customers, employees and the board of directors like him and consider him a ‘gentleman.’ In one business journalist’s encounter, both Chambers and his PR man introduced themselves as ‘Southern gentleman’ within the first 30 seconds of the meeting.

You, too, can shape your audience’s opinion of you by describing your communication style to them in your resume.

Let the reader know who you are: open, attentive, empathetic to demonstrate soft skills. Note the power of metaphor: a Southern gentleman conveys many fine qualities in our minds. Consider: provide the clear and concise directions of a drill sergeant in an open, flexible tech culture to cultivate the best ideas (a collaborative Silicon Valley workplace comes to mind). I am mixing my metaphors here, but you get the idea. This also ties into your personal “brand”, so others know how to perceive you before they even meet you.

6.   Demonstrate Leadership Decision-Making Abilities

So how can senior-level executive candidates make their resumes stand out? (Forbes) As an executive, you know you will be asked to make many decisions every day. Your potential employer wants to see how you analyze problems and make those decisions. The decision making can involve many stakeholders and information sources across different disciplines. Show that you can effectively compare opinions and proposals, think quickly and decisively, and make change happen. Making a general statement such as ‘sound decision-maker’ may not be convincing enough. Examples of how you have made logical decisions in specific contexts and under pressure will demonstrate how you think. Whenever possible, also report the quantifiable results that resulted from your effective decision-making.

7.   Show Problem-Solving Expertise and Prowess

In an increasingly challenging global world, executives need to have sharp analytical skills to identify issues and practical problem-solving skills to develop solutions. If you can show innovativeness, you will score even more points. If you can also show that you can solve these issues at a low cost to the organization, you’ll make yourself more valuable of an asset.

Innovativeness can create simple and elegant solutions, such as starting a Twitter account to post employee problems and solutions and boost productivity.

8.   List Real Organization Problems You Have Solved

Companies may have to address many challenges on a given day, showing real examples are far more influential than blank statements. Did you raise financing during an economic downturn? Did you restructure the workforce and boost productivity?

You should also include examples of times when you’ve had to conduct a well-rounded analysis to solve a problem. This shows them that you can examine issues and solutions from every angle and determine the potential impact on all stakeholders.

9.   Provide Evidence of Executive Accomplishments

Think like a business consultant when you write your resume. They have to demonstrate performance to rationalize their high fees. Most points are backed up by quantitative evidence:

  • Doubled sales in one year through effectively coaching a team of 20 sales executives.
  • Saved $300 million in annual costs by applying analytical and technical skills to solve XYZ technical problems.
  • Boosted employee productivity by 250% by developing a new mentoring program.
  • Turned around an underperforming territory, accelerating sales to 125% of the prior year’s revenues.
  • Built division from $15 million in annual revenue in 2015 to $38 million in 2016.

Read each accomplishment without the numbers to back them up.

You get the point. Hard numbers have influence.

10. Provide Context in an Executive, CEO Resume

Context strengthens your resume in several ways. It shows the degree to which you succeeded. Consider:

Increased sales by 200 percent.

An impressive feat.

Increasing sales by this much amid an economic downturn, during the industry down cycle, or when the most influential company in the world just entered your space is an extraordinary achievement. Good executive business leaders can motivate people to achieve exceptional performance. If you are in sales, it is essential to dig deep to find quantitative sales-related accomplishments.

Context also helps you make the match between your qualifications and the targeted job position. Compare the above statement with increased hi-tech parts sales 200 percent in Southeast Asia.

Perhaps the sales director is hiring for Latin America but is facing the same commoditization and competitive challenges he experienced in Southeast Asia. Your resume will be prioritized. As a rule of thumb, provide context by answering: What? Where? and When?

Executive and CEO Resume Writing Tips – Conclusion

As you can see from these resume tips, you can separate what makes a good resume from what makes an excellent resume.

Present your resume with an executive design that communicates: corporate, professional, respect. A thin dark blue or burgundy border is an example of a conservative corporate design element you may want to add. Use searchable, conventional font, add a touch of traditional color if it suits your personality.

Get your job search off to a flying start by reviewing our resume samples and cover letter samples to gather ideas for writing your own or analyzing our writing style.

Learn more about Candace Alstad-Davies by reviewing this about me page.

Need some writing help making a stellar executive cover letter, resume, or CV curriculum vitae? Take the time to review and order one of our executive resume services.

Have questions about how to get started with our services or anything else related to your executive career? Please connect by sending an email to Candace or call toll-free at 1 877 738-8052. I would enjoy chatting with you about any of your executive search needs.