Of all the executive resume writers’ tips I have shared over the years, effectively communicating “yourself” to meet the hiring managers’ and executive recruiters’ demands is vital.
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 companies’ executive suites.
As a professional resume writer with 20 years of expertise, it’s not unusual for a resume to land in my inbox for review. The document was meant to be targeted to an executive position but didn’t have any or very few of the best CEO qualities. Sometimes a few 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 essential to your resume. It’s a snapshot of your essential 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 commonly searched by a resume database or (ATS) applicant tracking system that aligns with the job title.
- Reflect on 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 seek in bolder, centered, and 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
When writing a resume, developing and maintaining a clear message can be the biggest challenge for an executive. At this stage in your management career, you have accumulated impressive knowledge across multiple disciplines and responsibility levels. If you have made it to the executive suite, you certainly must have accomplishments to speak about in each position.
A helpful 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 required in the job posting. Mirroring or matching the job position will help you stay focused. If required, this process will help you develop several resume versions for different executive CEO jobs. You will be able to identify weak areas or gaps in your resume.
3. Retain Your Voice – It’s Your Branding
Even a professional executive resume writer can make one significant mistake in dumbing 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 are 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 appear 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 in your own words allows a professional writer to convey your character, experience, and knowledge in all documents.
4. Include Evidence of Relevant Soft Skills
An executive must have strong human relations skills to interact productively 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. Provide these examples under 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 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. Something else has distinguished this tech leader from his early days in the press – 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, and empathetic to demonstrate soft skills. Note the power of metaphor: a Southern gentleman conveys many fine qualities in our minds. Consider: provide a drill sergeant’s clear and concise directions 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 daily decisions. 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. 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, report the quantifiable results from your effective decision-making.
7. Show Problem-Solving Expertise and Prowess
In an increasingly challenging global world, executives need 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 a more valuable 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?
Include examples of times 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 by effectively coaching a team of 20 sales executives.
- Saved $300 million in annual costs by applying analytical and technical skills to solve XYZ’s 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 an 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 match your qualifications and the targeted job position. Compare the above statement with increased hi-tech parts sales by 200 percent in Southeast Asia.
Perhaps the sales director is hiring for Latin America but faces the same commoditization and competitive challenges he experienced in Southeast Asia. This content could escalate your resume to the top of the pile. 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, and respectful. 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, and add a touch of traditional color if it suits your personality.
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? Don’t hesitate to contact Candace via email or call toll free at 1 877 738-8052. I would enjoy chatting with you about any of your executive search needs.