Nothing is more frustrating than spending hours applying for jobs online and hearing nothing back.
More than 50% of job seekers are currently employed. These job seekers are splitting their time between work, family, and sometimes school in addition to job searching. The process is time-consuming, frustrating, and often discouraging especially if you’re a seasoned executive with a lifetime of experience and achievements.
Most of the executive resumes I see from new clients exhibit the same pitfalls. They’re lengthy and dense. They draw more attention to the job seeker’s age than qualifications. They force the reader to look for measurable achievements instead of making them quickly visible. They also fail to focus on the financial results that a Board of Director values.
I have great news, though.
There are 8 ways to make your executive resume easier (and more interesting) to read that you can incorporate into your executive resume today.
1 | Showcase Your Personal Brand
Your personal brand, or how you want to present and market yourself to a company, is essential in today’s competitive job market. A solid personal brand integrates your strengths, achievements, passions, goals, and unique value or unique selling proposition and should be easily perceived on the first page of your resume.
The best way to achieve this is by creating a Branding Statement for your executive resume. The difference between a Branding Statement and Professional Summary is that a Branding Statement is written to speak to a specific company’s needs and describe how you are the best fit for this company rather than summarizing your experience.
2 | Add Some Color (Conservatively)
Color psychology is a key branding tactic that can visually reinforce your personal brand. Since your resume should be treated as a marketing document, adding color conservatively can make a lasting impact and make your executive resume more interesting to look at or read than the standard black and white resumes. Do some research on color psychology and choose one or two colors that align with your personal brand.
You can add color conservatively by adding color to your headings (Areas of Expertise, Professional Experience, Education, etc.). For a modern minimalist look, you can simply add color to your heading font. Otherwise, you can play around with borders and color fill for a more graphic look that will still get through Applicant Tracking software.
3 | Position Keywords Strategically
There are several places to strategically position keywords on your executive resume. Executives can quickly present their top areas of expertise in the Resume Title and Areas of Expertise section. Your Resume Title should include the job title you are applying for, but you can incorporate a few keywords as subheadings within this section. For example, a Director of Communications candidate could also highlight their expertise in Corporate Communications, Public/Media Relations, and Crisis Management.
An Areas of Expertise section beneath your Branding Statement can also be a strategic place to integrate keywords. This section makes it easy for hiring managers to visually scan and identify the top skills needed for the job. Stick to listing 8-12 skills to keep your executive resume focused.
4 | Alternate Between Paragraphs & Bullet Lists
The best strategy to make your executive resume visually easy to skim and less daunting to read is to alternate between paragraphs and bullet lists. If your executive resume has too many long blocks of text, it’ll be daunting to read. An executive resume primarily organized in bullet lists will be just as much of a chore to read.
To make your executive easier to read, describe your typical tasks in a 4-6 line paragraph and create bullet lists no more than 6 statements long to highlight your achievements. Since your achievements will differentiate you from other candidates, you will want to make these the easiest to find in a quick visual scan.
5 | Summarize Your Typical Tasks
When creating a job summary paragraph for each role you’ve held, it’s important to summarize your typical tasks rather than describe them in much detail (unless there are specific details that are requested by the job posting). Certain responsibilities will be expected for the roles that you have held, so don’t force your readers to spend time reading details that are assumed and understood.
Instead, focus on summarizing the responsibilities that relate the most to your job target and optimize these job summaries with keywords found in the job posting. These job summaries will likely be the last details read on your resume (Bullet lists first, then the top third of the first page of your resume, etc.), but they can be critically important for optimizing your resume with the keywords that get you through Applicant Tracking software.
6 | Draw Attention To Bottom Line Achievements
As you already know, measurable achievements hold the most weight on a resume. As an executive leader, you will be expected to impact the bottom line. Demonstrating how you have been successful in impacting the bottom line and meeting organizational goals in the past is essential to creating a job-winning executive resume.
Use bullet lists beneath each job you’ve held to showcase your bottom-line achievements. Since these details are often read first, this makes it easier for employers to see that you’re a results-driven leader. Don’t simply list that you increased sales or launched new divisions, though. Tie in your strategic planning and leadership skills to briefly describe how you achieved these results.
7 | Start Statements With Action Words
Some of the most overused words on an executive resume include “responsible for,” “provided,” “managed,” and “results-oriented.” You can (and should!) give life to your resume by using various action words to describe your experience. Here are several alternatives for commonly used words on executive resumes:
RESPONSIBLE FOR: Owned, Spearheaded, Orchestrated, Planned, Executed, Controlled
MANAGED: Led, Directed, Supervised, Oversaw, Guided, Headed
INCREASED: Accelerated, Maximized, Amplified, Exceeded, Skyrocketed, Escalated
IMPROVED: Restored, Revised, Streamlined, Upgraded, Boosted, Enhanced
8 | Trim Down Your Older Experience
Your executive resume should be a snapshot of your progressive leadership capabilities, not a biography. If your executive resume is more than two pages long, it’s likely that hiring managers and a board of directors will find it a chore to read. Your older experience may be considered outdated or a bit irrelevant if describing experience that doesn’t directly relate to your job target.
Transform your dense resume into an effective marketing tool by trimming down your older experience. Consider focusing on the last 10-15 years of experience (How often have you found job postings asking for more than 15 years of experience?) and summarize your older experience in a short note at the end of your Experience section without dates.
If your executive resume isn’t getting the response you think it deserves, spend time making it easier to and more interesting to read.