September 11, 2014
By Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, Expert Resume Writer
I hear from so many clients that they haven’t needed a resume before or that they’ve always been recruited to their roles and not had to conduct job searches. They’re unsure of where to start or what their executive resume should look and sound like.
Executive resumes have changed a lot over the last five years—never mind the last ten. So before you haul out that old resume, think about what’s changed—and what might get you an interview now.
Here are ten tips to get you started on your way to an attention-grabbing executive resume:
1. Aim, then fire.
Don’t go for a generic resume. It’s tempting to try to cover all the bases, but it’s just not going to work. Your potential employer is trying to fill a specific executive position, and they need to be able to connect you to the job that’s available. They’re not going to want to read through a lot of generic information to see if you’re worth interviewing. Everything that you present in your resume is going to have to be in line with what they’re specifically looking for. So, if you’re in doubt, look around for job descriptions that sound like what they want, and then adjust your resume accordingly.
2. Brand yourself.
You have to show how you fit the job. Essentially, you need to talk about your values, your attributes, and your passions in a way that links you with the job you’re looking for. You have to market yourself. Show how you differ from the competition. Talk about what makes you distinctive. You might even want to create a tagline that distinguishes you. Be inventive.
3. Tell your success story.
Show your potential employer how you achieve results. What did you do to make a difference in your previous position? You have an audience, so help them to see what you have done—and what you can do. Talk about challenges, what you did to overcome them, and what the end results were. That way, they’ll see how you can do similar things for them. Use numbers; it’s a lot more effective stating: “I increased sales by 33 percent over a one-year period” than it is writing a bland, generic: “Used innovative methods to drive sales results.”
4. Don’t waste time stating your objectives.
Your employer doesn’t care that you “want to utilize my skills to foster growth.” What have you done lately for your current employer—and what can you do for them?
5. Say it now.
On page one of your resume, use keywords, quotes, and brief summaries of your most recent achievements. Most people won’t read beyond the first page, so get it out there right away.
6. Make it readable.
Chances are that your potential employer will be reading your resume on a smartphone or tablet. So it’s more important than ever to make sure that your content isn’t densely packed and hard to read. Make sure that your design is friendly on all devices.
Avoid giving away all your information; keep it concise. Remember that the goal is to get yourself in the door, so just deliver enough information to generate interest. You can provide a more comprehensive resume once you’ve actually gotten the interview.
Mr. Spell Checker is not always your friend. It won’t catch everything. Proofread repeatedly, and get a friend to proofread as well. Nothing makes you look more incompetent than spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
Don’t go crazy with the fonts. Keep the formatting clean, consistent, and attractive. Ideally, use one font consistently for body copy, and use a variation for headings. Example—body copy is Times New Roman 11 point, header is Times New Roman 12 point bold. And by the way, don’t underline; it makes you look like a high school kid. (The exception to this is book titles; you should underline Oliver Twist.) Use bold if you want to emphasize, and use it sparingly. Be sure to use spacing between categories; no one wants to read abunchofjumbled-upwords.
9. Avoid jargon.
Don’t use phrases such as “going forward” unless you’re using it to distinguish from going backward. Don’t describe yourself as a “forward thinker”, and don’t talk about what you hope to achieve “at the end of the day.” Other bad choices include: “best of breed”, “strategic thinker”, “team player”, “excellent communication skills”, and “problem solver.” These are terms hiring managers have identified as useless.
10. Don’t repeat yourself; and don’t use passive verbs.
We know that you were “responsible for” [insert area for which you were responsible here]. Instead, state that you: envisioned, benchmarked, accelerated, drove, leveraged, etc. Those are all active words—and much better than the passive “responsible for.” By the same token, don’t repeat your verbs. By the time you’ve said that you leveraged change, leveraged financial improvement, and leveraged increased productivity, people are going to get pretty bored.
Remember at all times that the people who are reading your resume are real people; write the way you would speak—clearly, concisely, and with a focus toward delivering your message in the most effective way possible.
About the Author
Jessica Hernandez, is a resume authority for the Job Talk America radio program and multi-published expert author for resume, career, and job search publications. She boasts more than ten years in human resources management and hiring for Fortune 500 companies and utilizes her extensive experience to support job seekers in their quest to move onward and upward in their careers. Find out more at Great Resumes Fast.
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