Oh, so you’re ready to take a run at the corner office, are you? Got a hankering to be large and in charge, the big kahuna, the literal CEO around your current or future organization?
All of that sounds right as rain. But how are you looking on paper? Is your current resume up to the task of proving your case? And, if not, what exactly do you need to do to bump up your paperwork so that, on paper, you appear to be an exceptional match?
Here are five things you should do right now if you are trying to land an extremely coveted executive role:
1. Introduce Yourself as an Executive
So many professionals use the “add on, add on, add on, and add on some more” approach when it comes to updating their resumes. The problem with this methodology is that, after a handful of add-ons, it very well begins to resemble a pieced-together Frankenstein at the exact career moment when you’re trying to resemble a put together executive.
When your goal is to land an executive role, you absolutely must introduce yourself as an executive, right out of the gates. The best place to achieve this is in a career summary at the top of the page before you launch into your career chronology. Construct three or four bullet points or statements that spell out your value proposition, with your specific audience in mind.
In other words, think about the things that are going to be important for you to be able to do in this next job—for instance: strategy, leadership, problem solving, delivering growth—and introduce yourself as someone equipped to do (and with demonstrated successes in) these key things.
2. Make your Strategy and Leadership Strengths Clear
Two vital skills that make for a great executive are an ability to build and then deploy strategies, and, proven strengths in motivating, leading and developing teams and individuals. Leaders must excel at leading. People at this level must excel at big-picture thinking.
Assuming this is you, then make it crystal clear in your resume. You don’t just “get” to become an executive because you’ve climbed up the ladder and this is the logical next bump up. In most companies today, it simply doesn’t work that way anymore. You’ve got to be able to perform at a higher, more strategic, and more inspiring level than most everyone else at the company.
Highlight these traits—including specific examples that prove them—on your new resume.
3. Show the Impact. Show the Impact. Show the Impact
This is no time to get stuck lingering on the duties and responsibilities you hold, or have held in prior positions. (Which, by the way, is the most common error people make in their resumes—showing only duties and responsibilities.) You need to show impact. Where did you help the organization make money, save money, salvage situations, solve problems, capitalize on opportunities, build something entirely new?
Show all that. And show the specific results—even if qualitative or anecdotal—of each of these things as you spell out how and why you’re a great fit.
4. Ease Off the Gas on the Nitty-Gritty Technical Skills
If you’re a CIO, it’s probably great that you know C#, Java, SQL, and Perl. But if you go too heavy on your technical skills and not heavy enough on the stuff that makes for a great leader—business acumen, ability to strategize, inspire others and execute—you will risk looking more like “middle career professional” or “techie” than a top executive.
Again, think about what organizations are looking for in an executive leader. If you need hints, study a handful of job descriptions that line up with the kind of role you’re eyeing. See those common threads and deliverables? I’ll bet you they’re much more executive focused than nitty-gritty technical details in nature. These are the things you need to hit heavy and hard on when constructing an executive level resume.
5. Use Formatting to Draw the Eye to the Most Important Stuff
Giant blobs of text aren’t going to win you any fans. Yes, by the time you reach “near executive” status in your career, you may have plenty to say. But no one wants to (nor will they) go on a fishing trip looking for evidence that you have the chops to be their next executive. You need to make sure that the best, most relevant stuff (e.g., your key accomplishments that demonstrate strategic thinking, influence and impact) is super easy to find.
When working on behalf of my own clients, I typically set up a “Select Highlights” subsection under each role the professional has held, and add two to three bullet points showcasing key wins or important results. And then I bold the most powerful phrases within those bullet points, so the reviewer’s eye goes right to the big things.
It’s a great way to control where the reviewer’s attention goes first. Just be sure and use consistency in your bullet points, as well as in how and what you decide to highlight in bold.
No matter who tells you what, there is not one perfect format or style for a winning executive resume. But there is one important rule—it’s on you to make yourself look like you’re ready for the role. If you can’t shape that message, you risk looking like a lower-level employee. This may not be the worst thing in the world, but if you’re aspiring to get to the top?
Your resume has to shout from the rooftops that you’ve got executive chops.
(Because, of course you do.)
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