Does this sound familiar?

“I wrote my own resume for years, but it’s just not working now. I’m not receiving responses at the right executive level.”

For many executives in job search, these statements sum up a common dilemma:  it’s a struggle to properly position your skills and proficiency in a self-written resume.

Buzzwords and project lists work fine for a mid-career move, but once you’re targeting the executive suite, the whole game changes.

executive resume writingFor an executive role, your resume must list critical initiatives, collaboration with other leaders, impact on your teams, multi-country influence, and a whole host of other situations in context from your career (and that’s just a start).

If you’re merely describing duties, with a host of tactical achievements, you won’t be perceived as a viable executive candidate.

As a result, some Vice Presidents become mistaken for Program Managers, Sales leaders strike out when targeting EVP of Sales roles, and marketing executives struggle to be taken seriously at the C-suite level.

If you’re experiencing this problem, you’re not alone.

Here are critical steps to take to ensure that you (and your executive resume) don’t fall victim to these issues:

1 – Gather information about your own brand.

Ignore this step in executive resume writing at your own peril. If you’re serious about advancing to the next rung, you’ll need to identify your ultimate target and clarify why you’re a fit for this role.

Document your answers to these thought-provoking questions – BEFORE you write even a single word of your resume:

  • What job will you pursue with your new resume? (Hint: most resumes work best when they are designed around a specific goal)
  • What sets you apart in your work?
  • How would you describe your leadership style? What do others say about you?
  • How are projects and strategic initiatives completed differently when YOU take them on?
  • What specific, quantifiable results have you achieved?
  • How would others describe your leadership style?
  • What are your top 10-15 major career achievements?

Write out each success story in Challenge-Action-Result style, while blending in examples of your leadership and team-building skills. Also, be sure to weave in data on your performance from 360 reviews, appraisals, and colleague perspectives.

With this exercise in gathering details of your accomplishments, strategic projects, promotions, reputation, and leadership story, you’ll have the bare bones of a start to your executive resume.

As described in the next step, you’ll need to format these wins, soft skills, and career trajectory into a well-constructed executive resume (easier said than done).

2 – Get familiar with the new look of executive resumes.

Before turning your newly gathered data into a resume, bring yourself up to speed on the executive resume of the future. The new look and approach of an executive resume may surprise you.

CIO Healthcare Sample Resume by Laura Smith-ProulxThis is especially important if you’re still somehow convinced that your resume needs to fit on a single page, contain your picture, or use an objective.

Resume writing, especially at the executive level, is an intensive task demanding strategic planning, formatting, and marketing expertise. By looking at examples of executive resumes, you should see how a leadership story hits salient points right up FRONT, with succeeding pages spelling out the details.

When designing and writing your own executive resume, look carefully at how these documents were constructed, with summaries at the top that grab attention, eye-catching formats, strategies for averting age discrimination, and specific career wins concisely expressed throughout the document. You’ll see charts, colored borders, and new section headings that more fully describe the complexity of a leadership career.

These examples can provide insight on the strategies needed to present your own career in an effective executive resume. You may need to pick and choose from the various elements and formatting styles shown for leaders in different industries and at diverse career levels.

If this task sounds daunting, it probably will be, which leads to the next point.


3 – Consider turning this task over to a skilled executive resume writer.

No, I don’t advocate this just because executive resume writing happens to be my specialty.

The reality is that more executive job seekers are realizing that resume writing isn’t their forte, and you’re MUCH more likely to compete against a professionally written resume now than ever before!

In fact, you can take a look at what you’re up against by reviewing samples of executive resumes written for CEO, CTO, CIO, CNO, CMO, COO, Board, EVP, and VP candidates on my sample resumes page.

Executive resume presentation and content has changed significantly over the past decade — and you certainly don’t want to get left in the dust with a 1990’s-style resume. Consider whether your writing and presentation skills are up to the task of producing a modern, attractive, and well-prioritized executive resume – and plan accordingly.

In summary, if you’re trying to land a new, exciting executive opportunity, it’s important to pursue it with the right career marketing assets and a strategy to match.

Read more executive resume writing tips here:

What Your Resume Should Look Like in 2020

6 & 7 Figure Resume Trends You Need to Know

Which Resume Trends Will Help You Stand Out?