On March 17th, I got a “friendly reminder” that my most prized certified executive resume writer designation, the Certified Executive Resume Master (CERM), was up for renewal. What this meant is that I would have to submit four executive resumes, written by me, to a committee for examination.
I had a problem: I have a team of amazing executive resume writers who write the initial drafts of all the resumes my company writes. I am the editor, not the writer. So I had to dig into my files to find good raw material that I could spruce up for my recertification. I identified six good candidates and went to work.
It took hours of reformatting and rewriting before I could even narrow down my submission to four resumes. I cursed my short attention span for this detailed and challenging work. But I was able to create four resumes that I thought would make the grade.
And then, I got a second opinion from my executive resume coach, Laura DeCarlo. I knew I was submitting myself to possible dismantling, but that’s kind of what I do. I want to do the best work possible, even if there’s pain involved along the way. And ultimately, I’m glad I asked for her advice, because not only did I pass the CERM renewal on the first try (and with very positive remarks), but I also was reminded of some important points for writing a top-notch executive resume – points I will now share with you.
Here’s what I learned:
- Executive resumes require some “fairy dusting” – that magical something that makes the document come to life, whether it’s a catching turn of phrase like “fiscally rejuvenating” or just the right testimonial, or a tasteful, appropriate graphic element. Look for that element in the samples below, and throughout the examples provided in this article.
- Use a crisp, modern, not-too-fancy format. Don’t use more than two fonts (perhaps one for the headers and one for the body). Don’t overuse italics. Don’t overuse centering. And be consistent! It doesn’t fly, for instance, to have a header where there are two spaces before some bullets and three after others. Here’s an example of two fonts, one color, and evenly spaced bullets:Note: While you might think you’re being fancy by putting your contact information above your name, best practice is to stick with convention and put that information under your name or possibly to the side.
- Capture an executive’s contribution to ROI in the branding statement at the top. While some statements about experience and expertise are appropriate, tie as much as possible into results. And be sure to use keywords that are important in your industry. They matter!
- When writing summary statements under a position, open them with a “hook” – not with a list of responsibilities. Then, once you have your reader’s attention, you can talk about the scope of your work. Who says the only place you can list accomplishments is in your bullets?! Here are two examples:
- Use effective section headers to draw attention to accomplishments. You might, for instance, have an overarching accomplishment, with bullets underneath of how that accomplishment was achieved:Or, you might create functional headers with bullets underneath:Do you see how these dividing markers help the reader know what to pay attention to? The alternative is something we call “death by bullets” – a long list of bullets without any indication of what’s important. Don’t do that!
- Testimonials work well, especially when they are action-packed. Here’s my favorite from my CERM submissions:I’ve heard concerns that testimonials might come across as “cheesy.” My response is that the proof is in the pudding. I’ve seen client after client get job interviews with resumes that include testimonials. So I recommend using them! The more concrete results that can be included in the quotation, the better.
- If you had two positions with increasing responsibility, and you did less in the more recent position, combine them. Otherwise, it could look like you didn’t perform in the higher-level position.
- As a tool to make your executive resume bullets hard-hitting, use bolding to draw the eye – either to a noteworthy accomplishment or a functional area. See point #5 for examples, plus this one:
- Write, rewrite, get an editor, and rewrite some more. Or hire someone to write your executive resume for you. Resume writing is not easy, as the above examples may have illustrated. If you’re a busy executive, don’t spend the hours upon hours I spent working on these resume submissions, and that the executive resume writers at The Essay Expert spend on every executive resume project. Hire someone whose job it is to do that, and then go do what you do best!