How You Should Be Writing an Executive Resume (8 Steps to Follow)

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Astley Cervania
October 31, 2022
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Are executive resumes any different? Is the job application process still the same? 

Well, here’s a few things you should probably know:

  • The hiring process may take longer and could extend to weeks or even months
  • Having years of experience isn’t enough to secure the job  
  • It’s all about proving you can make an impact

It might’ve been a long time since you last had to worry about writing an executive resume. So, you’re unfamiliar with what the best practices are, what you should focus on, and how to ultimately land an interview. 

Not to worry – we’ll go through all that you need to know in this complete guide. 

What Makes an Executive Resume Different?

First and foremost, you’re applying for a position that requires a high level of expertise. 

Candidates are expected to be capable of making a significant difference to the company they’re applying for. 

To be more specific, there are 4 reasons why job hunting for c-suite executives is different. 

Results

Hiring managers will have higher expectations. 

Since you’ll have big responsibilities, you need to be someone trusted to deliver results. They’ll want someone who knows what’s required to achieve company goals. You’ll be involved in the company’s overall strategy and play a key role in their growth.

Therefore, including statistics and data of previous achievements will be essential. Give them the confidence that you’re qualified to take on such responsibilities. 

Leadership Skills 

Proven leadership skills are important as you’re likely to be expected to lead teams and improve the overall work performance. 

So, make sure to write examples of how and when you inspired others to overdeliver. 

Personal Branding 

Executives are well-established industry leaders with strong credentials. Now, personal branding can be used to help companies find the right fit. 

More often than not, you’ll find that there aren’t many job ads by companies for these top senior level positions. But one way they’ll find you is through your network and online presence. This is one reason why branding is valuable.

Hiring Decisions

More people are usually involved in the decision-making process for hiring an executive. 

It’s not just a hiring manager or corporate headhunter who influences the final decision. Those in upper management will have opinions too. This may include seniors in the company such as VPs, directors, and former executives.

3 Examples of an Executive Resume

Let’s go through a few c-suite executive resume examples. You’ll notice a few differences in how they’ve approached their application. How you determine what you write about depends on the job description, the role you’re applying for, as well as the company's cultural values.  

Each of these is free to use and optimized to beat the resume scanners to help you secure an interview.

Chief Marketing Officer

Chief Marketing Officer

The chief marketing officer (CMO) resume below emphasizes their work experience. 

They’ve used statistics several times to describe the results of their efforts. This positions them as an expert with proven skills.

Chief Mechanical Engineer 

Chief Mechanical Engineer

The chief mechanical engineer resume example below focuses heavily on their technical skills. 

It’s more selective compared to the previous sample. Rather than listing as many previous roles as they could’ve, they’ve only included 3. They’ve also written more for their additional resume sections. 

Chief Customer Officer

Chief customer officer

The chief customer officer highlights their work achievements as well as years of experience. It also makes their career progression as a leader clear. All of which shows that they have a positive track record. 

How to Write an Executive Resume in 8 Steps

A tailored application is crucial for executive roles. 

Don’t use the same resume for different types of companies because they need to see you as the perfect fit. 

Put yourself in their shoes – they have problems which need to be solved and are willing to make a serious investment. So, they’ll be choosing the leader they want to work with very carefully. 

With that in mind, follow these steps to show you’re an impact-driven professional. By the end of it, you’re more likely to secure an interview.

1. Reflect on How You’re Uniquely Qualified 

Spend time reflecting on what makes you uniquely qualified for the role. This refers to the things that make you different compared to other candidates. For example, the areas you excel and specialize in.

Here are a few more things to think about regarding your professional background:

  • Why were you hired by previous companies?
  • How does your philosophy and past experience align with the company you’re applying for?
  • Any particular accomplishments or experiences that impacted you the most? 

Focus on the difference you would make and how you would make that difference. What could make the board of directors react in a way along the lines of “oh finally, someone who understands”?

Use your application to promote your skills, sell your expertise, and to position yourself as the ideal person for the role. 

2. Identify What the Job Entails 

Check to see what recruiters are looking for by reviewing the job description carefully. 

After identifying the job criteria, you’ll need to use resume keywords to get past the initial phase of the hiring process. 

It’s not just about what you’re capable of doing. It’s also about what the company wants to see in you. So, ensure your application demonstrates how you can meet the needs of the company’s workplace. 

3. Outline Your Resume Structure and Ideas

Before you write a single sentence, first create a resume outline. This lays out everything you’re going to include and helps you write a more thoughtful, organized application. But don’t start from scratch – use the previous steps to determine what information is most important. 

The essential sections every resume needs are: 

  • Work experience
  • Education
  • Skills

Starting with an outline makes the resume writing process faster because you won’t have to stop every now and then to think about what to write next. 

4. Take a Data-Driven Approach

Being data-driven is one way to impress your employers

However, it’s imperative for executives. The hiring decision-makers will need to know you’re someone capable of making an impact. 

So, what better way to prove you can make a difference than by using evidence? 

Get straight to the point and lead each sentence with results. Quantify them. State the outcomes that were achieved because of your own efforts. This principle should be followed for most resume sections, especially your work experience.

Here’s a few examples of what to focus on to be data-driven:

  • How you met/exceeded KPIs and business goals
  • Percentages on how you increased the company’s sales revenue
  • Specific numbers on job responsibilities, e.g. the size of a team you led on a project
  • Formal awards, certificates, and licenses earned 
  • Testimonials and feedback from peers, colleagues, or clients

5. List Relevant Qualifications and Work Experience

Relevant qualifications and work experience could come in the form of an additional resume section such as:

  • Projects
  • Coursework
  • Licenses
  • Certifications
  • Specializations

Each of these are further indications of your expertise.

Aside from your formal education, there are other achievements you could include. Not just your bachelor’s or master’s degree. The same concept applies for your work experience. 

6. Categorize Your Skills 

Rather than just writing a huge list of skills, put them under different categories in the same section. It makes them easier to read through as they’re structured. Plus, because it’s more specific, certain words may stand out to the reader. 

This should be the last section placed at the bottom of your resume to finish strong. 

Here’s an example:

categorize your skills

7. Use Storytelling Structures

Adding variations to your sentences every now and then makes your resume more engaging. 

To put it another way, see your resume as a story. Looking at it like this can help you put together a more meaningful and personalized application. 

Don’t just lay out the facts of your efforts in the workplace. Relate it back to a problem the company is facing. In other words, consider how you’re going to frame your sentences. It makes your writing more impactful. 

Here are a few common storytelling formulas: 

  • The hero’s journey: this narrative follows a protagonist who overcomes an obstacle and returns home being a different person. 
  • In terms of a resume, think about emphasizing a skill you’ve learned or developed that’s become a significant part of your success. 
  • Rags to riches: this narrative begins with a person having little to no money but ends with the same person now being incredibly wealthy. 
  • In terms of a resume, reflect on big accomplishments that happened within a certain period of time. 
  • The quest: this narrative is about how the main character goes out into the unknown and faces many challenges along the way to reaching their goal. 
  • In terms of a resume, it could be about how your efforts solved a long ongoing problem for good at a previous company.

Now, here are some example resume sentences for each type of story structure:

  • Formed business relationships with prestigious universities and technology institutes and created a sell pipeline of B2B and B2G projects to maintain business growth. 
  • Increased rides from 500/day to 10,000/day in 6 months and increased the number of drivers by 4 times during the same period.
  • Founded and led a VR/AR outsourcing company with an agile cross-functional team of 15 professionals in 3 different countries.

8. Be Selective 

Having 8 years of work experience or more makes two-page resumes an option. This means you’ll have more space to write about different things. 

Still, it doesn’t change the fact of how long the average recruiter spends reading your application. That’s one reason why one-page resumes are effective. It respects the employer’s time and doesn’t waste a second getting key details across to your reader. 

If you can leave an impact on your recruiter by putting together a compelling application, it’s enough to be considered for an interview. 

On that note, here’s what being selective looks like: 

  • Only writing about past jobs that are relevant 
  • Removing bullet points where necessary 
  • Deliberately choosing what results to showcase 

C-Suite Executive Tips to Differentiate From Other Applicants

We’ll now go through a few tips related to job searching and resumes for executives. Keep these in mind as you’re writing and editing your application. 

Share Your LinkedIn Profile 

Social media background checks are a thing. Companies who are looking to hire an executive may even find and reach out to you first on LinkedIn. It’s why it’s crucial to have an updated and optimized LinkedIn profile

Aside from online portfolios, you can include a URL link to your LinkedIn account in the header section of your resume. 

Think About Industry Trends 

Another factor to consider is the current industry trends. 

For instance, mention how you adapted during the covid-19 pandemic. During this time, many teams had to work from home. In this case, you could write about how you improved your team’s performance and self-leadership in a remote work environment. 

As you’re writing your resume, take into account the trends that are becoming more important.

Use Non-Generic Action Verbs

Avoid repetition and generic action verbs

Using different words can be a great way to stand out. But just make sure they’re used in the right context. Otherwise, it won’t make sense and it’ll have a negative effect on the reader. 

Here are some examples of powerful resume verbs: 

  • Devised
  • Established
  • Forecasted
  • Spearheaded
  • Transformed

Use a Different Professional Resume Font 

Changing your resume font is a loud yet subtle way to get your reader’s attention. After all, our first impressions are formed based on appearances. Knowing this, try using a different professional font that’s not Arial or Times New Roman. 

The format of the application itself should be minimal. 

Prioritize Your Technical Knowledge

Hiring teams need to see results. They want to know exactly how your skills and experience could impact the company’s growth. 

To put it bluntly, your technical knowledge comes first. 

You have years of experience in the workforce and have probably seen things others haven’t. The purpose of your CV or resume is to provide a summarized report of your professional value. It’s your duty to communicate this in a way that’s practical. 

Write a Short Cover Letter 

If you’d like to make a few points related to your personal background, use a cover letter

An executive resume doesn’t typically include much about passions and interests since it’s mainly focused on your technical skills. But this is what cover letters are for. Alternatively, you could use them to go into more detail about something you mentioned in your resume. 

Build Your Professional Network 

The more people you know, the more likely you are to come across relevant career opportunities. 

As mentioned near the start of this article, there’s not usually many job ads particularly for executives. But one of the most common ways to hire one is through connections. In other words, your professional network. 

Make It Twice as Easy to Create an Impact-Driven Executive Resume

All bullet points in your resume are important. 

Each sentence should add to your credentials by selling your skills and highlighting the impact you’ve made. 

From the 245,000+ job seekers at Rezi including seniors, directors, and executives alike – more than 50% secured an interview. This includes top competitive companies such as Apple, HubSpot, and Tesla. 

They all had one thing in common – a memorable, impactful resume. 

It might seem difficult since you’re competing against other industry leaders and trying to align your achievements with the company’s mission…

But it’s actually quite straightforward. 

Thanks to Rezi’s AI bullet point editor, you can now generate powerful suggestions to effectively communicate your point. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Sign up for a free account 
  • Press “create new resume”
  • Fill in the form provided
  • Head over to the experience section tab
  • Enter your job title
  • Write a bullet point (or click “generate bullet”)
  • Highlight the sentence and press “rewrite bullet”
  • Save the suggestion you like 

The AI bullet point editor is designed to recommend sentences that emphasize your impact. Using this feature, it simplifies the entire process and means you won’t have to write as much. 

Don’t believe us? Watch the clip below to see how it works. 

Treat Your Resume Like a Business Proposal

Business proposals are designed to help you get more clients. 

In this context though, it translates into getting recognized by hiring teams and the upper management of a company. 

Here’s what a business proposal outlines: 

  • The problem
  • The solution
  • Proof you’re qualified to carry out the solution

In a similar fashion, your application presents your technical skills and knowledge as the solution. 

To gain their trust, however, focus on tailoring your work achievements to the core problems the company could be facing. Or, focus on the accomplishments that would be most beneficial to them if they were to achieve the same result. 

And don’t forget to back up your claims with data. Otherwise, it won’t be as impactful to your employer.  

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