As an executive career consultant of 25 years, I am often asked: “Is this a good resume?” However, it is impossible to answer this frequently asked question without understanding the individual’s career context. An executive resume can be considered “good” for a variety of reasons. What really matters is if it is an effective resume, which is much harder to achieve.
Whenever I do a resume consultation, I always start by asking, “What is your goal?” The answer to that question is what guides how the resume is written. Your resume needs to be aspirational as much as it is historical to achieve its purpose.
It needs to be thought of as the strategic document that helps get you where you want to go. Writing an executive resume with that in mind is what ultimately separates a good resume from an effective one. As you start updating your own, here is my advice on what to keep in mind to write an effective strategic resume:
- It’s an evolving document. Your resume and what accomplishments are listed on it should change as your goals and experience do. The best way to keep track of your accomplishments effectively is to keep an updated, ongoing list of things that you’ve done and for which you have received recognition on a day-to-day basis. Then when it gets to the point where you need to update your resume, you have a list of strong content to draw on.
- Your experience doesn’t change, just what you emphasize. When listing accomplishments on your resume, you should think of everything in the lens of “Does this support my strategy?” If it does not, then it should be replaced with information relevant to your career goals. On an executive resume, you usually only have space to list a few accomplishments for each role you’ve held, so why would want to list something that doesn’t help you? Embrace your strategy and only highlight things that get to where you want to go!
- Understand your audience and what matters to them. Different metrics are important in different roles and industries. In marketing, you have certain key performance metrics that are important, but in finance, those are very different. You want to be conscious of the way things are measured in your prospective field and even the type of language that is used to describe those measurements. If you are looking to make a change, a career consultant can be a great resource because they know how to write for hiring managers and search consultants based upon industry and function.
- Focus on accomplishments, not responsibilities...and know the difference. My only hard and fast rule when it comes to writing an executive resume is to focus on accomplishments and not responsibilities. Responsibilities describe the job; accomplishments describe you. At a senior level, search consultants are focused on the impact each prospective candidate had in their previous positions, so it is important that comes through clearly on your resume.
- Don’t be afraid to brag. From a young age, we are told not to put ourselves forward so as not to sound arrogant or conceited. Most experienced executives I know can market anything, but when it comes to selling themselves, they become uncomfortable. Talking about ourselves goes against a lot of our conditioning. On your resume, you need to embrace it! Talking about yourself on your resume is the only way to show what makes you the best candidate for the job and all you can bring to a company.
- Understand the true value you provide. People often struggle with understanding the special value add they can provide to a company simply because they are too close to recognize it. The things we do well we often take for granted because they come so naturally to us. Before you write your resume, it is helpful to take a moment to reflect on what you do successfully and how you do it to understand your unique selling point with the way you approach challenges and problems.
Your resume is an important piece in your career toolbox. It is a marketing tool, and with it, you are positioning yourself for the future. A strategic executive resume which reflects where you want to go not simply where you have been can position you for the right opportunities and make you stand out as a candidate.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn here.