Candidates tend to think too much about what a resume/CV needs to include (experience, accomplishments, etc.), that they forget about its real purpose. Your resume/CV is a tool that can help you begin a different role, a different career, or even a different life. The basic elements of a successful resume/CV are important, but will not be all you need to find your next opportunity. Focus on communicating your value and your brand foremost above simply getting the resume/CV formula right.

Be Concise and Relevant

A resume/CV should be focused, which often means two pages is the ideal length. In some cases, a three-page resume/CV is appropriate for senior-level executives that have a number of patents, publications, speaking engagements, board positions, etc. Your resume/CV should focus on your top achievements, strongest selling points, and greatest strengths. Experience from over 15 years ago is often outdated, so in most cases, it is not necessary to include.

executive_resume_move_needleYour resume/CV is a summary; therefore it should not tell the reader everything about your career. The information that you do provide needs to support your thesis that you are the right person for the job. Your resume/CV needs to prove that this job is absolutely the right next step for your career. Question the value of every piece of information you include. Is it really necessary to include project names or the precise months and years the projects were deployed? Details like this will likely provide no value to the reader in understanding what you achieved and what you have to offer.

Optimize for the Skimmers

Resume/CV design should immediately draw the reader’s eyes to the most important parts of your resume/CV. One way to do this is to use bolding strategically to draw the reader to major achievements at first glance. The first time an executive search consultant or hiring manager looks at your resume/CV will often be a quick occurrence, so you don’t have much time to catch his or her attention. Adding to this complication, many companies now require you to submit your resume/CV through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). In some cases, this is a formality after the search consultant or hiring manager has already met with you, but in others, like if you submit your resume/CV to a company’s job board, database or online job site, the ATS will consider your resume/CV before it even reaches human eyes. The solution here is to create a second version of your resume/CV that has been specifically optimized for these systems (including keywords that match the job description, no images, common fonts such as Arial or Times New Roman fonts, etc.).

Incorporate Keywords

Executive candidates are often unsure about how to use keywords in their resumes/CVs. Is the goal to get as many keywords as possible into the resume/CV (keyword stuffing)? How do I decide which keywords to include? Where do I put these keywords? The answers to these questions are actually more intuitive than you might believe.

Your resume/CV needs to include keywords that are relevant to your target roles, the skills required, and the company culture. Keywords are often nouns and can include specific skills, qualifications, industry terms, specialties, etc. To find the right keywords, review the job description, highlight all the keywords listed, and include them throughout your resume/CV in context rather than in one section. You should indicate your top specialties in a short list at the top of your resume; but be careful – too many keywords can look awkward and forced. In general, most ATS algorithms have learned to discount keyword stuffing and give more weight to keywords that are associated with verbs as part of the narrative.

Get four more elements of a successful resume/CV, plus tips for your LinkedIn profile, executive bio, cover letter/E-note, and more: Download part three of The Ultimate Executive Career Guide.



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