If you’ve ever tried to loosen a flathead screw with a Phillips screwdriver, you know how frustrating and difficult it can be to get the result you’re after. The Phillips is simply not made for the job you want it to do. The same goes for trying to empty a swimming pool by scooping out a bucketful of water at a time. Using the wrong tool for the job can fall anywhere between impossible and unnecessarily hard.
What does this have to do with executive resumes or CVs? To start with, if you’re thinking that a one-size-fits-all approach to your resume will serve you well in all cases, you’re on the wrong track. In some situations, a specially developed resume—or even no resume at all—might be the right tool for the job.
What? NO Resume!
Your executive resume/CV can be a door opener, a reinforcement of other approaches, and more. However, there could well be situations where you don’t need a resume—at least, not at first. For example, if you already have a strong lead-in or connection to a hiring manager or a key decision-maker in the company where you’re targeting a position, you might not need a resume right away.
Eventually, though, someone is bound to ask for your resume/CV, so be prepared. Have it tuned up and ready to go. Trying to develop your resume in a hurry is not a great idea.
Resumes for Specific Networking Purposes
People you meet at designated networking events or other gatherings might not want to see a full-blown, two- or three-page executive resume/CV. Candidly, they’re unlikely to read all of a long document. Do yourself—and them—a favor and prepare a concise, well-targeted resume that gives them a compelling snapshot of your value message and includes proof that you can deliver significant value.
This networking document can usually fit on one page. You’re not attempting to impress this audience with length and a lot of words. Give them the meat of your message in a form they can absorb and grasp quickly. If what you give them makes them interested to learn more about you, they will contact you.
For Advancement, Fit the Resume/CV to Your Goal
If you’re looking to move up a level, your resume needs to present you as ready for it. That means looking at everything you’ve accomplished in the light of what it says about your ability to go above and beyond—to stretch yourself in terms of what you contribute in your current role versus what the stated requirements were when you started.
Employers won’t be interested in talking to you about a position at the next level if they don’t get a good sense from your resume that you’re already in shape to handle the challenges there. Hiring decisions bear no resemblance to a charity event!
An Executive Resume—NOT Your Life History
You undoubtedly didn’t reach the executive ranks overnight. Most likely, you’ve spent years paying your dues, climbing the ladder to the top rung. However, it’s critical that you resist the temptation to include a blow-by-blow description of your vast experience in your resume/CV.
One good reason is that you don’t want to put your intended audience to sleep when they look at your resume! Realistically, they know you’ve been around a while, but you don’t need to hammer them with the wealth of detail that confirms it. Does the fact that you started out as a mail clerk before you eventually became the COO of a company really matter? It might if you did that in an amazingly short time, but probably not otherwise.
Basically, what does the company need to know about you to impel them to contact you, to consider you seriously as a candidate for their top-level position? What you include in your resume—and leave out—must keep that question in mind.
Your Resume is Not a Standalone Document
Even if you’re submitting just a resume in some cases, it should not be viewed as a standalone document. It needs to be part of a well-crafted, carefully thought-out marketing package: on brand, with consistent messaging. When you do that, you don’t have to think twice about adding other elements to the submission, such as a cover letter or a reference to your LinkedIn profile. You know all the pieces mesh together seamlessly and can do the job you need them to do.
In other words, make sure you have—and use—the right tool for the job.