I’ve worked full-time as an executive resume/CV writer since 1981. I can’t even begin to calculate how many resumes/CVs I’ve written, but it’s in the thousands!

After 30 years, I know things about resume/CV writing that most job seekers don’t - I’m sure you can say the same about your profession. There are always "insider secrets" that only people who work in those professions know because that knowledge comes from years of experience. In this Blue Steps article, I’m going to share some of those things with you: resume/CV writing strategies and actions that you can use to strengthen your resume/CV and give yourself a competitive edge.

Executive Resume WritersSecret #1: Write to the future 

Resume writing is NOT about rehashing your past experience. Rather, it’s about presenting that experience in such a way as to support your current career goals. For example, if you’re a Human Resources Director in the hospitality industry seeking a similar HR position, you’ll approach your resume/CV in such a way as to "paint the picture" of a well-qualified HR executive, which is precisely "who" you are.

Conversely, if your goal is to transition into a COO-type position, still in hospitality, your executive resume/CV will be entirely different. Instead of focusing on all of your HR talents, your goal will be to showcase your operating management experience, which might include budgeting, performance improvement, business process, organizational leadership, strategic planning, and, of course, staffing and talent development. This resume/CV paints an entirely different picture of who you are. Always remember to let your future goals drive the resume/CV writing process!

Secret #2: Professional resume/CV writers love using headlines

If I can begin a resume/CV with a headline (e.g., International Business Development Executive), followed by a strategic branding statement (e.g., Building profitable new customer markets worldwide through innovative joint ventures and strategic alliances with B2B partners around the globe) and then a short summary section packed full of the "right" keywords, then I’m a happy  and highly effective CV or executive resume writer! That kind of clarity at the beginning of your document – the "who" you are – makes it so easy for the reader to know in an instant that you’re a viable candidate for a particular opportunity (e.g., VP International Business Development).

Just like a headline in a newspaper instantly draws attention, a well-crafted resume headline can immediately grab the attention of the recruiter. Hiring managers have to sift through a vast number of applications in a day; so it’s vital to catch their attention by providing them with a gist of your value as a candidate in a quick and engaging phrase at the top. That said, it’d be best for executive resume writers to ensure that the headline is not simply designed to catch attention but also accurately provides a quick summary of their skills and work experience.

Secret #3: Your resume/CV MUST have the right keywords

Keywords are even more critical than you can imagine. Formerly known as 'buzzwords', keywords have always been an essential component in writing strong and well-positioned executive resumes/CVs. In today’s world of e-based job search, keywords are critical. Every time that you upload your document to an online database or in response to an online job posting, one of the first things that will happen is that it will go through a keyword search. If you do NOT have the right keywords required for a specific position, you will be passed over before human eyes ever look at it. No exceptions!

The reason resume keywords matter so much is that they match the job description or how closely the candidate would fit the given requirements. In a nutshell, they convey their skills, abilities, expertise, values, and the desirable traits that the recruiter is looking for. Again, given the short time hiring managers spend on each resume, it’s necessary to highlight your fit for the role with the appropriate keywords. An easy but effective way for executive resume writers to find the right keywords is by reviewing other similar job listings or descriptions and scanning the most relevant keywords in the qualifications, eligibility requirements, and responsibilities sections.

Secret #4: Use the right resume/CV format

Highly successful executive resume writers pay special attention to the format or structure of their resumes. A well-structured resume helps candidates clearly highlight their skills, experience, and expertise so recruiting managers wouldn’t have to hunt for the desired information by scanning the entire document. So a proper structure or format is easy to read, making it easy for the reader to find exactly what they’re looking for. It presents all the key information upfront - a must, considering that recruiters may have to scan hundreds of resumes on a given day.

There are only three resume/CV formats – chronological, functional, and hybrid – and 90% of job seekers should use the hybrid. Why? Because it incorporates the best elements of both the chronological and functional formats. Like the chronological resume/CV, it showcases your employment background – job titles, companies, dates, key areas of responsibilities, and achievements – things that all recruiters, hiring managers, and HR executives want to know. And, like the functional, the hybrid begins with a strong presentation of your most notable skills, qualifications, talents, and career highlights in some form of a career summary section.

Secret #5: Accomplish 3 essential things with each position description

When writing the position descriptions any CV writer or executive resume writer may want to include three important elements:

  1. Information about the company if it’s not a familiar name: what you write in a short, one-line company description will vary based on your current objectives. If you’re working for an energy company but now looking to move into the biomedical industry, there is no need to focus on energy. Instead, highlight things such as revenue size, number of employees, geographic reach, customer base, or any other information that might align with your current objective.
  2. Scope of responsibility: namely, a quick yet comprehensive summary of everything you’re responsible for (e.g., budgets, people, divisions, operations, customers, products, technologies). Or better still, think of and include everything that a recruiter would typically want to know about you and your accomplishments or answer the pre-screening interview questions they are likely to pose. Including this information in your resume is a great way to demonstrate your close fit for the job early on in the process and make your executive job search easy and successful.
  3. Presentation of your accomplishments: how well you did everything that you were responsible for. Your accomplishments are what will distinguish you from the crowd of other candidates with similar responsibilities and, as such, can be the most important component of your resume.

Secret #6: Go back __ years in time

Why the blank? Because there is no decisive answer. Just like a professional executive resume/CV writer does, you should look at the entire situation – "who" you are professionally, how old you are, what your objectives are, how related your past experience is to those objectives and more. Then, and only then, will you be able to make the right decision about how far back in time to go on your resume.

Secret #7: Readability ranks up front

Whether a million-dollar-a-year executive or a young college graduate, the ease with which someone can read your resume – the readability factor – is critical. To that end, keep your paragraphs short and don’t overwhelm the reader with a laundry list of bullet points.

Secret #8: There are no rules to resume/CV writing

Every job seeker is unique, with individual circumstances, particular career goals, and specific industry focus. As such, there is no single answer to any resume question/CV, challenge, or "issue." Just like a professional or executive resume writer, you must look at your situation and decide what’s YOUR best option to position yourself as the #1 candidate for your targeted opportunities.

If you need help incorporating all of these professional "secrets" into your resume/CV, call on the experts at BlueSteps Executive Career Services! They’ll start with a complimentary review to give you individual feedback on your current resume/CV and then propose the solution that best meets your needs. Stay in the know. Get the insider. Become a member today!

Wendy specializes in executive career coaching, executive resume writing, and executive job search. She has authored more than 30 books on related topics including Best Resumes for $100,000+ Jobs, Executive Resume Toolkit, Cover Letter Magic and The $100,000+ Entrepreneur. She is also part of the BlueSteps Executive Career Services operations team.


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