Dec 3 2015
With the holidays well underway, the season of excess is upon us. There are too many parties to go to and too many delicious things to tempt us. But as we all know, when it’s your third holiday gathering in one week and you are facing yet another table full of rich delights, you may begin to appreciate those heavy dishes less and long for a lighter meal.
Similarly, in executive resume writing, an exuberance of information—even impressive qualifications and achievements—can quickly cause a reader to feel overfed. This is particularly true when your resume is crammed somewhere inside a stack of several dozen others that must be read through, which are filled with similarly delectable accomplishments.
For your resume to be effectively tantalizing to this easily satiated reader, follow these two guiding principles:
- Keep it short.
- Keep it sweet.
The ideal resume is one to two pages in length; one page is usually appropriate for younger professionals and two pages for more experienced, senior-level executives.
Perhaps you are wondering how you are going to condense your wealth of experience onto just one or two pages.
To start, you must resist the temptation to tell everything. A resume, by definition, is a summary. And while it must contain substantive information to add credibility to your claim that you are the right person for the job, you would be wise to feature only the most gourmet elements from your career.
Does this mean it is never appropriate to have a three-page resume? No. In some cases a three-page resume may be necessary for a senior-level executive, perhaps when the person has a number of patents, publications, speaking engagements, board positions, etc. that are well worth mentioning. You should also consider that a three-page resume might be well received in your particular target country, so the two-page ideal is not a hard and fast rule.
However, no matter how long your resume ends up being, it must be succinctly written, 100% aligned with your career goal, and drafted with a discriminating reader in mind—who will very quickly have had enough.
Here are some tips that will aid you in keeping your resume both short and sweet:
Eliminate any language that does not speak to what makes you unique. Are you “results-focused”? “Driven”? An “excellent communicator”? Well, you are in good company. Most, if not all, of your competitors at the executive level could describe themselves similarly. Therefore, this type of language adds very little value to your resume and takes up precious space.
Keep company information extremely short. You can usually summarize in one line everything the reader will care to know about an organization—the industry, annual revenue, number of employees, and perhaps geographies.
Minimize the space used to describe your responsibilities and/or duties. Briefly describe your scope of responsibility (team size, budget, etc.), but eliminate any information on day-to-day tasks, which will not aid your target reader in understanding the types of transformational initiatives that you develop and implement.
Use the bulk of the space to describe the challenges you faced, the actions you took, and the results you achieved. This is where keeping it sweet comes in! This essential information will give insight into what you are truly capable of. But beware—when you start going back through your achievements, it’s easy to come up with dozens of items. Be selective and offer only the choicest items. And just as it would be a sin to dilute a bottle of Dom Pérignon into a bowl of punch to serve at your holiday party, you shouldn’t reduce the impact of your “wow” achievements by burying them inside a long list of “just OK” achievements.
Question the value of every piece of information you include. Is it really necessary to include inane 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.
Eliminate early experience that does not speak to your current objective. There are no resume police who will arrest you if you don’t add a description to each role (or even list every role for that matter). And perhaps that position you held back in 1991 will add no additional strengths that have not already been covered in the descriptions of your more recent roles.
In addition to the above tips that will aid you in keeping your resume to a manageable length, you will also want to consider your reader’s ability to digest the individual pieces of information. Small bites are the best for digestion, so avoid any long paragraphs and seemingly endless lists of bullets that your reader will likely politely refuse.
By keeping your resume short and not overwhelming your reader with too much of a good thing, and by keeping it sweet by offering them nothing but the very best, you can rest assured they will devour it whole.
For more resume tips, download a recording of our latest resume webinar.