Mistaken for a lower-level job hunter? Try these 3 executive resume writing tips
June 13, 2011
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Laura Smith-Proulx
Laura Smith-Proulx
Executive Director, Executive Resume Writer, An Expert Resume
Applying to jobs at your level – but being told that you don’t qualify, based on your resume?

This is a common problem that I’ve seen among leaders at all rungs of the career ladder, with stories of IT Directors being mistaken for programmers, Sales Vice Presidents who appear to be individual reps, and so on.

If you’ve experienced this issue in your job search, you’re not alone by a long shot. Many self-written leadership resumes list results, duties, budgets, and job titles, but few convey the magnitude of the job or the level of authority needed to be successful at an executive level.

To capture attention, your executive resume must show proof of strategic performance. Therefore, winning over recruiters requires that you focus higher than just the tactical, nuts-and-bolts details of your career.

To avoid this trap, rework your resume with these 3 tips that can transform you into a serious executive contender:

1 – Illustrate the scope of your work.

Unbeknownst to most job hunters, scope is critical. Recruiters who source executive leaders often look at the extent of the budgets you’ve handled, width of your authority in the company, and size of projects that you’ve led.

For example, I recently reviewed resumes targeting the role of IT Director for enterprise-level operations, where one candidate had experience supporting multimillion-dollar sites across the U.S., and the other job seeker had only handled data center buildouts for 3 locations.

However, these resumes looked identical – mostly because the candidates did themselves a disservice by failing to include the data that employers deemed important.

If your background includes wider competencies than your competition, then you’ll want to include metrics that demonstrate scope on everything from the size of teams managed to the number of regional operations under your authority..

These figures can be distinguishing factors in who gets the initial interview… and of course, the final offer.

2 – Talk about your leadership value in terms of the job level.

Even if you don’t formally hold the title that you’re aspiring to, you might be already performing at this level—and that’s a crucial point to make to the hiring audience.

Recruiters often seek candidates with skills that position them to take on an executive role, especially if they offer more value (i.e. lower salary) than someone who has logged several years with the actual title.

This is especially important for executives that have held dual roles (COO combined with CFO, for example), or have operated at a senior executive level because the company had no one else to rely on in the role.

Here, you’ll need to be explicit about the level of responsibility that you hold – as this will show that you’re already able to handle that next-level job.

This example shows a job title and description for a resume of a prospective CIO:

Director IT (Direct Report to CEO)

Hold executive team member responsibility and CIO-level charter to improve service levels, maximize ROI for capital expenses, and control development costs.

As you can see, the fact that this candidate has yet to hold the role of CIO has been de-emphasized, making the case that his executive duties are directly equivalent to what he’d face at the C-level.

3 – Bring your presentation up to speed with executive resume trends.

If you’ve used the same resume format since graduating from college, this applies to you! Nothing makes you look more mid-level than, well, making the same mid-level presentation year after year.

Resume trends for candidates at the top are different: they employ powerful headlines, branding statements, and achievements—all leadership details that make a striking first impression.

Take a look at examples like these to get a feel for what you may be missing.

CEO Sample Resume

CFO Sample Resume

COO Sample Resume

In summary, these executive resume changes can easily make a huge difference in the response you get from recruiters and hiring authorities. Looking—and acting—the part is a key step in winning interviews at the level your career deserves!