3 Strategies For Writing A Bold, Branded Executive Resume

Launching a strategic executive job search – and hoping to make a splash? In previous years, listing the size of budgets managed, divisions run, or revenue generated might have been enough for a recruiter to hunt you down, but no more. In today’s economic climate, executives are being asked to deliver more and brand themselves as well-rounded leaders prepared to tackle industry challenges and obstacles to growth. It’s important to look at your executive resume with a fresh perspective. Have you missed opportunities to market yourself? Do hiring authorities fail to understand what you bring to the table? Are you being passed over for jobs, even though you’re well-qualified? If so, these three strategies can help you reassess the strength of your executive resume – with ideas for powerful content and leadership storytelling: 1. Demonstrate strategic, not tactical, value. Employers are not only looking for your leadership skills – they’re intent on finding an executive champion that will impact growth, retain top talent, and impress their competitors. Therefore, your executive resume has to take your brand message a step further than just results, and talk about context. Consider whether the following situations apply to your background:


  • Heading a new growth strategy
  • Conceptualizing and leading the release of new products
  • Reacting to the threat of competition in the industry
  • Addressing the effect of the economic downturn
Next, write a short success story that pulls in the challenge and explains the reasons you got involved, plus the outcome, as shown in this example for a COO resume:

“Produced 142% increase in net income by transforming focus to life sciences markets; won contracts at AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, and Johnson & Johnson.”

Repeat this exercise for different situations, and create condensed summary versions of each story for your executive resume. 2. Merely mentioning the scope of your duties isn’t enough. So you’ve managed the P&L and helped create revenue growth. You’ll be up against numerous leaders with similar achievements—making it harder for you to stand out. Distinguishing yourself on an executive resume requires that you specify the setting behind each of your accomplishments. To mine your background for this context, answer the following questions:
  • Did you take on challenges within the company, such as frequent turnover, negative PR, or market volatility?
  • Were your roles broader than what was typically required? In other words, did you take on the role of CFO and CIO simultaneously, or step into a Manager-level position to help out subordinates?
  • Was the company experiencing rapid growth – putting pressure on you to hire or standardize procedures?
  • Were you required to turn around a challenging situation or address looming obstacles that threatened profits?
This example of a CFO resume achievement demonstrates the candidate’s ability to take on a wider level of authority:

“Served as CFO and COO administering $23M annual revenue and sustaining operations during restructuring, with 18% drop in facilities costs from newly renegotiated vendor contracts.”

If any of these situations apply to your career, be sure to describe background detail when noting the scope of your achievements. The ability to gain results in these scenarios is highly sought after within the executive suite. 3. Compare yourself to leadership peers. Comparative analysis is one of the best ways to frame and express executive achievement, which helps to highlight your leadership brand value versus your competition. For example, you might have brought in changes that were critical to company growth or customer perception – with bottom-line results. Look at each job for evidence of the following:
  • New operational procedures that saved time or money
  • Comparisons to your predecessor in the same role
  • Performance measurements against colleagues with the same job title and function
  • Industry comparisons for others in a similar role
Here, you’ll want to ensure the comparisons made are clearly conveyed on your resume, as in this example of a CEO in the pharmaceutical industry:

“Revitalized product sales with 65% growth after taking over sales team—despite lackluster results during preceding 2 years.”

If you were specifically recruited because of the results you could deliver (and surpassed other candidates in the hiring process), be sure to note this in your executive resume. The bottom line? Putting yourself out there in the executive job market requires careful thought and analysis of your brand value – an exercise that will help before you even start to write your executive resume. Take the time to assess what you offer against your competition, and you could not only shorten your leadership job search, but wind up with a better fit in your next executive role. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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