Do you even need an Executive resume? Aren’t all executives hired via referrals, or Linkedin?
Not at all.
Don’t get us wrong, referrals work. They make the recruiter's life easier by reducing time to hire and cost of hire.
But companies that need great executives will never be saving the cheddar. Nor will they simply rely one someone’s recommendation “this person is really good at it”.
Instead, they’ll involve as many sources as possible. They’ll look for executives through agencies, LinkedIn, referrals, job boards…
Wherever they do that, your Executive resume will inevitably pop up. And if it’s bad, no amount of referrals will help you, because someone else has recommendations AND a better resume.
Let’s level the playing field. Actually, let’s take it one step further and create an A+ executive resume that stands on its own.
That way no matter how recruiters find your resume, they will be putting it into the “Contact ASAP” folder. Better yet, they’ll already be calling you.
What You Will Learn in This Executive Resume Guide:
- What do recruiters want to see in your Executive resume and how to adjust for it
- How to prove you’re a great fit for leadership in both short and long-term perspective
- How to get more Executive job interviews and make recruiters come to you, not vice versa
- What are the key sections of your Executive resume and how to write them to grab attention of recruiters from line 1
- Executive resume examples to engage recruiters and get interviews 9 out of 10 times.
Executive resume example
Looking for a specific Executive resume?
How to Write an Executive Resume to Land More Interviews
Writing an executive resume doesn’t follow your typical resume writing process.
Yes, there are Experience, Summary, Skills, and Education sections that you’ll often find in other resumes. And we’ll cover how to make the most out of each one later in this guide.
But an Executive resume should go beyond the simple listing of skills and previous job experiences, because companies are looking beyond that in their future executives.
Given the scale of the job, the responsibility, and circumstances of the hiring process, your Executive resume should achieve at least three key objectives:
- Demonstrate impact. Bragging with years of experience as a C-level manager won’t impress anyone. Your resume should demonstrate the real impact of your work, as recruiters won’t be looking for someone who simply adjusts to their environment. They’re looking for someone who can lead and change things for the better.
- Establish a strong personal brand. Your resume is not just a tool for marketing. It's a storytelling device.
And the story your resume tells is especially important when you’re applying for an executive position, because executives are often the face of their company.
In other words, they are a part of their company’s brand.
Make sure your personal brand aligns well with the company brand. Are you tech-savvy genius with exceptional instincts for trends? A roll-up-the-sleeves guy on the frontline?
Your resume should tell that.
If you align your personal brand with the company's brand, you’ll increase the chances of landing a job tenfold.
- Ensure consistency throughout the whole recruitment process. A side benefit of working on your Executive resume is that you can get a good strategic look at your career.
See, the process of hiring someone for an executive role is pretty elaborate.
It involves multiple interviews, and happens across different mediums: phone calls, emails, social networks, face-to-face conversations, and so on.
If your message across different channels is mixed and inconsistent, you look like someone who plays a part and is desperate for a job.
Working on your resume helps you to stay consistent across all communication channels because you’re forced to think about your strong points and how to present them.
Consistent position makes you look like a strong leader, and recruiters will naturally gravitate towards you. As a bonus you can also use snippets of your resume to enhance your public profiles, such as LinkedIn, and attract even more attention from potential employers.
Let’s talk in detail about how different sections of your resume help you demonstrate impact and build a strong personal brand that aligns with the company you’re applying for.
Here are the sections that your Executive resume will include:
The 6 Most Important Sections of Your Executive Resume
- A properly formattedHeader section with the right title and link to your work profile
- A concise and impactfulSummary section to grab recruiter’s attention and create a positive momentum for the rest of your resume
- A tailored to the specific jobExperience section that proves you have all the necessary experience to lead the company to success
- ASkills section that demonstrate your professional qualities in a real-world context to drive your competence even further
- Custom sections to highlight your achievements and personal qualities to reinforce the impact of previous sections
- Education & Certificates sections
What Recruiters Want to See In Your Executive Resume
- Are you a good leader with all the necessary skills for the job?
- Is your position consistent and strong throughout your whole resume?
- Are you a good fit not only in the short-term perspective, but also for the years to come?
- Do you have a solid personal brand and how well does it align with the company’s?
- Can you make an impact, and is there any evidence that you're capable of leading for success?
Your Executive resume starts with a Header. Let’s make sure it’s properly formatted and doesn't turn recruiters away.
How to Properly Format Header of Your Executive Resume So That Recruiters Keep Reading
We’ll start with the obvious: there are many executive roles in a company.
You have CEO (chief executive officer), COO (chief operating officers), CTO (chief technical officer), CIO, CISO, CSO, and the list goes on.
And yes, there’s a lot of overlapping responsibilities between these jobs. A CIO in one company sometimes can transition to COO/CTO in another.
Despite that, it’s extremely important to use the same title in Header that the job you’re applying for uses, because COO and CIO in the same company do absolutely different things.
And, surely, don’t use several titles in your profile even if you worked on both positions in the past.
It goes without saying that your Header also needs to feature your contact details, but often many applicants restrict themselves only to phone number and email.
There’s a huge missed opportunity here, and it’s the link to your LinkedIn profile.
Recruiters often tend to analyze social profiles of potential candidates. A well-developed LinkedIn profile with many professional connections will act in your favor.
Just don’t remember to link to it in your Header section.
If you don't have a developed LinkedIn profile, don’t link to an empty one. It’s better to link to your personal portfolio website or active membership profile in an authoritative, industry-specific network.
Point is, the link should work for you, not against you.
Here’s an example with no link and improper title:
2 Executive resume header examples
Here we’ll include link to a Linkedin social profile, as well as use only one title that the job description mentions:
Let's engage recruiters even further with an impactful Summary section.
How to Write Executive Resume Summary to Instantly Stand Out
The Summary section can have an incredibly powerful effect on your resume, but it works both ways.
If your Summary section is short, engaging, and relevant to the position, it will engage recruiters and create a lasting positive effect on how they perceive the rest of your resume. Think of the Halo effect.
If your Summary section is long, tedious, and full of fluff, recruiters might not even bother reading further.A major benefit of the Summary section is that you can easily adjust it to every position that you’re applying for once you get the basics of writing it.
Here are some tips to make your Summary section stand out and create a good momentum with recruiters:
- Keep it short. Two or three sentences should be enough to grab someone’s attention. If you’re going beyond that, either rephrase or use other sections to provide more details, e.g. Achievements or Experience sections.
- Keep it relevant. This is going to be recurring advice, but learn as much as possible about the company you’re applying for before writing a resume. What are their values? Are they growing? Are they in crisis?Summary is the first section where your research pays off. If you think the company needs a crisis manager, mention how you were able to transform a struggling business.If the company is a promising startup or a rapidly expanding network, make sure to mention your experience of scaling businesses and navigating a fluid business environment. Try mentioning industry-specific experience, such as leading a tech or an e-commerce company. This is not mandatory, but surely will give you bonus points.
- Keep it impactful. Don’t simply brag about your qualities. Provide results and achievements. Instead of writing how you spent 10 years in marketing or corporate leadership, share what the company was able to achieve with your guidance.
Below is an example of a tedious, self-centered Summary section that makes employers and HR’s to roll up their eyes:
2 Executive resume summary examples
Expert leader with 12+ years of experience dedicated to business development and leadership with strong public speaking, management, presentation, marketing, and finance operational skills. Established and maintained cooperative working relationships with those contacted in the course of the work while effectively developing and implementing strategies to accomplish company missions.
And here’s an example of an engaging and impactful Summary section.
Served as Chief Executive Officer for 11 years, in conjunction with the board of directors, of a $12M+ revenue credentialing organization responsible for all aspects, providing strategic direction for BoD and 3000 company client accounts, managing and reviewing finances and operations of 3 branch divisions, facilitated several country-wide product launches.
If you’re applying for another executive position, for example Chief Marketing Officer, follow the aforementioned advice but adjust it to the exact responsibilities of your future role.
Below is an example:
Led and oversaw all marketing activities for the top-3 global retail chain for 8 years, overseeing a marketing team of 21 senior professionals in 43 states and 5 countries. During my work the chain saw a consecutive annual growth of ARR by 12%, average country customer retention rate by 35% and average 23% sales increase per business unit.
We’ll now move forward to the bread-and-butter of your Executive resume, the Experience section.
How to Write Experience Section Of Your Executive Resume For Maximum Efficiency
The Experience section is the most elaborate and extensive section of your Executive resume, and recruiters will be returning to it several times throughout the whole recruitment process.
At first they’ll skim through it to understand whether you have a relevant experience, and leadership skills. This is where the most candidates will be filtered out.
During the next phase they will check whether your resume contains specific results and workflows that led you to achieving those results. They’ll be asking themselves: is this someone we need right now?
During the final round of checks, they’ll be comparing it with other candidates and see if you’re a good fit not only in the short perspective, but for years to come.
It doesn’t help that the Experience section is one of the hardest to write because executives have to squeeze in decades of experience in just one page, and make sure there’s still a place left for other impactful sections.
Let’s talk about what you need to include in your Experience section to get more calls, and what better should be left out of it.
Everything you mention in your Executive resume experience section falls into three main categories:
Results are the most impactful component of your experience section. Your achievements should be quantified, otherwise it’s just a string of words. Use numbers for more impact.
Bad example: increased company’s presence on the education CRM market
Good example: over 3 years grew revenue in educational and mortgage segments by 300%
PRO TIPIt’s important what kind of results you prioritise. Carefully study job requirements to understand what are the current company goals. Is it cost-efficiency? Workplace innovation? Or a new product launch? Prioritise results that are more relevant.
Workflows are what you did to achieve the results, or circumstances. Those are a perfect opportunity to hint at your core qualifications.
Workflows will reveal your subject matter experience, leadership and strategic qualities, and core competence in driving financial and operational results.
Again, carefully study job requirements to understand which workflows will play a bigger role. No two companies are the same, so executives’ responsibilities will vary based on the company's size, industry, structure, and culture.
Buzzwords largely defined by trends in every industry, and you can use them to quickly bring your resume up to date and target companies that are looking for very specific competencies.
Examples of buzzwords per industry: distance learning in education, crisis management in travel industry, managing distributed teams in real estate, machine learning and agile practices in IT, and so on.
Don’t overuse trendy words though, and especially don’t insert them blindly just to impress recruiters. Use only those skills that you have hands-on experience with.
Again, study job requirements to understand what kind of buzzwords may play into your hands.
For the best results, combine results, workflows, and buzzwords. Study job description and put more relevant workflows on top.
Here’s an example of vague experience section which is more focused on circumstances of work rather than results:
Executive resume experience examples
Chief Executive OfficerRayner Works
Here’s an experience section optimized for impact with relevant results and comprehensive workflows:
Chief Executive OfficerRayner Works
Here’s an example of how the Experience section might look if you’re applying for a CTO position.
Notice that it contains more buzzwords and technical terms that were revealed after studying the company background and its key products:
Chief Technical OfficerStar Technologies
How to Write Executive Skill Section That Recruiters Will Really Like
Every executive role involves a wide range of skills. Add to that 15 years of experience on average and every executive can easily fill up a blank page simply listing all the things they possess.
Don’t fall into this trap. No one will be reading that much. And the impact behind every skill will be diminished by the sheer amount of them.
The best thing you every candidate for an executive role can do is to prioritise skills that are needed the most for a given job, and then group those skills into broader categories.
Bad example: high performance under stress, predictive planning, negotiation, monitoring, critical thinking, etc.
Good example: crisis management.
After you narrow down the most important skill categories, make sure to put those into context, because this is the most convincing way to demonstrate that you really have them.
For most executive roles, apart from Chief Technology officer, soft skills are a priority, so list them first.
Here’s an example how to list soft skills on your Executive resume:
How to describe soft skills on your resume
Successfully implemented enterprise-wide reorganization that positioned the company as one of the top 3 leaders in the Arizona state private educational market within the first 3 years of work
Planned and managed a series of technology infrastructure enhancements in QA and R&D departments that improved operational efficiency by 40% andworkforce productivity by 30%
Provided strategic leadership across the whole organization to executives, division leaders, and over 2000 company accounts, surpassing projected revenue growth by 15% and reducing cost of implementation by 35%
Below are some skills that you can group in your Skill section:
Soft Skills List for Executive resumes
- Strategic management
- Strategic partnerships
- Resource development
- Analytical approach
- Financial management
- Presentation skills
- Revenue Growth
- Active listening
- Time management
- Problem solving
- Innovative thinking
- Quality control
- Lean/Growth mindset
- Risk management
- Process organization
- Policy development
The amount of technical skills you need to mention in your resume will largely depend on the specific role.
Chief innovation officer, chief technical officer and chief information officer are expected to be more tech savvy than other executive positions, so listing some key technical skills would be of help.
Same goes for any executive role in IT-related companies vs other industries.
But mostly try to focus on your management skills and achievements associated with them.
Below are some technical skills you might mention in your executive resume:
Hard / Technical Skills List for Executive resumes
- MS Office
- Financial & Accounting Software
What Should Be Included In Your Executive Education Section
Although experience is deemed far more important than education history for any executive position, you’ll rarely find a job that doesn’t require at least a bachelor's degree.
Education requirements vary from job to job. Some companies require a Master's degree in business or related field.
If you don’t have a relevant degree it might be substituted with an advanced business training, such as MBA. Make sure to put it before other information on education in your resume.
What Are The Best Certificates to Mention in Executive Resume?
Certificates aren’t a decisive factor for an Executive resume, but they can strengthen your overall profile.
Note that chief technology officer and chief operations officer will have a different portfolio of certificates, although there are general leadership certificates that any executive resume can benefit from.
Below are some examples:
Top 5 Executive certificates for your resume
Additional sections to boost your Executive resume special sauce
Your executive resume provides impact and demonstrates that you have all the necessary skills to be successful in your work.
It’s time to stand out of your competition and leave a lasting impression with custom sections.
Here are some custom sections that you can use to highlights your leadership skills and build your personal brand even further:
Achievements / Highlights: every executive with many years of experience undoubtedly had career highlights that deserve attention.
It’s important to keep this section focused on specific achievements and not just brag about yourself.
Those achievements may include: prestigious business awards, work achievements, and even published books relevant to the job.
Our selected resume template above is from one of our successful clients,William H. Saito, who used custom sections to build a strong personal brand and hint at holistic development of his leadership skills.
Day of My Life: if you feel creative and confident in the rest of your resume, you can provide a personal touch with a “Day of My Life” section.
This section is extremely powerful as it can help you demonstrate your human side and integrity.
Coupled with your achievements and work results from other sections, this is a great way to show your ability at following work and life balance, balance priorities, and sustain integrity.
A great example of this section in use is ourMarissa Mayer’s resume which not only went viral and got a great number of positive responses, but also attracted attention from leaders of a business world, such as Mark Cuban.
Key Takeaways For Writing A Powerful Executive Resume:
- Approach resume writing process not only for marketing, but also for building your personal brand and forming unique selling proposition
- Make sure the brand you build aligns well with the company that you want to work with
- Strive to demonstrate impact with every section of your executive resume using results, achievements, and confident language
- Stand out from the crowd of other candidates with custom sections that drive your personal brand even further and demonstrate you as all-round person
- Make sure to study the job requirements and the company’s history before applying as it will help you make your resume much more aligned with their vision of who will lead their company