How to Improve Your Executive Resume to Get Employers' Attention
By Laura Smith-Proulx,
Executive Director, National Columnist, Author, LinkedIn expert, and former recruiter
Arvada, Colorado, U.S.A.
out an executive or professional resume that you've invested significant
time (or money) into, but still failing to get employers' attention?
If your value proposition is buried under long, drawn-out sentences,
your brand message may be lost—and your audience confused about
why they should hire you for a leadership role.
Here are some tip-offs to a too-wordy resume that fails to distinguish
your skills and kills your chances with recruiters:
- Your leadership resume easily exceeds the maximum 3 pages that
recruiters will read
- The results of your work appear all the way at the end of each
sentence—buried and hard to find among lengthy, drawn-out explanations
- You've started many phrases or sentences with the same word, which
weakens your message
- Your bullet-point sentences are longer than 2 or 3 lines, which
makes them nearly impossible to scan quickly
- You've added too many adjectives and adverbs, with every achievement
noted as "outstanding," "exceptional," and worst
of all, "successful." (if your efforts weren't successful,
why would they appear on your resume?)
If any of these apply to your resume, it's easy to trim excess words
and get hiring managers to act on your qualifications. Here are
3 ways to cut to the bottom line on your leadership resume, quickly
1 - Skip the verbs and excess explanation for increased
As a branded marketing document, your leadership resume can make
use of sentence fragments that are concise and to the point. However,
using too many words in these sentences—instead of focusing on results—can
obscure the message in your resume, as evidenced by this example:
Original: "Led large-scale operations restructuring and expansion
of call centers and company facilities, resulting in a 63% profit
increase in just three years and the region's lowest personnel costs."
New: "63% profit increase in 3 years plus lowest per-employee
expenses with enterprise-level operations restructuring and expansion."
Here, the original sentence was condensed 37%--but it still conveys
the same meaning. Now, imagine what cutting more than a third of
the clutter could do for the clarity of YOUR executive resume!
To use this technique, make list of front-loaded results sentences
like these, give this section a name (such as Selected Leadership
Results), and then pop it on front page for maximum exposure.
2 - Take out your long and winding summary paragraph.
There's no need to bore your reader with a lookalike resume summary
or profile that states the obvious, such as:
"Accomplished professional with proven operations leadership,
technology utilization, and marketing experience in the manufacturing
industry. Skilled in leading projects in fast-paced settings, with
excellent team-building and cross-functional communications skills."
The problem with a paragraph like this isn't the writing itself;
it's the fact that this description could apply to almost anyone!
What I recommend instead is a tight description that includes a
description of your executive achievements—cutting down the volume
of words while delivering a tightly branded message, as in these
examples taken from leadership resumes:
"VP Technology attaining 99% over-goal performance by exceeding
SLA requirements through strategic planning, cost containment, and
"Asset management executive and former CFO skilled in negotiating
transactions with Fortune 100-1000 companies and improving profit
potential through targeted risk assessment."
3 - Learn to write a branding headline for yourself.
A trade secret among professional and executive resume writers,
the headline is actually a tagline that allows you condense more
data into a tight space. The best part? Your resume can use more
than one headline to convey your strongest points.
Here are some examples of headlines that encapsulate value and position
the applicant for a particular role:
"Senior pharmaceutical executive behind accelerated, multibillion-dollar
"Global growth for new-media marketing company achieving worldwide
"Investment expertise that promotes financial health through
investment & capital planning"
A branding headline can quickly give employers the "big picture"
of your achievements, without taking up precious space on your executive
To create this statement, combine the position you seek with a major
achievement from your career, showing the results of your work or
the approach that you use. In fact, you can lift a success story
directly from the body of your leadership resume and summarize it
in this manner—allowing you to remove extraneous detail from elsewhere
in your document.
As you continue to adjust your executive resume and tighten the
language, be sure to show it to colleagues and others familiar with
You might find that, even with excess words removed, that your resume
still conveys your brand message—and faster to boot.
resume writer Laura Smith-Proulx, CCMC, CPRW, CIC, TCCS is an
award-winning Executive Resume Writer and former recruiter who has
achieved a 98% success rate opening doors to prestigious jobs through
personal branding techniques. The Executive Director of An
Expert Resume, she partners exclusively with CIO, CTO, COO, CEO,
CMO, CNO, SVP, VP, and Director-level candidates.
Published - November 2010