As any executive who has tried to write one will know, creating an effective executive resume requires reflective thinking, strategic planning, considerable time and effort, and a lot of proof-reading. For executive career advisors, recruiters and potential employers who view resumes on a daily basis, there are many common pitfalls that executive candidates succumb to which could be easily avoided if they had been provided with the correct advice. Based on questions submitted by BlueSteps webinar registrants, BlueSteps has compiled a list of executive resume FAQs to help you on your way to optimizing your own document.

Question 1: Should I write a new resume for each new opportunity? 

Answer: When writing an executive resume, it is important to know your audience and to target your content specifically for them. Each role and each company will have a unique set of requirements, and as a candidate you need to use your resume to prove to potential employers that you can fulfil those needs. You might not need to start from scratch on your resume for each new opportunity, but if you want to be considered for the role, you must make sure that your resume is optimized and updated to include information that would be pertinent for each application.

Question 2: What should I consider before I begin writing?

Answer: Writing your resume is an opportune time to consider what you have achieved so far in your career, what you are good at, what you are bad at, where you want to be and to think strategically about how you will get there. If you haven’t identified your unique selling point, it will be difficult for recruiters or potential employers to glean this from your resume. So before beginning to write, you should ask yourself these three key questions:

  1. How am I different from other applicants?
  2. What is the biggest return on investment that I can offer a new employer?
  3. What has been my greatest professional achievement to date?

It is important to thoroughly understand your value so that you can highlight it throughout your resume. If you struggle with self-reflection, ask those who know you professionally for ideas as to your value. This should help create a good starting point and enable you to gather ideas and insights.

Question 3: How should I write my contact information?

Answer: When writing a resume, many executives become unsure whether to use their full residential address, or just city/state/country details. In a modern resume, your contact information section should be short and to the point. There is no need to include detailed residential addresses, such as house numbers, street names or zip codes, unless the potential employer has requested it or expressed an intention to send information to you by post.  Simply include your mobile phone number, email and your city, state and country. You could also include a link to your LinkedIn profile if space allows.

Question 4: Photo or no photo?

Answer: The answer to this question is generally “no”, although there are a few exceptions. Due to discrimination laws, it is illegal to reject candidates due to age, race, gender, or physical features in most countries, so many organizations refuse to accept resumes with photos on them to avoid potential accusations and lawsuits. However, in some regions, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, photographs on resumes are more commonplace. Therefore, it’s best to do your research and comply with the professional norms in the location that you are applying to.

This question also relates to another common question regarding showcasing your date of birth. As above, some companies will not accept resumes with a date of birth on it to avoid accusations of age discrimination, so again, it is best to research the rules and restrictions in your area before submitting.

Question 5: How important is my title? Should it be my current title, or be an aspirational one?

Answer: Your main title/heading should reflect the title of the job you are going for. The reader should be able to review your resume at a glance and understand that you are at the experience level to fulfil the duties of the role you are applying for.

You can also change the titles of positions in the career history/experience section if the title that you were given by your employer would be confusing or could cause misunderstanding outside the organization. Make sure your career history is easy for the reader to comprehend given the short amount of time a recruiter or potential employer can spend reviewing each resume.

Question 6: How can I make my executive resume aesthetically pleasing? Can I use text boxes?

Answer: In order to make your resume stand out, you should spend time on finding a format that draws the reader in while keeping the resume easy to navigate through. Use simple fonts to make the information accessible, and avoid using text boxes which can cause problems with Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). If you are not familiar with ATS, many companies use them to filter resume applications based on selected keywords before it reaches human eyes.

To make your resume further visibly pleasing pay attention to typos, misspelled words, inconsistent fonts, layouts, and missing hyphens. Making these simple mistakes can give a reader the impression that you lack attention to detail or basic understanding of professional writing. Online tools cannot be solely relied on to proof-read for your resume as they often miss vital mistakes. Make sure you personally read your resume multiple times, and get a friend to proof-read for you before sending it to a potential employer or executive recruiter.

Overall, in order to create a successful executive resume, you need to ensure that you have highlighted your unique value proposition, that your content is concise and targeted, that you demonstrate clear potential return on investment and that you have metrics, tangible data, qualifications and professional achievements throughout the document to strengthen your case.

If you would like further help in writing your executive resume, check out all our resources at our Career Insider.


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