Executive resume writing guide

By Steven Mostyn

By far, the essential thing in your quest for finding your next executive position is your executive resume. This critical marketing tool can be the difference between you landing your future role. As well it can potentially prevent you from obtaining a much higher salary. Even though almost every executive knows how important an executive resume is, there are still a few executives who have terrible resumes. As a resume are such a fundamental thing an executive must-have, you must learn how to create an effective executive resume. This following guide will walk you step by step on how to write an effective executive resume by providing you will 20 detailed vital tips.

20 tips in writing your resume executive

1. You must include all the standard executive resume sections

What are the most common sections on an executive resume?  

There are universally excepted sections that should be on all executive resumes as the excepted norm. These sections include the objective section, executive skills section, experience section, and education sections.

Why it is important to list these resume sections?

Some experts recommend not listing sections like the objective and skills section, but this is the wrong advice as these sections are still expected to be seen on executive resumes. Therefore, if you do not have these standard sections, your executive resume will look out of place to the eyes of decision-makers judging your resume compared to your peers.

What is the correct order for sections on a resume?

The following is the typical section order for executive resumes.

  1. Name and contact information with a resume title
  2. Objective section
  3. Executive skills section
  4. Experience section
  5. Education section
  6. Other added sections like Awards, Presentations, Volunteering, Publications, and Languages

2.How to write your name and contact information

How to write your name on your resume?

When writing your name, make sure it is in a font bigger than all other fonts in your resume except for your resume title. For example, if your resume is a font of 12, your name should be a font of 18 or 20.

The reason for using a big font for your name is to make you appear big and important. A small font for your name will make you seem small and unimportant.

Use Capital letter for your name

Your name should be written in capital letters as this will make you look and appear to be more solid as a candidate.  

Include any significant designation beside your name

Besides your name, you should include any relevant significant designation you have obtained in your profession or from your post-secondary education.

Examples include things like an MBA, CPA, PMP, Ph.D., LLB, and other such credentials.  

What to include in your contact info?

In your contact info, you should include your address, phone number, email, and LinkedIn Profile link.

If you are afraid to include your address for safety reasons, you can just list your city and zip code.  You should still contain at least the city and zip code, so hiring managers to know you are in the area and country they are hiring for.

Title your resume

A vital resume hack that can make you stand out compared to your executive peers is to list the title of the job are looking to get hired for in large bold letters in a font of 18-20 after your contact info.

This little trick will make you instantaneously stand out in a positive way to hiring managers as they will psychology link you to that profession as that is one of the most significant things they will see on your resume. This little trick will give your resume much-needed focus.

Use bold font

The entire first section should be in bold as a technique to show the importance of this valuable critical section.

Divide up the contract info and resume title

Also, between the contact information and your resume title, you should use a divider line like a .

Example of your name and contact information

DAVID RHODES, MBA

3572 CODY Court, Denver, Colorado │ 613-339-9351 [email protected]

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

3.How to write an objective executive resume section

What is the objective section?

The objective section also called by some as the resume summary, bio, tagline, or headline sections. The purpose is to highlight your key most important skills briefly.

As well the objective section lists the kind of job you are looking for.

How Long should the objective section be?

This section should be between 2-3 sentences and between 2-5 lines maximum.

Center the objective section

To add a little pizazz to the objective section, it is recommended centering the wording.  

Do you need to label the objective section?

The objective section does not need a label as it is the into for your resume. It is the only section that does not require a resume label/title.

Example of an objective executive resume section

Results-driven transformational VP of IT with extensive experience leading technology departments for both start-ups and large well-known global companies like Sony, Oracle & IBM

4.How to write your executive skills section

What is the purpose of the executive skills section?

Before the advent of resume SEO and ATS systems, the purpose of the executive skills section was to use the skills section to showcase your executive skills. Now that SEO and ATS are part of the vetting process, the purpose of the executive skills section is to list common keywords that will be searched by either the ATS system or HR.

The section on SEO and ATS compatible executive resumes will go into much more detail on this topic.

You must research the keywords

To know what keywords are going to increase your SEO value on your resume, you either must research on job analytics sites or pay a resume service that has extensive experience with SEO/ATS systems.

How long should the executive skills section be?

The executive skills section should be between 2-5 lines maximum. You might be tempted to go past 5 lines on this section, but from an aesthetic perspective, it will make your resume just look like a bunch of keywords as opposed to a resume that looks impressive aesthetically.

What is the format of the executive skills section?

You should begin the executive skills section with a highlighted bolded title executive skill. Please see below what that would look like.

EXECUTIVE SKILLS

After the title, you list between 2-5 roles of the skills that are going to be commonly looked for by either ATS Systems or HR. Between each word, it is recommended to list a bullet.  

Example of an executive skills section

EXECUTIVE SKILLS

• Operations • Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) • Managing Staff • Leadership • Strategy • AI

• Strategic Planning • Risk Management • Financial Management • Staff Development • Process

• Change Management • Training • R&D • Process Improvements • Budgets • Presentations • DB

• Business Analysis • Administration • Annual Review • Forecasting • Market Analysis • CRM

• Sales Generation • Credit Analysis • Marketing and Promotions • P&L • Project Management  

5.How to write your work experience section

What is the work experience section on your Executive resume?

Your work experience section is the section on your executive resume that employers will look at to see your work experience. In my opinion, this is the most critical section as employers look at this section first in many cases when assessing your profile.

Should your work experience section be in chronological order?

Your work experience section should be in chronological order from your most recent role to your most distant role.

How many years back should I list on your resume?

As a rule of thumb, I would not go past 25 years on your resume

Should you title the work experience section?

Like all resumes sections, you should start the section with a highlighted bolded title.

What format to use in the work experience section?

There is a format that is recommended to follow in your work experience section for each of the positions you have had. Below you will find the format.

The most recent job on your resume is the most important

As hiring managers and recruiters are most interested in your most recent job, it is recommended that your most recent role being the most descriptive with the most bullet points on your resume.

Your role before your current position is also important

Your role you had before your current position is essential, as other than your current role, it will be looked at the most.  It should not have any many bullet points as your most recent role, but it should have more points than your other roles. The exception would be only being in the position for a short time.

  1. Role, company, and date

Start each job with the company with location together and then list the date of your work experience at the far right of the same line. The company should be listed in capitals. Under this, you would list your job in capitals.  This entire section should be in bold.

An example might look like this:

IBR TELECOM, Dallas Texas      January 2016 to Present

CEO

  1. Company description

The next part of this section is to give a brief company description. The reason is to provide a brief explanation of the company, so hiring managers and recruiters will know who the company is if they do not know it. If it is a known company, the company description will emphasize you have worked for well-known companies. After writing out the company description, it is a good idea to write Specific job functions include the following to introduce what you did at your role.

An example of what all this might look like could be the following:

IBR telecom is a leading telecom provider in Dallas, with over 8 million subscribers. Specific job functions include the following:

C.  Job Responsibilities  

The next section is for you to list your most important job responsibilities you had in that role. I would recommend 5 points for recent positions and 1-3 for any positions past 10+.

An example might look like this below:

  • Built IBR Telecom from the ground up into one of the largest telecommunication companies in Texas.
  • Managed a large high performing enterprise team of over 100+ employees.
  • Streamlined processes as well as developed, implemented and facilitated long and short- term business objectives.
  • Developed and implemented strategies, operational policies, and procedures to ensure maximum efficiency, service levels, and profitability.
  • Introduced vital innovations to improve productively, including analytics, technology, and AI.  
  1. Accomplishments

A section that should be listed after the job responsibilities is an accomplishments section. The reason this section is essential for executives as it showcases your accomplishments. Without these accomplishments listed, it will be hard for hiring managers to quantify what you have done as a leader.

How big should the accomplishment section be?

It is recommended that you should list 2-3 accomplishments per role up to the last 10+ years. Your following roles or irrelevant roles do not need this section as it will just make your resume way to long.

It is also recommended that you list and bold the word “key accomplishments” above the accomplishment section to emphasize the importance of this section.

An example might look like this below:

Key Accomplishments:

  • Spread headed the creation of new products such as streaming news channels and local sports. This resulted in a 20% increase in yearly revenue.
  • In just year five years sold the business to Dallas Telecom for 100 million dollars.

How the entire work history section might look like

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

IBR TELECOM, Dallas Texas January 2016 to Present

CEO

IBR telecom is a leading telecom provider in Dallas, with over 8 million subscribers. Specific job functions include the following:

  • Built IBR Telecom from the ground up into one of the largest telecommunication companies in Texas.
  • Managed a large high performing enterprise team of over 100+ employees.
  • Streamlined processes as well as developed, implemented and facilitated long and short- term business objectives.
  • Developed and implemented strategies, operational policies, and procedures to ensure maximum efficiency, service levels, and profitability.
  • Introduced vital innovations to improve productively, including analytics, technology, and AI.  

Key Accomplishments:

  • Spread headed the creation of new products such as streaming news channels and local sports. This resulted in a 20% increase in yearly revenue.
  • In just year five years sold the business to Dallas Telecom for 100 million dollars.

6.How to write your education section

The last most common section on a resume is the education section. Usually, this section is placed at the end of the most common sections in your resume. The only exception would be if you work in a profession that is education focused, such as healthcare, legal, education, engineering, and other professionals that put a significant emphasis on education.

What should you include in the education section?

In your education section, you should only include relevant education from post-secondary institutions and major certifications and licenses.

What to include with every education listed?

You should include the name of the degree/diploma/certificate received, followed by the post-secondary institution or certifying body. Then the location of where these post-secondary institutions or certifying organizations are located. Then finally, you list the date you obtained the education if it is within 20 years.

In what order should I list my education?

You should list your education by the newest education first. The only exception would be if your certification or license is less critical than the post-secondary degree/diploma, then it would follow the degree/diploma.

Should you include education in process?

You should include education in process as it shows you are an individual who continues to work on themself. Also, from an SEO perspective, the extra education might be found by recruiters when you are searching for it. At the end of the education in process you should write in brackets in process.

Should you title the education section?

You should start the section with a highlighted bolded title

Should you include a GPA?

You should only list GPA if it is a high GPA

Should you include academic awards and scholarships?

You can include academic awards and scholarships or list them in an awards section in another part of your resume.

How the work history section would look like

EDUCATION

MBA, Queens University, Kinston Ontario, 2010 (In Process)

Degree in Marketing. Florida State University, 2001, Tallahassee, Florida

CFA, Chartered Financial Analyst

7.How to write other sections on your executive resume

Besides the most common sections on a resume, other sections can appear on an executive resume. They can include the following: Awards, Publications, Presentations, Languages, Certifications, and Volunteering.

You are not required to have these on your resume, but if you have these experiences, they can add much value to your profile.

Below you will get info on each of these other sections in more detail.

  1. Awards section

This section is where you list awards you have won that are related to your career. They can also include awards you won internally at your company.

  1. Publications section

For this section, you list any articles you have written in your profession.

  1. Presentation section

Under the presentation section, you list any presentation, speech, or public speaking you were invited to speak for that is relevant to your profession.

  1. Language section

For the language section, you list out all the languages that you speak.

  1. Certifications section

Under this section, you list any certifications that are relevant to your career that you did not list under your education section.

  1. Volunteering section

This critical section showcases your volunteer experience, which can show you as a giving executive.

How do you write the other sections on your resume?

For your other skills section, you should label it as additional information with those words highlighted in capital letters. After that, you list each skill in terms of which of those sections you think employers would value the most.

How the other section might look like

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Publications:              The Executive Survival Guide, Fortune Press, 2019 

Volunteering:             American Paraplegic Association, Annual Ball Organizer,

Languages:                English, Hindi, and Italian  

Presentations:            Keynote Speaker for Telecon conference, 2015

Certifications:            PMP, PMI Institute, 200

8.How to list Board of Directors experience on your resume?

As an executive, you might have board directors experience. If you do have a board of directors experience, it is important that you list out that experience on your executive resume as this is a very key achievement.

What to include in your board of directors experience?

You should first make a section on your resume separate from your work experience with the title in bold capital letters Board of Directors experience.

When listing out your board of directors experience, you should list it in chronological order from the newest board role to the oldest.

When listing out the board role first, you list the board title you had then the company or organization then the date.

How the board of directors section would look like

BOARD OF DIRECTORS EXPERIENCE

BOARD OF DIRECTORS, First Bank of Plano   2017 to Present

BOARD OF DIRECTORS, Plano Hospital     2015 to Present

9.The importance of SEO on an executive resume

As mentioned in the keyword section, SEO is an essential element on an executive resume. Not to utilize proper SEO optimization could result in employers not finding you when you apply for roles.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization and are techniques used to rank higher on search engines and or databases. In the case of resumes, it is the use of keywords and placement of your job title that employers will search for on your resume.

How to increase SEO on your resume

To increase your SEO on your resume, there are some easy tricks to follow; they include adding keywords, the job title you use, and listing a location on your resume. Below you will learn more about each of these.

Keywords

In the keywords section, we discussed how to use the keywords section to increase the SEO on your resume. Please refer to that section again to understand and use keywords to improve the SEO in your resume.

Job Title

If you do not have a title that someone would look for in your profession, you might not be found when people are looking for a specific title. If you have a title that is not common, I suggest you try to add something common to go with your current unusual title. For instance, if your company calls VP level operations general manager, then you might add VP of Operations if that is the most common title used in your profession. Now you should still use your actual job title as well as that is what HR will use on background checks.

An example would be General Manager / VP of Operations.

Location

Listing the city and zip code you reside in is critical for SEO on your resume. If you do not list your city and zip code, recruiters will not find you as they usually search for local candidates.

10.Your resume must be ATS compatible

Having an ATS compatible executive resume is very important when applying to companies through their online job portals. If your resume is not compatible with ATS or CRM systems, you will not get past the application process as your resume will not be uploaded correctly.

What is an ATS system?

ATS system stands for applicant tracking system. It is a CRM system used by companies to post jobs and receive applicants. As well it tracks applicants throughout the hiring lifecycle.

How to make your resume ATS compatible

The following points are recommended to make your resume ATS compatible.

Do not use graphics on your resume

Do not use a graphics resume or graphics on your resume as most ATS systems will have a hard time converting these resumes into their system.

Do not use unusual fonts on your resume

Unusual fonts like fancy scripts will not be readable in an ATS system, so you should avoid using them in your resume.

Do not use resumes with non-traditional formats

Most ATS have a hard time reading templated resumes that use non-traditional formats. In many cases, they put sections in areas that are not common such as sections on the side. As a result, ATS systems have a hard time reading these style resumes.  

Use the right title

As mentioned in the SEO section, make sure you list a title that is recognizable in your profession. If your title is not common, it might not be compatible with some ATS systems.  

Use Common keywords

Again, covered throughout the writing guide list common keywords as some ATS look for these when applicants apply.

Answer pre-populated questions

Some ATS ask you pre-populated questions. If you do not answer them, you will not be moved forward in the process.

List your location on your resume

If you do not list your location and zip code on your resume, some ATS will not upload you or put you in another section for applications outside of their working jurisdiction.

11.Your resume must look like a resume fit for an executive

As an executive, your resume must look like something fit for an executive leader from an aesthetics perspective. You would not go to an important meeting with a cheap suit as it would make you appear to be less competent to your audience. The same thing applies when you send a resume that does not appear to be fit for an executive.

How to make your resume appear to be at the Executive level?

  1. It should include all the traditional resume sections
  2. It must follow the traditional resume order
  3. It should have a resume title
  4. It should have titled sections
  5. It should list accomplishments
  6. Sentences in work history should be written in a detailed language.
  7. It should be well written
  8. It must sell you as a top candidate
  9. You should use traditional colors
  10. It should use bolding and highlighting and underlining.

12.It must have perfect spelling and grammar

Your executive resume must use both perfect spelling and grammar. If your resume does not use accurate spelling and grammar, you will appear to be incompetent as a leader.

Word and Grammarly are not perfect

Many people rely on both Microsoft Word spellcheck and Grammarly as a guarantee for spelling and punctuation. This is a mistake only to use these tools as they can sometimes select wrong spelling or not change words that are a real word. Also, Grammarly will sometimes make mistakes in recommending getting rid of things written in the 3rd person.  Also, Grammarly will even sometimes give you recommendations that may not be appropriate to the action in your resume.

How to make sure your resume is perfectly edited

The best advice is to either have a friend/family member look it over if they have excellent editing skills. If that is not possible, hire a professional editor. Also, if you get your resume created by a resume writing service, make sure they use a professional editor after the resume is written by them.

Your resume must have a focus

An essential feature of an executive resume is it must have a focus. If a hiring manager or recruiter cannot figure out what you do and how you can help them, they will pass on your background.

How to have a focus on your resume

  1. Make sure you are using standard titles
  2. Title your resume for the role you are looking for
  3. Do not include roles or education that are not relevant
  4. Your objective section must clearly state your expertise is and the kind of role you are looking for.

14.Your resume must not be crowded

So, recruiters and hiring managers can read your resume; make sure it is not too crowded. Some executives make the mistake of adding too much info on their resume. As a result, they end up making their resume crowded and hard to read. The saying less is better than more, this is very true with resumes.  

How to make your resumes less crowded

The best way to make your resume less crowded is to follow a resume format that showcases your skills in an easy to read format that is not crowded. This can be found in the resume section part of the executive writing guide.

15.Only include relevant information  

You may want to cover many of your skills and education on your resume but keep it to only relevant experience and education. With most executives, their experience is enough without the need to clog their resume with extra information.

What information should you exclude on your resume?

  1. Listing dated work experience past 25+ years.
  2. Past Jobs not relevant to your roles.
  3. Listing education not relevant to the role.
  4. Anything negative
  5. Listing things in your work experience that is not related to being an executive

16.Do not embellish your work history

Honesty and integrity are paramount when writing your resume as there is a high probability dishonestly will be found either during the interview or at the background stage. Also, companies and people talk, and other companies will learn about your dishonest behavior.

In addition to being dishonest, it an immoral thing to be!

17.You must follow your regional norms

Every county and regions have regional norms and expectation of what should be or not be on an executive resume. You must understand these norms and use them. Examples in the United States include the following:

  1. Using pictures on your resume
  2. Listing your social insurance numbers
  3. Listing your marital status
  4. Listing how many children you have

18.Your resume can not be too technical for HR

Listing technical skills and achievements is quite essential, but it still must be easily understood by HR or recruiters, or they will not understand what you did at your jobs.

19.Customize your resume to the roles you are applying for

When applying for different roles, an excellent idea is to tweak your resume to the focus of the roles you are applying for.

For the sake of time, the recommendation is to use a standard resume, but for roles you really want, take the time to add in keywords and other relevant skills related to that job.

20.Other important tips for your executive resume

Below are other common resume questions and answers

How many pages should an executive resume be?

For an executive resume, it should be a minimum of 2 pages and a maximum of 3 pages.

What font size should an executive resume be?

The recommended font size is 12, so it can be easily read.

What font should an executive resume use?

It is recommended that use standard, typical classic fonts like Calibri, Times to Roman, and Arial  

Should I use color on an executive resume?

I would stick to basic black and white using highlighting and bolding. If you insist on using a color, I would only recommend using dark blue.

Steven Mosytn
Steven Mosytn

Steven Mostyn has built a global reputation as the world-leading expert in job hunting strategies. Steven is the CEO of Alpha IT Recruitment and Career Boost Group

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