Here’s the reality: your resume will land you in the “no” pile unless it’s strategically built to convey the value you will bring to an employer. We know this is easier said than done, so we’ve compiled some of the top resume questions our team gets to help you get started.
At the executive level, in particular, you can’t go wrong with a simple, classically elegant resume design. Top-performing executive resumes have simple layouts and plenty of white space so they’re easy to scan and visually appealing. Though many modern resume formats use infographics, charts, and other colorful visuals, in our opinion, these don’t belong on executive resumes. (We have yet to see an infographic style resume that doesn’t make us work harder than necessary to find the information we need.)
What is the ideal resume length?
Your resume should be two or three pages maximum. For positions unrelated to the job you’re applying to or positions fifteen or more years ago, create a separate section that lists just position titles and dates if needed to manage document length.
What resume format is best?
Show your work history in chronological order with your current or most recent position at the top. Using a “functional format” may suggest to the reader that you’re trying to hide job-hopping; most employers strongly prefer the chronological format so they can get a clear sense of your career trajectory.
Kirby Partners has several free Word resume templates available. Though there are all sorts of resume templates available on the internet, we’re seeing a trend towards more “creative” formats being used which don’t work as well for executives.
Degrees should be listed from highest to lowest level. If you haven’t completed a degree, don’t list it on your resume without clearly explaining the status. If you’re taking classes towards a degree, add a notation that the degree is expected along with the timing (e.g., Bachelor of Arts, degree anticipated May 2020). If you started a degree, but aren’t currently taking courses, it’s typically recommended that you leave it off. If you opt to include it, list the college, location, and the number of relevant credits completed. Executives should put education below their professional accomplishments; recent grads may want to put education directly under their header.
If you opt to include a summary, it should be a short, impactful statement highlighting your years of experience, work history, and competencies. Here’s an example: “Accomplished senior-level executive with over 25 years of leadership success in the healthcare industry. Extensive experience with contract development, vendor and partner relations, project management, IT management, team management, and administration of large budgets. Proven track record of using innovation to drive business results.” Pair this type of statement with a headline like this “Seasoned Chief Information Officer and Visionary Leader” for maximum impact.
Most employers want to get a sense of your career trajectory and “functional” resume formats make them work harder to understand your progression. Many employers are biased against the format because it’s historically been used to disguise “job hopping” and job seekers trying to break into a new field. When using a chronological format, start with your current (or most recent) position at the top of the page.
Leveraging our 30 years of experience getting executives jobs, we’ve developed a 50 page comprehensive resume guide to help you easily create a resume that works.
Are resume writers worth it?
There are many great resume resources out there, but ultimately how successful they’ll be at crafting a great resume for you depends on asking the “right” questions. We’ve seen far too many executives waste money on resume services that don’t work or templates that actually turn off employers. We generally counsel executives to DIY their resume because after all, they’re the best expert on the value they’ve brought to their past employers. If you decide to hire someone to do it for you, make sure to check references and ask for samples created for executives in the same field. Also, make sure they will use a classic resume template designed for an executive rather than something trendy.
We advise that you keep your resume to two or three pages maximum. That said a longer document is better than using tiny margins or small fonts in order to keep it short. The easiest way to keep your resume a manageable length is to create a separate section that lists just position titles and dates of positions held 15 or more years ago or unrelated to the position you’re applying for.
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