Stepping up to senior- or C-level roles require documents with specific features

By Abby M. Locke, IMDiversity Special Careers Contributor

No one can deny the importance of a résumé in a job search. Despite the invention of Web portfolios, online applications, and leadership profiles, you will find that a well-written résumé is still a highly effective tool for interviewing, networking, and relationship-building purposes.

For executive jobseekers, the job search arena is a whole different playing field. The compensation is higher, but the competition for C-level positions is fiercer than that of the average jobseeker. As senior-level executive positions shrink, a powerful executive résumé /portfolio can give you an edge over your peers.

Overall, there are distinctive features that are unique to the executive résumé. While information like job responsibilities, areas of expertise, accomplishments, and technical skills will always be relevant, an executive résumé must also demonstrate leadership capabilities, industry insights, revenue-enhancing performance, and staff management in his or her résumé.

So how exactly do you begin to put the pieces of an executive résumé together?

Step #1: Know Where You Are Headed.

Regardless of what circumstances bring you to a job search, you must be clear on the type of positions, companies or industries you will be targeting.  It cannot be stressed enough that a one-size-fits-all résumé does not work; it makes you appear unfocused and the reader is left to guess about your career aspirations. Bottom-line: It ends up in the trash pile.

Step #2: Decide How You Want To Be Perceived.

This portion of building the résumé is especially important for individuals seeking to advance from general management roles to senior-level or C-level responsibilities. Consider questions like these:

  • What career-defining achievements are most valuable to your target audience?
  • Do you want to be perceived as the finance guru or the innovative leader?
  • What distinctive traits do you have that set you apart from your colleagues?

Take the time to develop a list of your personal attributes – enlist help from your mentors, colleagues, peers, and family to help give you feedback on those areas. A company is interested in hiring a real person, not just education, credentials, and technical skills.

Step #3: Gather The Facts, Get The Numbers.

Your executive résumé must tell the reader what you have done, but in “big picture” snapshots with active words that bring the résumé to life. Compare these two sentences:

Manage daily activities for real estate portfolio for investment management company and supervise staff members.”


Challenged to deliver 15% return on $900 million investment portfolio. Direct and manage all daily activities including ROI maximizations, client relations, loan negotiations, and investment dispositionsRecruit, train, and coach 40 employees.

In three short sentences, the reader is able to capture what the jobseeker does, the breadth of the work responsibilities, the challenges, and the overall scope of the desired outcome. Being able to incorporate quantitative facts and figures can really enhance the executive résumé.

Step #4: Accomplishments: The Icing On The Résumé.

Once you have communicated to the reader what your responsibilities are in a three- to five-line paragraph, it’s time to show how you made a difference. An accomplishment does not always mean you scored $1 million in sales. While more impressive accomplishments relate to revenues and profits, your accomplishments can relate to customers, work productivity, cost reduction, and business expansion as well. Again, if you can quantify or qualify those accomplishments, they add more zest to the final document.

Step #5: Compiling Your Core Competencies.

In this section of the résumé, you will pull together a list of keywords relevant to your target industry, your direct experience, your leadership capabilities, and your technical/business skills. Incorporating keywords throughout the résumé in addition to the core competency section helps you to “speak” the same language as the hiring company. For assistance with finding the right keywords, visit association websites, talk to contacts in the industry, and research company literature and websites.

Developing a new executive résumé is not an easy task, especially if you haven’t prepared one in a long time.  Just work on it one step at a time.