Are you a prime candidate for a mid- to senior-level leadership role?
Before you apply, make sure you leverage these seven strategies to tailor your resume for maximum impact.
1. Revamp Your Resume’s Keywords
As you (hopefully) know, the computer databases, or Applicant Tracking Systems, that store and analyze incoming resumes for job board, employer, and recruiter sites, count the number of times certain words are used in your resume. These keywords are industry-specific and are unique to each role in each company. Your resume ranks higher if you include more of these words in the document.
Include a keyword section in your summary and stock it full of 12 to 15 keywords pulled from the job description of the role you are pursuing. Even more importantly, use these keywords in each relevant job listing you include in your document. They can be easily woven into sentences in your position overview statements as well as your achievements. If you’re a new grad, have recently attained an MBA, or don’t have all of the experience sought in the job posting you’re submitting for, try listing relevant coursework in your resume’s education section. This will boost your keyword count. Fairly universal keywords include terms such as strategic planning, operations leadership, business management, cross-functional, cross-cultural, global, talent management, organizational restructuring, and P&L accountability.
2. Reposition Your Resume’s Summary
Each time you apply for a new role, you need to tweak your career summary to maximize the number of keywords and ensure you are laying emphasis on the right capabilities. When you apply for a leadership role, it is imperative to showcase your strategy skills and experience. In lower-level jobs, you have to demonstrate your tactical execution strengths; in director-level plus positions, designing and implementing strategic plans is absolutely critical.
Briefly describe the highpoints of your leadership experience in your summary. Relevant details you may want to include are things like key industries, sizes of companies you’ve worked for, the largest team size you’ve led, and the largest budget or P&L you’ve managed. Include brief descriptors of your leadership and communication style. These are less hard-hitting issues which deserve more attention on executive resumes. Be sure to include your strategy experience in addition to listing strategic planning as one of your key skills. Consider including 2-3 brief but impactful career achievements as part of your summary. Choose accomplishments which demonstrate your core leadership strengths and ability to deliver top- and bottom-line impacts on sales, revenue, productivity, efficiency, and expense management.
3. Clarify The Context Of Each Position, Promotion, Or Achievement
One of the resume’s key tasks is to tell the story of your career. Yours must convey the importance and relevance of each position change you’ve made while simultaneously clarifying the key challenges you faced in the role.
Include a brief position overview or introduction to each role on your resume. If the position was a promotion or special assignment, make that clear. Showcase the context of your hire or promotion. Were you the first sales person in a new territory or the newest manager in a series of 5 within a short timeframe? Were you hired or promoted with specific challenges in mind? Were you hired or promoted based on specific skills or experience you possessed? If you were placed in the role to resolve specific challenges, it’s vital to note the circumstances at your entry into the position. For example, if you were hired to turn around declining sales, what was the sales level when you started? What sales level did you attain or position during your tenure? Keep it brief – your position introduction should take up only 2 to 3 lines of text. Make every word count! Do the same thing with your achievements by including key details that reveal the larger context of your actions. If you averted a division closure by turning around sales, that’s vital to highlight. If your marketing efforts helped open new market sectors which paved the way for a mission-critical merger, say so. Don’t just focus on results – put your results in a larger context that makes your overall contributions more clear.
4. Front-Load Your Resume’s Achievements With A Strategic Focus
Most job seekers assume that recruiters read resumes the same way that they do. Not so. Many recruiters read a resume “out of order” or in pieces and parts in order to nail down their big picture perspective of the prospective candidate’s career. This often includes reading achievement statements differently than you and I do. Before reading them in their entirety some recruiters briefly review the first few words of each bulleted statement to test the waters, so to speak, and see if the accomplishments are more tactically or strategically focused. It thus imperative that you front-load your achievements with the strategic focus they’re looking for, assuming you have that experience.
In leadership positions, your strategy influence is often a bigger deal than your monetary impact. Begin your bulleted statements by clarifying your strategic impact, then note the specific impacts you achieved. Here’s my revamp which shifts the emphasis to strategy: Roadmapped Greenfield plant start-up from strategic planning to on-time, on-budget rollout in 1 year. Outcome: Doubled throughput and increased revenue by $42M. For example, here’s a typical “homemade” bullet written by a real job seeker: “Working on a green field project that would double the capacity of the plant.”
5. Align Your Education & Extra Sections With A Leadership Focus
It’s always vital to include up-to-date listings of your educational credentials, of course, including certifications, relevant affiliations, and professional development coursework. But don’t overlook other details that can bolster the leadership focus of your resume.
Any evidence of your present or past leadership experience may be relevant. Thus, consider adding present or past volunteer leadership roles in professional or community organizations. Make sure you include any for profit or not-for-profit board or committee roles you have fulfilled. And if space permits, include key initiatives you have contributed to during your tenure on these boards or committees. Leadership courses completed at major grad schools deserve emphasis as well. When you list industry-specific certifications, include them in acronym form as well as spelled out because either form is a keyword. If you have won leadership awards or been selected for leadership development programs with any of your employers, make sure you note these.
6. Use The Job’s Title As Your Resume’s Title
This is a quick change but a critical one: make sure you insert the exact title of the position you’re pursuing into your resume as its title. This will of course add more keywords to your resume, but, more importantly, it will shape the perception of your resume’s readers to see you as qualified for the position you are targeting.
Now, this won’t work if you apply for a leadership role for which you have few, if any, qualifications. But if you are well-qualified for the position you’re targeting and meet 75% or more of the role requirements, then this is a wise and appropriate thing to do.
7. Harness Your Career Brand In A Tagline
Whether you call it a tagline or a power statement, these single-line headlines are the perfect length to encapsulate a key leadership trait you possess along with your most impactful and important career-long impacts. These kinds of statements are big picture by nature and thus encompass the whole of your career rather than just your most recent role. Secondary or tertiary power statements can be used to spell out additional role-specific achievements.
For example, here’s the tagline I used for an executive resume I recently wrote: Fueled $12B in revenue career-long while delivering 3X investor returns. As you can see, short statements are more powerful when used as headlines; key details can be provided in the work history section of your resume. Let’s say you’re a leader with a turnaround history – that would be important to note in a key location. Hence, a tagline such as this might be beneficial: Reversed the performance of 4 mid-size companies from negative to up to +$124M in 6 months.
All of the foregoing are content shifts you need to make in your resume to properly position yourself as a leadership candidate. In addition, consider overhauling your resume’s “look and feel” to call attention to executive-level experience. Take a look at some formatting makeovers in this blog post.
About the author
A 15-time, award-winning resume writer, Cheryl Lynch Simpson serves mid-career to senior executives as a credentialed resume writer (ACRW), LinkedIn strategist (COPNS), and Get Clear, Get Found, Get Hired (G3) coach. Like her advice? Check out her website, ExecutiveResumeRescue.com for a complimentary copy of her popular Polish Your Profile LinkedIn presentation, or follow her on Twitter!
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