Executive Resume Writing: 2013 Trends + Best Practices

Like most Executive Resume Writers, I am constantly on the hunt for evidence of emerging resume writing trends and best practices. How else can we stay ahead of incessant shifts in the market?

Enter Career Thought Leader’s Global Brainstorming Day. This annual event brings together hundreds of resume writers from around the world to name the current and evolving trends impacting job seekers on a global basis. I’ve sorted through CTL’s findings to identify 6 key resume writing best practices that senior executives most need to follow.

PORTFOLIO MANAGEMENT

  • The days of needing only a resume to job search at the executive level are over. What executives increasingly need is a portfolio of career documents.
  • Examples include 1-page resumes (see below), LinkedIn profiles, personal marketing briefs, leadership addenda, executive bios (in varying lengths), and personal commercials.
  • Additional documents may be needed as LinkedIn “add-ons,” such as an interview PowerPoint presentation that outlines the match between you and the job in question.
  • Nowadays letters range from traditional cover letters to e-notes, recruiter letters, and company letters. Letters are also needed for thank you, follow-up, networking, and spot opportunity situations.

CAREER BRANDING

  • Branding in resumes and related career communications tools has never been more critical. Without overt branding, your resume will fail the key word density test and fail to win you job interviews.
  • Overt branding includes things like a resume title, a tagline, unique-to-you summary content, and emphasis on the unique “golden thread” that runs throughout your career history.
  • Branding should also be consistent across documents (your resume and cover letter) and platforms (your resume and your LinkedIn profile) without necessarily being repetitive.
  • On LinkedIn, for example, your branding must be consistent but will often be slightly broader to accommodate multiple career search targets.

 ACHIEVEMENT-DRIVEN CONTENT

  • Achievements have been must-have additions to resumes for more than a decade now, and their presence on resumes is urgently important. Well-written, achievements add key words to resumes, which boosts the document’s ability to win you interviews.
  • The basic “formula” for citing achievements in resumes is often referred to as a CAR or SAR story: the challenge or situation you faced, the actions you took to remedy it, and the results your efforts generated. While there isn’t necessarily for all 3 of these for each achievement on your resume, you need to spell these out for yourself before inserting them so you know which details are key to include.
  • Most resumes I review are weak in results. For maximum impact and key words, results must be stated in specific measurable terms. That is, it’s not enough to say that you increase sales or profits – you must characterize how much you increased them.
  • Achievements should also be front-loaded whenever possible. By this I mean placing the result first, followed by the situation and/or actions. This strategy gets your results noticed more and makes them more readable by recruiters who sometimes read down the left-hand side of the page for a snapshot of your on-the-job success.

 CUSTOMIZATION

  • It’s more important than ever to know and cater to your audience. Hence, customizing resumes for each use is critical. This means adding in last-minute key words before submitting your resume for jobs online or to recruiters.
  • Such customization may include the simply infusion of a few extra key words in your resume’s title or core competencies section, or more extensive section-by-section alterations that enable your resume to apply to more industries or labor market sectors.
  • Even taglines sometimes need to be adapted for companies, industries, and sectors. In fact, the savvy job seeker should probably have 2 or 3 taglines ready to swap in and out of resumes and cover letters as needed.
  • Remember to adjust the amount of experience your resume reveals based on the amount sought for the job you are applying for. Demonstrating more experience than that amount will dramatically lessen the likelihood you will win an interview.

 FORMAT SAVVY

  • Color is now widely used in the presentation versions of resumes – the resumes you hand-deliver, fax, or email to specific contacts.
  • When applying for jobs online or submitting your resume online to employers or recruiting firms, it is critical to upload the right format – your ASCII text version. If you submit your Word or PDF version instead, the Applicant Tracking System, or database, that reads your resume may “mistranslate” it, which will likely eliminate you from consideration for the job.
  • Pay attention to how you label your saved resume. I review thousands of resumes annually and see vague document titles that make it difficult to identify a candidate’s document in a long list. Aim for something like “LastNameFirstnameResume” or “LastnameFirstNamePositionTitle”.
  • Given rampant identify theft, many executives are increasingly omitting their full address on resumes. This is fine, but make sure you include your location (even if just a city/state/country), your phone number, and your email address. If you are located outside the US or desire international relocation, offer a Skype or related number.

 SHORTER DOCUMENTS

  • Resumes and cover letters are getting shorter. Resumes are presently trending at 2 pages even at the senior executive or C-level. Three-page resumes are needed less and less frequently.
  • Although full-fledged resumes are expected to reach 2 pages, there is a place for 1-page networking resumes and marketing briefs. These resume-like documents don’t provide the level of detail offered by their longer predecessor, but they do give readers a concise overview of your experience and achievements, which may be all they need in networking situations.
  • Cover letters have shrunk by nearly half since 2008, with email-based e-notes rising in relevance and frequency.
  • Email host trends indicate that Gmail is highly favored among executive job seekers while other hosts such as AOL are increasingly viewed as antiquated.

The bottom line? CTL’s Global Brainstorming Day participants see tons of changes impacting executive resumes, but the resume itself isn’t quite ready to exit the stage.

Here’s to your best practices-driven executive resume!

Cheryl