Does Your Executive Resume Show or Tell Your Strategic Planning Strengths?

Does Your Executive Resume Show or Tell Your Strategic Planning Strengths?One of the hallmarks of executive roles is that they demand the ability to design and execute strategic plans. One of the hallmarks of executive resumes is that they showcase the candidate’s ability to design and execute strategic plans, while also highlighting the ultimate impact their strategies have on the company’s operations.

One of the greatest flaws I see in self-written resumes is an overemphasis on tactical execution and a consequent underemphasis on strategic planning. Yes, many of these resumes do list strategic planning in some form in the summary or in a key word section, but keep in mind that this is telling the reader that you have these capabilities. It is much more powerful and direct to show your reader that you have these capabilities.

Before we take a look at some before/after examples, let’s clarify a few things.

  • First, why is strategic planning so important? Simply put, because it is a sought-after executive skill that is nearly always mentioned as a requirement in executive job postings (that is, for job postings for director-level roles, VP-level roles, and C-suite roles). In general terms, the higher the position you are trying to land, the more likely it is that strategic planning will be a critical skill set that you will need to demonstrate in your branding, your resume, and your interviews.
  • Second, where do you demonstrate your strategic planning strengths in a resume? All over the place. Specifically, in your summary, in your job descriptions, and in your bulleted achievement statements throughout the document. When you are seeking mid-management roles and above, it is imperative to relay your strategic planning successes in as many ways as you can in your resume.
  • Third, how do you prove your strategic planning capabilities in a resume? Begin by selecting a challenge or problem that you solved with a strategic action plan. What was the situation you faced? What was the context of the challenge? What specific strategy did you devise? What did it entail? How was your strategy different that previous attempts, if any, to solve the problem? How did you ensure the strategy was executed correctly and completely? What specific, measurable results did your strategy achieve? How did these results impact the company’s overall performance?

While answering these questions will create more content than you need to showcase your strategy achievement in your resume, this is a necessary step to compiling all the relevant details you will need to hone into a brief, 2-line accomplishment statement.

Notice the last two questions in particular. You cannot prove your strategy worked if you do not share specific, measurable results. And as important as results are, the one that matters most is the ultimate impact your strategy had on the company as a whole.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

Example #1 Before
• Developed and implemented business expansion strategies in US and EMEA markets for SMEs in pharmaceutical and high technology sectors.

This statement explicitly claims to be about strategic planning, but there is no emphasis on results or ultimate impacts.

Example #1 After
• Fueled $74B revenue gain and captured #1 or #2 market share in new US and EMEA markets. Developed and rolled out business expansion strategy that enabled 12% profitability gain and positioned company for 2.5X sale.

Effective strategic planning is supposed to get results; this example leads with them while driving home quantifiable factors such as revenue and market share. This revamp also highlights the impact this person’s expansion strategy had on the company – it generated a double-digit profit gain and positioned the company for sale at more than twice its value. This “after” example is a mere 2 lines long but rich with relevant detail that brands the candidate and makes his executive experience self-evident.

Example #2 Before
• Instrumental in executing the turnaround strategy that has seen XYZ Pharmaceuticals move from an underperforming business, to one that has achieved over 16% YoY profit growth within a highly competitive market.

This statement has some good details, but doesn’t go quite far enough. It leaves parts of the story untold.

Example #2 After
• Played a pivotal role in catalyzing +16 YOY profit gain that enabled XYZ Pharmaceuticals to reverse 2-year, double-digit declining sales. Crafted turnaround that restored #1 market share within a highly competitive landscape.

This makeover simply tells the rest of the story – that sales had been trending downward for 2 years and that the company had lost market share as a result. All of the salient facts are still present; the revamped achievement statement simply helps them to stand out more and tell a bigger and more accurate story.

At the end of the day, this is what a resume does: It tells a story, your story, the story of your career strengths, achievements, and experiences. As you rise up the career ladder, it is imperative that your resume tell more complex stories to help reveal the full extent of your history and capabilities. By detailing more in-depth (but not longer) challenge-action-results statements and highlighting your strategic results in your career summary, your resume and your career brand will shine more than that of your peers.


[This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse; it has been updated in alignment with current executive job search best practices.]

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About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.

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