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11 Ways To Ensure That Your Resume Stands Out From The Crowd In Your Executive-Level Job Search

Updated: Mar 8

Executive level job see

Photo courtesy of Canva

1   Make sure your resume is clean, neat, and super easy to read. Once it gets in the hands of a human reader, you only have 4-6 seconds to wow them. They skim your resume in an "E" pattern. The top third is the prime real estate... make sure it has curb appeal. Keep it clean and neat. Impress them with rich content, and save the flair for somewhere else. 

  Use a straight-lined font, like Arial or Calibri, in 12-point for the body, 13-point for your job title, 14-point and capitalized for section headers (Summary & Skills, Experience, Education, etc.), and larger for your name. Times New Roman and similar fonts are no longer considered appropriate, as they are harder to read.

3   Things to omit: 

  • Do not include your picture on your resume; save that for your LinkedIn profile.

  • Do not include your full address. It is acceptable to include your city and state, but not your street. And if you are looking out of state, just leave it off altogether. 

  • Do not include an objective statement. Everyone knows that your objective is to get the job. Instead, include a “SUMMARY AND SKILLS” section. For the summary, give a very brief and concise statement, no more than three lines, that highlights who you are as a professional. 

  • Do not use column formatting. While it might look appealing, it is harder for the ATS and the human readers to skim.

  • Do not include graduation years for your education, unless you are currently attending, for which you can include your anticipated graduation year. 

  • Unless your GPA is over 3.5, don’t include it. And even then, it really isn’t necessary. 

  • If you have completed an advanced degree, do not include your high school education. And certainly do not include your high school graduation date. 

  • Do not include your hobbies. Save that for your discussion over lunch on your first day of work.

  • Do not list your references or say, "References available upon request". If they decide to make you an offer, they will ask for them.

  • Do not include anything that is not relevant to the position for which you are applying, such as certifications, licenses, publications, or volunteer work.

4   Optimize and Customize - Tailoring your resume for each position has never been more important for your executive-level job search and it has never been easier. Only about 25% of resumes clear the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), the scanning systems that most companies use to assist with the recruiting process. That is because most people do not take the time to tailor their resume for each position. But with ChatGPT, it is now easier than ever. Simply copy and paste the job description into ChatGPT and ask it to give you the top 12 keywords in order of what is most relevant. Bullet-point those in three columns directly below your “SUMMARY AND SKILLS” section, and viola, you have your skills. 

5   For your experience, lead with your job title, with the company name under your title. The exception to this is if you have had more than one position at the same company. You just want the position to be the first thing they see when they skim. 

6   Make the dates easy to see - all aligned at the right of the page and consistent with either this format "September 2017" or this format "09/2017." Do not mix it. 

7   Under the Company name, give a brief description of your role, such as, who you reported to, if you had direct reports, the departments or people you regularly worked with, what your main responsibilities were, and your biggest accomplishment. You don’t have to include all of that, but that gives you some idea of what to include. Keep it to a maximum of three lines. 

8   Under your job description, list four to six bullet-pointed accomplishments. This should not read like a job description. This is not an itemized list of your job duties. This is your opportunity to paint a picture of your best moments. Lead with a strong action verb to describe the action you took, such as: Initiated, Developed, Implemented, Negotiated, Analyzed, Mentored, Established, etc. Then quantify the result of your action with numbers, percentages, and dollars, followed by the impact of those numbers (e.g., saved, reduced, improved, lowered, increased, etc.), and who was impacted (the company, a department, clients, vendors, employees, etc.).

The formula for this is as follows: strong action verb + quantifiable result + who was impacted and how.

9   On a separate document, write down 10-12 of those bullet-pointed accomplishments for each position. Then you will be able to copy and paste them into your resume to just have the four to six bullet points and customize your resume for each position you apply to. This will keep your resume relevant to each position and greatly increase your chances of clearing the ATS, getting it into the hands of a human reader, and getting the interview. 

10  Leave enough white space so that your resume is easy to read. Your resume is just the teaser to get them to want to ask questions. You want it to be the hook that pulls them in. If you have less than five years of experience, keep it to one page. If you have more than five years of experience, two pages are acceptable but do not go over two pages. 

11   PROOF-READ, PROOF-READ, PROOF-READ! Use Grammarly, but don’t rely on it. Triple-check all of your contact information. This is an easy place to make a costly mistake. And after you have read and re-read it, have someone else read it. Make sure that all of your action verbs are in the correct tense (past tense for previous jobs and present tense for your current job). 

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