Hallmarks of Outstanding Executive Resumes

It's an interesting exercise to take 1,000 resumes and sort them into two heaps: "plausible" (about 50) and "trash-can" (the rest). Actually, it's not an exercise, it's what happens every week at corporations like H-P or General Electric, and at leading executive recruiting firms. A quick inspection of the "plausible" pile will reveal the following attributes of resumes that are doing their job - that is, standing out from the pack and getting their owner an interview:

How to do it: The three key principles for creating an outstanding executive resume

1. Loosen-up
Many people are daunted by the framework of a resume. They focus too much on bullets and action verbs. In trying to force-fit a unique career into a rigid system they end up with a resume devoid of the personality of its owner. Take a deep breath, go for a run or play Scrabble with your kids. Summarizing your professional career in a couple of pages is hard, but there's no value at all in making yourself generic. Copying other resumes and cover letters will make you generic. You'll do better if you write your own material.

2. Edit and proof
Ask any novelist or screenplay writer and they'll say the same thing: a great piece of writing is 10% creation and 90% editing. Expect to rework your resume extensively. Think of it as a living document, continually being polished and

"spun" for its next outing. Proof your work obsessively. Get someone else with fresh eyes to proof it too. Use your PC's spell-checker but don't rely on it alone. Remarkably, around 25% of resumes have stupid typos, spelling snafus or grammar errors ("its" versus "it's" is a favorite). Almost every resume with dumb mistakes will swallow dive into the trash can because these errors signal sloppiness.

3. Write with your reader in mind
Generic resumes don't work at the executive level. Whether you are applying for a particular job as VP Marketing in hi-tech, or mailing your resume to recruiters who specialize in senior technology marketing positions, your resume must show that you have the exact skill-set required to be a hero at this job, even if you are coming out of Business Development. Some executives customize their resumes from a single "core" skeleton, while others maintain a few different "starting point" versions.


© 2005 Kennedy Information, Inc., a BNA Company.