Rebooting your Resume for Executive Roles

 

One reason that people seek out professional resume writing services is that, at some stage, their trusty resume, which has served them well for years, has suddenly stopped generating call-backs.

clip_image002Generally, the problem falls into one of two types. The Type One problem is that the market has changed; far more common is the Type Two problem, that the applicant has changed.

For people who have been with one employer for decades, the job market really might be substantially different. Compared with 10 years ago, resumes tend to be more focussed on achievements, to profile career development rather than long service and to leave out personal details such as age and marital status.

Perhaps the most significant environmental change in recent years has been the advent of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), which electronically read (parse) a resume. Although not deployed universally, they are now common and will become more so. How to write an ATS-friendly resume will be the subject of a later article.

For Type Two problems, a more customised approach is required. Many people who have successfully used a highly technical resume in the past suddenly find it impossible to step up into a leadership role. These might be Solution Architects who want to move into a CTO role, Financial Controllers applying for CFO positions or Senior Policy Advisors wanting to try their hand at an EL1 or EL2 role in government. In all these cases, the would-be exec has simply outgrown their previous resume.

No reputable professional resume writing service will tell you that there is a single formula for a successful executive resume. Certainly, one should be extremely sceptical of any claim that there is a correct number of pages or a standard format that will work for every candidate. On the other hand, there are some principles of good practice that can help.

The first and hardest change is to let go of the old version. Is it really important how proficient a CTO is at programming in C++? The reason to hire a CTO who was a Programmer and then a Software Designer and then a Solution Architect is not for their hands-on skill but their understanding of what goes into successful technological changes, why they work or don’t, who needs to input into design, how you get clients to realise the benefits of new technologies and so on.

If 15 years of software design got you to Solution Architect, 20 years is not going to get you to CTO, not unless along the way you learned more strategic and profound lessons than a few additional coding tricks.

By way of an example, the table below shows just a few priority differences between executive and professional resumes.

 

Solution Architect

CTO

Skills

infrastructure analysis

project management

software design

Achievements

technical solutions developed

compliance with budgets and schedules

Skills

digital maturity strategies

change leadership

oversight of large project and ops teams

Achievements

organisation-wide change

future-proofing business

Financial Controller

CFO

Skills

financial and management accounting

statutory reporting

budgeting and forecasting

Achievements

resolution of audit issues

streamlining of reporting functions

Skills

risk, compliance and governance

strategic planning

personnel management

Achievements

leadership of major organisational change

improvement in top or bottom-line results

Senior Policy Advisor

EL1 / EL2

Skills

policy and environmental analysis

stakeholder engagement

project coordination

Achievements

delivery of policy reports

provision of advice to Minister

Skills

government agency interoperability

senior-level stakeholder influence

leadership and vision

Achievements

new program or initiative launched

measurable change in social outcomes

Not all leaders are alike. An executive resume needs to carve out a clear point of difference. Once you’ve established your credentials, with clearly articulated and relevant achievements, then the work really starts. How do you stake out a niche area of practice, that is uniquely yours? In the first place, curb the instinct to describe yourself as a dynamic, passionate change-maker. Sounding like everyone else is inherently self-defeating if the purpose is to stand out. Think about what it is that you offer, which someone less skilled, less experienced or just not you couldn’t do. That’s the value proposition; that’s the focus of your resume.

 
 
 

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