Geeking Out on the Art of Designing the C-Level Executive Resume

What is it – that secret thing that top resume writers do that make their clients look so darned appealing? I am addressing this article to c-level executives (CEOs, COOs, CMOs, CIOs etc.), but these points are really applicable to most every resume.

A really well-written leadership resume says, “I know who I am, what I am good at and where I want to go.” Most (not all) self-written resumes I read leave the reader guessing here. They are almost written with a mindset of, “if I write down all the things I am wonderful at, surely someone out there will read it, find a spot for me and know where to put me.” You can almost hear the author’s voice clearly stating this through the thicket of dense, broad information packed on the first page of their resume.

You might say to yourself, “But I really don’t know where I want to go. There are so many options out there, how can I possibly take the lead? It feels much more natural to put myself out there and see what comes of it.”

You certainly have the right to feel and think this way, but when it comes to your resume, you need to demonstrate much more focus. You need to approach the entire resume as a clear-cut marketing document – just like a business would.

Keyword Focus
Focus involves understanding what kind of industry/position you want to target. This makes it easier for your reader to have confidence in you. The following are simple, yet focused keywords that help your reader understand exactly where you see yourself:

  • Division Director/General Manager – Multinational Companies – Technology Services
  • Chief Marketing Officer – Fast Growing Restaurant & Hospitality Chains

Your branding message is another key feature of your resume. This message is peppered throughout your document in continuity. Many times it is a nice touch if you can offer a “branding statement” at the top of your resume. This can be in the form of a short statement or a quote from you or another person. It can be a statement of philosophy or work ethic. Above all, it is a promise of the experience someone is going to have when they are given the opportunity to work with you.

Here are several examples:

  • 15 Years’ Excellence Supporting Growth With Innovative Technology Strategies & Business Intelligence
  • A good leader is one who can tell another how to reach his or her potential; a great leader is one who can help another discover this potential for him or herself.” – Bo Bennett
  • Sophisticated financial expertise with tactical execution of profit-generating initiatives that exceed company-mandated goals
    15+ years’ experience developing a large COI network. Colleagues refer to me as their “Secret Weapon.”

Here are a few points at the top of one executive’s resume that are so strong, the branding happens on its own!

  • Collaborate with Top Minds In Government & Industry | Included in FORTUNE Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People In Finance” | Executed 9- and 10-Figure IPO’s

Here is a focused statement for a top project engineer:

  • Delivering Complex, Multi-Million Dollar Projects Ÿ Raising Profit & Enhancing Safety With Process Improvement

The last point I want to share is on design. Repeated surveys show that decision-makers are 6 times more responsive to images that express professionalism, attention to detail and a “sense of caring” about identity. The appearance of your resume matters! The right layout can work absolute wonders for you and a good writer (who is also a good marketer and has an eye for design) knows how to work out tables, charts, boxes and graphs, as well as use bold and italic words, different complimentary colors and spacing to draw the readers eye down through the document. This way the reader scans the most critical information at the cursory glance and can get a baseline of perspective on you and your skills.

It took me many years to learn how to do this very valuable service for my clients! I have always put just as much emphasis on a nicely designed and laid out document as I have good, tightly written content. A readable, well-organized resume is attractive, magnetic, and shows caring and initiative on the part of the candidate. It is all of these subtle yet powerful components that go into a well-thought-out and well-designed resume.

Mary Elizabeth Bradford is the Founder and Executive Director of and and a past executive recruiter. A thought leader in the career services industry for over 20 years, she holds 5 distinct advanced certifications for senior-level resume writing, online branding and executive-level job search coaching (CERM, CMRW, CARW, MCD, NCOPE). She has been seen and heard in major media including Forbes, Time, WSJ, Newsweek and NBC affiliate stations. She holds 2 CDI TORI awards and is a top tier judge for the elite CDI TORI awards for four consecutive years. Mary Elizabeth Bradford’s elite team of award-winning, certified, top executive resume writers, former top executive recruiters, and global HR executives help many of the world’s premier C-suite, board members and thought leaders secure the transitions and compensation packages they want. She works with clients all over the globe.

If you are a Director, VP, CxO, or Board Member interested in an executive resume package or working directly with Mary Elizabeth, click to schedule a complimentary 15-minute call.