Crafting the Perfect Executive Resume

A very common complaint I hear from executives who call me for the first time is that they have been sending out their executive resume for several weeks or months with no response. This creates mounting frustration for the executive whose question then becomes, “what is wrong with my executive resume?”

In my 17 years as an executive recruiter, executive job search coach and internationally certified advanced resume writer, I have identified three common denominators in the successful executive career transition. They are as follows:

  1. A clear focus of direction.
  2. Highly professional marketing collateral.
  3. The right job search techniques for that executive and their goals.

In this article I wish to address the second component: your successful marketing collateral. More specifically, your offline marketing collateral (online marketing collateral includes social media such as LinkedIn).

Executive resumes are leadership profiles that work hard to do many things at once; they tell your story in a compelling way, lead with the results that you have achieved in your career positions, and detail your primary leadership strengths in two ways.

The first way should give the reader a very good perspective of the basics (your focus, your industry expertise or target market, metrics including P&L and company size you’ve had experience in, and teams managed, to name a few) so that the reader is satisfied at the cursory glance. In other words, they feel they have a good basic understanding of your abilities and achievements. To do this correctly two things must be done:

  1. Your executive resume must be highly organized and written TO the position/industry you’re targeting.
  2. Your achievements need to be short and just cover the results you achieved. You do not have to go into the details of how you achieved your results on your resume when you are highlighting those major results on the top half or first page of your executive resume.

You can briefly and crisply cover the basic details deeper in the position history section of your resume. And this is the second way your leadership resume should highlight your strengths. In this section there are many ways to set up your career history, including calling out particulars and then showcasing an accomplishment next to it. For example: EBITDA Improvements, Asset Utilization, Profitability Improvements, Mergers & Acquisitions, Franchising, Performance Management, Operational Cost Reductions, Divestures, P&L Improvements, Global Market Expansions, and so on…

Setting up the stories regarding how you landed your positions, positive information including the size and scope of the companies and your leadership responsibility in them, and briefly outlining the challenges you faced in your executive positions and how you faced them – through to the results you produced – all work together to make a compelling and readable executive resume.

Design is of critical importance as well. Key decision makers are more receptive to executive resumes that are well organized, highly professional and show caring about one’s identity. The appearance of your executive resume truly matters.

A recent study tested 30 recruiters scanning resumes using a scientific technique called “eye tracking” which revealed a heat scan of where the professional recruiter’s eyes were reading 2 executive resumes. The recruiters spent considerably more time scanning the resume that had a clear and concise format, allowing them to more easily scan for pertinent information. This gives additional credence to what professional resume writers have been saying all along: a professionally designed and written executive resume helps professionals stand out and get noticed.

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.