5 Ways To Create A Knockout Resume That Gets Interviews [Guide For Top Business Leaders]

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Senior business leaders need to ensure that their resumes pitch them at the right level.

Irene McConnell
4 min read

Getting interviews can be tough in the current market. You may have 30 years’ of relevant experience, recognition and a skills list that would put Cirque de Soleil performers to shame, but you keep hitting closed doors in your job search.

There are many reasons as to why job searches are difficult:

  • slower economy,
  • fewer available senior roles,
  • development of the hidden job market, and
  • new recruitment processes which aggressively screen candidates on application to save money on recruitment costs.

In order to make you stand out against the competition in a competitive market, you need a solid foundation on which to develop your personal career brand.

Your resume is that foundation. However, there’s one tiny problem…

Like many senior business leaders, you don’t even have a resume.

Your career thus far has been based on networking, informal conversations or being headhunted due to previous accomplishments.

At best, your “resume” is a document that you have kept adding to since your first job out of high school; it’s densely packed with out-of-date, hard-to-make-sense-of information.

(Related Article: How To Choose The Best Resume Writer).

If you’re in this boat, take a deep breath – it’s perfectly normal. I’m about to show you how to create an executive resume which makes recruiters sit up and take notice. Just follow the 5 steps below.

1. Avoid Including EVERYTHING.

Recruiters, on average, spend less than 10 seconds scanning a resume before deciding whether to shortlist it.
Make sure all your relevant details are on the front page:

  • an employment summary,
  • concise and focused profile, and
  • key skills.

This makes it easier for a recruiter to see what you can offer to a role whilst they skim through your details.

Summarise older roles from more than ten years ago in an ‘Earlier Career History’ section.

Leadership styles, management thinking, technology and how business works have moved on exponentially since 2000. Your skills from this time will be redundant or have been superseded by more recent activity.

(Related Article: The Smart Way To Deal With Recruiters.)

2. Eliminate Ambiguity.

Words are your friend when writing your resume.

Optimising keywords and aligning your language with job descriptions can be hugely helpful in getting your details seen by recruiters – both human and automated.

Ensure that your documents are tightly written – make each word count towards presenting you as an achiever.

Try to avoid wordiness where you can and minimise jargon if possible.

Which of these two candidates ‘packs more punch’ for you?

“Directed organisational change program, implementing new business process improvements, systems and people and encouraging improved efficiencies, effectiveness and reduced costs.”

“Reduced operating costs by $500,000 and improved efficiency by 22% through transformational change program.”

Quantifiable, strong statements of success are more likely to attract recruiters who think you can do the same in your next role.

3. Get Constructive Feedback.

Use feedback from colleagues and friends to get a good idea of what other people think your strengths are.

Ask team members to describe your personality or working style in three words. See if a friend can make up a newspaper headline about you.

This technique can open your eyes to additional capabilities you may not be aware of.

It can also help you analyse job descriptions and company websites for similar adjectives, making it easier to work out where you will fit in the job market.

That additional focus within your documents can help recruiters imagine you in a role or organisation and give you that added ‘x-factor’ above other candidates.

4. Use Numbers To Brag.

Whilst it is important to not be too wordy or create a War & Peace tribute when writing your resume, it is important to incorporate essential details.

It’s easy to write ‘managed a team of 10 project managers.’ However, this doesn’t tell a recruiter HOW you managed them, or more to the point – if you were any good at it?

How does this sound as an alternative?

“Recruited, trained and performance managed a team of 10 Project Managers, ensuring 100% consistency in achieving set KPIs.”

See the difference? The recruiter knows what skills you used and if you were successful in using them.

Another place to use detail is in your achievements. Add values, percentages and numbers where you can. That deal you negotiated worth $30 million? It could be the difference between you and the candidate that has only brokered deals worth $5 million.

Metrics are critical to highlighting the impact you have made on an organisation and can show the likely return on investment you will bring to a role.

5. Never Underestimate Presentation.

The design of your resume, cover letter and LinkedIn profile is the first thing a recruiter sees.
If you don’t take any care over the presentation of your skills on paper, recruiters will make a link to you not presenting your skills well in person.

A clean, modern and easy to navigate design helps you by:

  • helping recruiters locate key information quickly,
  • displays pride in your work, and
  • will make your resume stand out from a pile of Times New Roman, list-based black and white resumes on a desk.

At the same time, don’t go overboard! Some graphics used on resumes can make online applications look garbled.

I suggest using one of the latest versions of Microsoft Word to create a template, rather than putting in too many bells and whistles that will distract the reader from the key skills you want to be seen.

And there you have it. Follow these 5 simple steps to make your resume that much more attractive to recruiters and see those interview room doors opening.
– Irene

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