Executive Resumes

5 Questions to Consider When Crafting Your Executive Resume 

I’ve worked with several executives in the last year who suddenly need to update their resumes. Just last month I worked with an executive who sold a successful business and after two years was being considered for the top spot at a well-funded start up in his industry. The Board asked for a resume and he didn’t have one. Without a resume, my client had no way to convey who he was and why his experience was not just relevant but exactly what they needed to build their brand and move the company to the next level.

My client isn’t unusual. In the resume writing portion of my business, I often come across panicked executives who are being considered for a position but haven’t updated their resume in years and have no idea where to begin. In that state, it’s tough to talk about or even remember contributions they’ve made to their employers except in the most general terms. I use the following list of questions to jog memories and access important information. You can use these same questions when crafting or updating your own resume.

#1 Does the information you’ve chosen to include convey how your experience will help your targeted company grow and change?

Over the course of a long career, there are likely a whole lot of wins you could point to. The trick is to zero in on the ones that would be most relevant to the company you’re targeting. In other words, do the experiences you’ve chosen to include create a narrative that dovetails with the short, medium and long-term goals of the company where you want to work?

Once you’ve decided what wins to include use the CAR (Challenge, Action, Result) method to bullet point the experience. Then, since the best way to convey your ability to make change and thus, your leadership chops is by pointing to concrete results,  quantify, quantify, quantify. The team you led boosted productivity 80%, increased sales for your division by millions of dollars, or expanded into dozens of foreign markets.

#2 Does your resume go further to describe why your wins were important in the long term?

Sure numbers can be impressive, but I always ask clients to take it one step further. In other words, once you quantify, qualify. Ask yourself…so what?

How did raising productivity 20% impact the company in real terms? Did the company beef up R&D as a result? Was the bump up reflected in the share price? Were you able to increase hiring? In other words, I see what you did, but I also want to know the impact.

#3 Do your choices explain why you’re uniquely qualified to lead this organization in this capacity?

The operative word there is “uniquely.”

In advertising, products are branded based on their USP—Unique Selling Proposition. Basically what sets one toothpaste apart from all the others on the shelf (not much as far as I can see!) In terms of your resume, how does your narrative convey why you should be chosen and not someone else?

Again, this is tougher than it seems. Contrary to the mythology about executives—that they’re full of themselves—I work with a lot of talented people who don’t see what they’ve accomplished as anything special. They often have a “just doing the job” sort of attitude and even tend to believe anyone else could have accomplished the same thing in that position. This is patently untrue.

In that case, I’ll ask this…

#4 What are you most proud of in your career thus far?

Maybe you raised a failing company from the dead. Maybe you saved jobs and created more jobs. Maybe you changed a toxic corporate culture by enhancing productivity and raising wages.

When people talk about what they’re most proud of, they tend to see the accomplishment as something unique to them—something that very few others could have done.

This is also a great way to circle back to the USP. If you’re most proud of the fact that during the course of your career you brought three failing companies back to life and so, restored jobs for three workforces, that’s likely very unique to you. That USP should be at the center of your resume’s narrative.

And if I really can’t get much information out of the person I’m working with I ask this:

#5 Well then, why didn’t they just fire you?

This question usually gets a laugh and the reluctant resume writer sees that not only did they NOT get fired, but they climbed the ladder through a combination of hard work, personal integrity, relationship skills, and a whole lot more.

Doing this sort of prelim is so much more than just a keyword generator, which while important, still doesn’t stop every other candidate from using the same keywords. You can use these 5 questions as a way to draft a compelling resume. Or you can call me at 707-843-5766.

But I’ll ask you all these same questions so you might as well…be prepared.


Member, National Resume Writers Association (NRWA)

Member, Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARWCC)