The executive job market is competitive. This means your resume has to be equally competitive if it’s gong to stand out from the crowd. In this blog post I share how the executive application process has changed and how you can adapt with some simple resume trends.
As an accomplished executive, you’ve spent the last 10+ years climbing the corporate ladder, developing critical skills and working tirelessly to build a name for yourself in your industry. As you get ready to update your resume for the next big opportunity or to shop around in your market, you might be feeling overwhelmed with the task of trying to capture everything on 2 sheets of paper. You may also feel like your age is working against you on your resume. Where to start?! As someone who has spent many years writing professional resumes for executives, I’ve experienced the first-hand shock of clients at the visual simplicity of their summarized accomplishments on paper after hiring a professional resume writer. The truth is: The application process has evolved since the last time you’ve applied for work and you’ll need to take note of current trends if you’re hoping to compete in today’s job market.
How the Application Process Has Changed
All applicants feel like they have to try to stand out from the crowd. In fact many employ heavily designed resume templates with graphs, pie charts, and flashy colors. But what looks good to you might not look good to a recruiter. Executive recruiters have a very specific type of resume in mind, so all that creative work you thought would make your resume stand out visually might actually work against you with recruiters. Furthermore, it may even block your resume from successfully getting through a company’s applicant tracking system (ATS). The ATS, like the human eye, favors simplicity. Therefore you need to keep your resume simple, standardized to the hiring eye, and clean.
What Really Happens After You Submit Your Resume
There are so many people applying to any one position that companies now follow many steps to hiring. They use ATS and other search engines to keep track of the onslaught and to electronically filter out hundreds—sometimes thousands—of applicants. If your resume makes the initial cut, Human Resources will likely have to review multiple resumes for interviews (maybe more depending on company size). The reviewer will respond best to a resume that is easy to read and easy on the eyes in terms of design. And yes, the reader will look for any reason to discard an applicant. If you chose a fancy script font, lack of readability might be a reason to discard your resume. Also, sometimes there are compatibility issues from ATS machine to machine and system to system. As a rule, keep your resume as plain as possible. Plain formatting and appropriate white space with one to two simple fonts, maximum. No fancy borders. No charts. No graphics.
Why You Need to Adopt New Resume Best Practices
If all this seems contrary to what you’ve been told about resumes in the past, know that this resume format is based on research into the latest recruiting practices and the current job market. The purpose of your resume is not to make you feel warm and fuzzy. The purpose of your resume is to get past the ATS and into HR’s hand so you can to land an interview. There you can expand on your resume and talk about all those achievements you’re so proud of. Don’t let what you think looks good on a resume stand in the way of what works for the hiring system. Instead, work with the hiring system.
The Key to a Successful Resume is Substance
Simplicity is key. That’s right—your simple resume might feel really underwhelming, but it’s what you need to attract the reader. Substance is the key to a successful resume. It’s okay if you’re unhappy with the resume— as long as the recruiter is happy with it. The more simple the resume, the more likely the chances of landing an interview. The worst thing you could do as an executive is submit a designer resume you created from an online resume builder. While it may look fancy, designer resumes will not brand you for the executive level. These types of resumes may also have the hiring manager perceive you as much more junior.
What HR is Really Looking for in Executive Resumes
The hiring company needs help. The hiring company needs growth. Your accomplishments and overall content should speak to those needs. Start by explaining all the ways you have helped companies stay in the black or expand. Share that example of how you launched a successful new product line. Companies like that. Listing strong accomplishments is one way to make your resume stand out against the competition.
How to Make Your Executive Resume Stand Out from the Crowd
The visual appeal, or formatting, is another way to stand out in a pile of resumes. There are some executive resume basics that you’ll want to consider before sitting down to write your resume. The format is a critical part of this. There are a few different formatting options to choose from, depending on your next career move. Once you’ve selected the format it’s important to include a few critical parts that will optimize your resume’s visual and content impact:
- A descriptive title that is specific to each position you apply to
- A tagline or subheading that gives a general overview of your talent using keywords
- A summary of your experience and accomplishments that is supported by specifics from your background
- Core Competencies/Key Skills names specific skills you use in your field pulled from your experience
- Job descriptions in justified paragraphs followed by bulleted accomplishments.
This format provides plenty of opportunities to describe what you’ve been doing and how you’ve succeeded at each position. You should also add industry-relevant and searchable keywords in their appropriate context.
How to Stand Out as a High-Achieving Executive
Make your statements short, specific, and focused on the job you want. Start each statement with a verb, if possible. The more descriptive action words you use to characterize your duties and accomplishments, the more you seem like an achiever. You’ve gotten this far in your career; if you want to further advance, then brand yourself as an achiever, who really creates benefits for a company.
If you’re hoping to improve your executive resume and reduce age discrimination, check out our ageism-busting resume services. Our master resume writers will provide you with a custom resume strategy phone consultation, ATS and keyword optimized resume, and tailored resume that speaks to your strongest career accomplishments and value – everything you need to feel confident, navigate the job search successfully, and put your best foot forward as a 50-plus applicant.