This is the final of my three-part series discussing executive resume-writing mistakes. The significance of each and every word in an executive resume can’t be overemphasized. My previous posts talked about highlighting your biggest selling points and the importance of providing context for specific accomplishments. Now, it’s time to turn our attention to the selection and quality of the words you use to convey your core strengths and accomplishments.
Executive resume writing is like an art; there are no hard and fast rules, but there are general guidelines to follow that will enable you to effectively illustrate your impressive executive track record. While it’s true that an executive’s resume should not be overly detailed, it’s important to make sure your writing hits at the right level without being too vague and reading like every other executive. It’s important to remember that every word included on your resume needs to count and add value.
Where’s the haziness lurking?
In my resume-writing experience, vague writing pops up throughout a resume in the summary section and in defining scope of responsibility and outlining accomplishments. For example, the following summary statement could refer to any executive in the CPG space and is too generic:
Senior global consumer products executive with outstanding results in strategy, brand management and P&L management. Exceptional track record of delivering sales and profit growth significantly above market rates.
To give substance and specifics, you could reframe the message to read:
15-year career leading global and U.S. marketing strategy for x, y and z, positioning brands for long-term growth and stability. Generated strong, sustainable results in emerging and mature markets—over past four years delivered $800M in organic sales growth, outpacing industry growth by 5X.
See the difference? The goal is to avoid non-essential and vague detail. Every statement must tell the reader something important. If it doesn’t add value, don’t include it.
I’ve talked about how an executive resume shouldn’t give an overview of the “givens” of a role. For instance, as a CMO you wouldn’t need to mention that you presented a marketing strategy to the CEO—that is assumed and part of your role. When the strategy you developed drove sales growth by 15% in a year, however, that is worth mentioning. In this case, you would want to note the specifics. This is being clear in the message.
Be specific in language and message
You also want to be clear in the language, too. If an executive states that he/she built a high-performing organization, my first thoughts are “How did you transform it?” and “What were the results?” The wording is unclear and doesn’t give an idea of what that executive can do. Every leader should build a high-performing organization—the key is showing where the organization was, how you improved it and where you focused your efforts.
Here is another example of generic language:
Recruited to transform and grow the business.
Most executives are recruited for a specific reason—to solve a problem— often to change and grow a business. The information above doesn’t add value nor does it help to paint a clear picture of what the executive was charged to do and what he/she delivered.
Using meaningful language, you can restate as follows:
Delivered 20+% EBIT growth through disciplined strategy and sharpened focus on operational and service excellence, reversing 3-year stagnant P&L trajectory.
In one bullet, you’ve told the reader why you were brought in, what you achieved and how you did it—while keeping the content at the right level.
Doubled sales channel volume and implemented cost savings initiatives to increase profit.
This statement immediately begs four questions:
- How did you double sales volume?
- What does that equate to in revenue?
- What initiatives did you implement?
- By how much did you increase profit?
Adding relevant detail eliminates the guesswork and clearly conveys your accomplishments. Remember, vagueness is about the message and the language—avoid being imprecise in both aspects of the resume.
Use the before-and-after approach
Presenting highlights and accomplishments in terms of “before” and “after” is an effective resume-writing strategy. What was the company’s situation before you arrived, and how did your leadership change that situation? What were the results of your efforts? Be specific. Did you turn around an underperforming team and operations? Can you quantify that to provide even more detail? Use comparisons to show the difference you made—it illustrates what you’ve done and what you can do for a new company.
If I read a statement on a resume and think why, what or how after reading it, the message is not meaningful enough. Your goal is to provide the hiring executive with tangible, concrete information to peak their interest so they’ll contact you. Resumes with vague, non-essential statements should always be avoided.
If you’re looking for an executive resume writer who can help craft your message, please contact me today for a phone consultation.