Selecting an Appropriate Executive Resume Format
Many people see an executive resume format (layout) they like and simply copy it for use in their own job campaign without ever considering how it supports their particular background and job objective. Most of these people then begin their searches and try to refine their executive resumes as they go along. Unfortunately, this type of approach frequently leads to personal frustration and a prolonged job search.
In general terms, there are three basic executive resume formats or styles: chronological, functional, and a combination of the chronological and functional styles known as the chrono-functional executive resume. Each offers certain advantages depending on factors such as your age, number of previous jobs, level of experience, and appropriateness of your experience relative to your job objective. In other words, your selection should be made in support of your background and future job expectation, and not because you liked the appearance of an attractive looking executive resume.
1). The Chronological Executive Resume - This is the most popular executive resume format and is simply a chronological listing of all your previous employers, job titles, employment dates, key responsibilities and most important accomplishments for each position. Your current or most recent position is always shown first, followed by each preceding job in chronological order. It should be noted, however, that even if you have 30 years experience, you should never show more than the last 12 to 15 years in any detail. Few employers are very concerned about what you did in your ancient past (at least at the executive resume stage), and showing too much of a detailed work history can date you. Don’t feel secure simply because there are age discrimination laws.
The chronological executive resume is a good format if you have progressed through the ranks and can show a steady progression of higher-level job titles. In order to use a chronological style, your background must be one of rapid growth within a single profession or functional area. It is not a good format if you have a history of unrelated positions, a prolonged period of unemployment, have had a recent demotion, or are trying to change careers.
2). The Functional Executive Resume - The primary advantage of the functional executive resume is that it allows you to downplay your employment record, while focusing on the skills and abilities that are required for the type of job to which you aspire. It is essential, however, that you have a well defined job objective, otherwise the functional executive resume loses its direction and will not produce the type of results you desire. Consider, for example, a school teacher who wants to become a corporate trainer. Lacking corporate training experience, the teacher should focus on the teaching skills, abilities and knowledge that are required in the training field, while de-emphasizing the fact that his or her experience was gained in a school classroom rather than in a corporate training room.
While it should be quite obvious that a prospective employer will not ignore your employment history, the functional executive resume will generally give you the best chance to get the reader intrigued by your skills and abilities before focusing on your employers and job titles. To this end the functional executive resume is almost always more effective that the chronological executive resume when trying to downplay your employment history.
3). The Combination Chrono-Functional Executive Resume - This format is ideal if you are a successful professional or executive with a well-established track record, since it provides you with the opportunity to combine the strengths of both the chronological and functional executive resumes. The exact format can be varied depending on your individual circumstances and job objective, but if you have a strong track record within a single profession or functional area, it is probably the best format you can use.
Regardless of which format suits you best, the final executive resume must be clean and distinctive in appearance. Your goal is to present yourself in the most favorable light possible, while downplaying any liabilities that may prevent you from being taken seriously. The successful executive resume is not only a persuasive soft-sell advertisement of your skills, abilities, experiences and accomplishments, but it must also clearly reflect your ability to express yourself. Above all, a top-notch executive resume will get you interviews.
Voice and Tense
When describing key duties and responsibilities for your current position, make sure you express yourself in the present tense. In other words, use terms such as manage, oversee, formulate, control and direct. When discussing duties and responsibilities for previous positions, always talk in the past tense. For example, use terms such as managed, oversaw, formulated, controlled and directed. While this may seem like common sense to anyone who has completed a basic English course, it is amazing how often this very basic concept is ignored or forgotten.
Accomplishments, whether for current or previous positions, are best described in an abbreviated version of the third person. This is particularly true since you should start each accomplishment with an action verb (e.g., directed, executed, installed, introduced, managed, orchestrated, realigned, restructured, stabilized, slashed, systematized, trimmed, upgraded, etc.).
* First person: “I improved quality 16% and saved . . .”
* Third person: “John Smith improved quality by 16% and saved . . .”
* Abbreviated third person: “Improved quality by 16% and saved . . .”
Some people like to use a first-person voice throughout their executive resume to make it seem more conversational, but it is generally wiser to stay with the abbreviated third person.
Spelling, Grammar and Syntax
The final version of your executive resume must be clear, concise and targeted to your job objective. Make every word count and avoid long indigestible sentences and obscure words. Use terminology appropriate to your profession, but minimize the use of buzz words and technical jargon unless it is absolutely necessary. A number of people are likely to see and evaluate your executive resume, and many of them may not understand your language, particularly if the jargon is common only to your particular company or if it relates to a different industry. In addition, too much jargon may be construed as an effort to impress people. Use whatever jargon is necessary, but be subtle so you don’t appear pretentious.
Write most of your material using short, telegraph-style sentences, without sounding too choppy. Studies show that it is easier to read information that is laid out in a longer block of copy with shorter lines, than a short block of copy with longer sentences. Develop your content by layering fact-after-fact until you have told your story. Then go back and eliminate any remaining fat by cutting superfluous words, jargon and sentences.
Proofread your final copy using a ruler so that you can carefully focus on each line of text. Another trick to help ensure accuracy is to read the entire executive resume backwards (from the bottom up starting at the lower right-hand corner). While time consuming, this little trick will allow you to focus on each word, as opposed to reading the document for general content. Never rely completely on the spell-check feature of your word-processing program, as it can’t highlight improper words or the wrong tense. Finally, get someone else to proofread your executive resume and offer editing changes. Do not let your pride of authorship blind you to the blemishes, as that is not a self-indulgence you can afford.
The best executive resumes, ones that produce exceptional results, are well constructed and are distinctive in appearance. An effective executive resume will focus attention on your strengths and speaks loudly and clearly of your value as a potential employee. It must clearly identify your abilities and accomplishments faster than competitive executive resumes, and it must always be free of voice, tense, spelling, grammar and syntax errors.