Even at the senior level, resumes are a key factor in identifying the right candidates to consider for an open position. Crafting a stand-out resume is a necessity – but the elements that will elevate you above other candidates are less about the visuals and more about the content.

Over the past year or so, my colleagues and I have been barraged by blindingly colorful, wildly busy (columns to the left of me, columns to the right of me!), hyperbolic resumes. Graphs and charts and arrows … oh my! Unless graphic design is your life’s work and your resume is a vehicle to showcase your talent, this level of formatting is overkill and a major distraction from the actual content. Sadly, you’ve defeated the purpose: Most of the time, I’ll just close the document without reading.

My advice: Keep the format simple and content-driven. As a senior-level executive, your accomplishments are what will grab my attention and get you to the next step. Here are the important elements of an outstanding executive resume:

Who Are You? (Profile)

  • This is the first thing we want to know, so summarize it clearly at the top: This should take the form of a couple of lines or bullets that summarize who you are and why you’re an attractive candidate in your field.
  • Avoid enumerating all your career accomplishments in this section. We want to know the “where” and “when” of these achievements (more recent work carries more weight).

Company Chronology

This section should include your career history in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent (or current) position.

  • Start with the company name, followed by a brief description of what the company does. Unless you’ve only worked for big consumer brands, we may not be familiar with the business. Include revenue, number of employees, and whether the company is publicly listed (e.g. ABC co. $300M Nasdaq Software as a Service (SAAS) business in the security sector).
  • Include a brief description of your responsibilities, including scope, direct reports, revenue of your business unit, total employee headcount, etc.
  • Finally, list your accomplishments. Be specific about how you impacted the business (i.e. what you inherited and then what changed after you took the role). Did you reduce costs, grow the business, change the culture, refocus the business (to what result)?
  • If you’ve been in the workforce more than 25 years, you may want to lump and list your early roles under a heading “Prior or Early Experience,” but don’t leave them out! Unless you’re a founder of a business, we know you weren’t “born” a vice president!
  • If your resume looks “jumpy,” (which is often the case with those who have a preference for start-up, early stage or Private Equity backed companies), we find that an explanation of why you left is helpful. It should be included after the company description or the end date you worked there (e.g. company sold, HQ relocated, spouse transferred, family illness, etc.)

The Personal Stuff

Does anyone really care about the personal side of you? Absolutely! At the senior level in particular, your hobbies and interests can be another gauge of cultural fit. If you love gardening and the executive team is all about golf, the rapport might not be there. And  if the role requires extensive travel together, this could become an issue. Listing your spouse and family is okay, but not essential. If you do, avoid the descriptive superlatives!

As you can see, the content of your resume is what truly matters – who you are, your career path, your accomplishments, and your expertise. If you prioritize graphic design over content, then you are detracting from the information that will get you noticed. Follow this type of format and your time and our time won’t be wasted.

If you have any questions, reach out to us at 215.568.8363 or search@hfischer.com, and we’d be happy to discuss!

Elly Mazor, Principal