Executive Master of Leadership Blog

How to Write a Winning Executive Resume in 7 Steps

[fa icon="calendar'] Apr 17, 2019 3:54:00 PM / by USC Price

How to write a winning executive resume.
We all know that first impressions are one of the most important factors in determining the tone of future relationships. When it comes to advancing your career to a new position or getting admitted to graduate school, this initial impression often comes through a resume. In writing a resume, you not only need to convey your wealth of professional accomplishments, but you must also do so in the most concise manner possible. According to veteran headhunter, Tony Beshara’s book, America’s Top Recruiter Reveals What Really Gets You Hired, 77% of hiring managers spend less than five minutes reading each resume, and 56% devote less than one minute.

With such a short window to make what could be a life-changing impression, the stakes are certainly high. Thankfully, with these seven tips, you’ll be on your way to writing a winning resume in no time.

Download the Executive Resume Checklist


1. Highlight Your Accomplishments First

With so little time to demonstrate what makes you an ideal candidate, getting right to your accomplishments will keep hiring managers hooked.

Forbes claims that the best way to convey your expertise is leading with the results you’ve obtained, followed by a description of how you did so.

Instead of saying, "Managed a team of 10 people to create and share innovative marketing materials to increase business revenue by 178% in one year," say, "Increased business revenue by 178% in one year by managing a team of 10 people to create and share innovative marketing materials."

These accomplishments should also be detailed in your letters of recommendations written by previous employers or managers.

Because employers generally care more about results than the methods, writing a resume with this format puts your best foot forward.

When writing a winning executive resume the reader should tell what you will contribute and how your expertise will make it happen.

If you feel that any context is being lost, you can also always include a “Core Competencies” or “Areas of Expertise” list at the top of the page. Do not include an “Objectives” section, as that is an outdated practice that can come off as self-serving.

In the same vein, move your “Education” to the bottom of the resume, as your academic degree is not your primary selling point.


2. Highlight Your Most Recent Roles

Your current and most recent professional status will often best speak to the kinds of contributions you will make in your new job or the insights you will bring to a graduate program. For that reason, don’t be afraid to dedicate extra room to describing these positions.

Among your recent jobs, it’s particularly important to demonstrate growth and expansion. If your title has remained the same across multiple positions, show your progress through details such as the size of your projects, the size or your budget, or the number of people you managed.

When you write your statement of intent, a common requirement for graduate applications, be sure to detail how your professional experience and careers goals will contribute value to your graduate program.


Download the Winning Executive Resume Checklist3. Write Your Resume for Two Pages

Mid-career executives with a considerable amount of professional experience should aim for a curriculum vitae (CV) that is two pages long. This length typically provides the optimal balance between conciseness and a complete representation of your capabilities.

For executive positions, don’t squeeze your resume onto one page and never exceed three pages.


4. Use Strong, Action Oriented Verbs

Using action-oriented verbs will make you appear just that, action-oriented. This will convey to employers that you’re a go-getter and willing to step outside of your comfort zone to drive growth.

Begin each bullet point with words such as “spearhead,” “delegate,” “enrich,” and “forge.” However, be careful not to repeat verbs, as they make less impact with each use, especially across multiple contexts.

Pro-Tip: Write your resume qualifications in the proper tense. Your current job should be written in the present tense, while experience for your previous roles should be written in the past tense.


5. Quantify Your Professional Experience

When it comes to conveying your contribution, using specific metrics is always best. Rather than vaguely stating that you “improved performance” in your organization, say for example that you “increased customer retention by 120%.”

If numbers aren’t attainable, then describe other examples, such as specific processes you might have facilitated, programs you initiated, or expertise you've developed using role-specific business software.


6. Split Roles Into Responsibilities and Contributions

Differentiating your responsibilities and achievements will make each description feel complete. Sum up your responsibilities briefly under each job title and highlight your main contributions in several bullet points below the description.


7. Consider Including a Title

Including a title just beneath your name is a high impact way to summarize your professional profile. This immediately tells the reader exactly what they would get if they were to hire or admit you. Do not misrepresent your job title, however.

A solid example is “Program Director - Health and Adult Services Unit”.

After you’ve implemented all of these tips, the Harvard Business Review recommends making sure that your resume reads like a story, rather than a disjointed smattering of bullet points.

Do your best to contextualize your accomplishments within the broader scope of both you and your organization’s journeys. In the end, if your story and achievements are strong enough, you’ll be taking that next big step in your career before you know it.


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Topics: Applying to Graduate School

USC Price

Written by USC Price

The USC Price School of Public Policy's Executive Master of Leadership degree program is designed for experienced professionals ready to take their leadership to the next level.

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