Insider Secrets From An Executive Resume/CV Writer


I’ve worked full-time as a executive resume/CV writer since 1981. I can’t even begin to calculate how many resumes/CVs I’ve written, but it’s in the thousands!

After 30 years, I know things about resume/CV writing that most job seekers don’t - I’m sure you can say the same about your profession. There are always "insider secrets" that only people who work in those professions know because that knowledge comes from years of experience. In this article, I’m going to share some of those things with you: resume/CV writing strategies and actions that you can use to strengthen your resume/CV and give yourself a competitive edge.

Executive Resume WritersSecret #1: Write to the future 

Resume writing is NOT about rehashing your past experience. Rather, it’s about presenting that experience in such a way as to support your current career goals. For example, if you’re a Human Resources Director in the hospitality industry seeking a similar HR position, you’ll approach your resume/CV in such a way as to "paint the picture" of a well-qualified HR executive, which is precisely "who" you are.

Conversely, if your goal is to transition into a COO-type position, still in hospitality, your executive resume/CV will be entirely different. Instead of focusing on all of your HR talents, your goal will be to showcase your operating management experience, which might include budgeting, performance improvement, business process, organizational leadership, strategic planning, and, of course, staffing and talent development. This resume/CV paints an entirely different picture of who you are. Always remember to let your future goals drive the resume/CV writing process!

Secret #2: Professional resume/CV writers love using headlines

If I can begin a resume/CV with a headline (e.g., International Business Development Executive), followed by a strategic branding statement (e.g., Building profitable new customer markets worldwide through innovative joint ventures and strategic alliances with B2B partners around the globe) and then a short summary section packed full of the "right" keywords, then I’m a happy resume/CV writer! That kind of clarity at the beginning of your document – the "who" you are – makes it so easy for the reader to know in an instant that you’re a viable candidate for a particular opportunity (e.g., VP International Business Development).

Secret #3: Your resume/CV MUST have the right keywords

Keywords are even more critical than you can imagine. Formerly known as 'buzzwords', keywords have always been an essential component in writing strong and well-positioned executive resumes/CVs. In today’s world of e-based job search, keywords are critical. Every time that you upload your document to an online database or in response to an online job posting, one of the first things that will happen is that it will go through a keyword search. If you do NOT have the right keywords required for a specific position, you will be passed over before human eyes ever look at it. No exceptions!

Secret #4: Use the right resume/CV format

There are only three resume/CV formats – chronological, functional, and hybrid – and 90% of job seekers should use the hybrid. Why? Because it incorporates the best elements of both the chronological and functional formats. Like the chronological resume/CV, it showcases your employment background – job titles, companies, dates, key areas of responsibilities, and achievements – things that all recruiters, hiring managers, and HR executives want to know. And, like the functional, the hybrid begins with a strong presentation of your most notable skills, qualifications, talents, and career highlights in some form of a career summary section.

Secret #5: Accomplish 3 essential things with each position description

When writing your position descriptions you want to include three important elements:

  1. Information about the company if it’s not a familiar name: what you write in a short, one-line company description will vary based on your current objectives. If you’re working for an energy company but now looking to move into the biomedical industry, there is no need to focus on energy. Instead, highlight things such as revenue size, number of employees, geographic reach, customer base, or any other information that might align with your current objective.
  2. Scope of responsibility: namely, a quick yet comprehensive summary of everything you’re responsible for (e.g., budgets, people, divisions, operations, customers, products, technologies).
  3. Presentation of your accomplishments: how well you did everything that you were responsible for. Your accomplishments are what will distinguish you from the crowd of other candidates with similar responsibilities and, as such, can be the most important component of your resume.

Secret #6: Go back __ years in time

Why the blank? Because there is no decisive answer. Just like a professional executive resume/CV writer does, you should look at the entire situation – "who" you are professionally, how old you are, what your objectives are, how related your past experience is to those objectives, and more. Then, and only then, will you be able to make the right decision about how far back in time to go on your resume.

Secret #7: Readability ranks up front

Whether a million-dollar-a-year executive or a young college graduate, the ease with which someone can read your resume – the readability factor – is critical. To that end, keep your paragraphs short and don’t overwhelm the reader with a laundry list of bullet points.

Secret #8: There are no rules to resume/CV writing

Every job seeker is unique, with individual circumstances, particular career goals, and specific industry focus. As such, there is no single answer to any resume question/CV, challenge, or "issue." Just like a professional resume/CV writer, you must look at your situation and decide what’s YOUR best option to position yourself as the #1 candidate for your targeted opportunities.

If you need help incorporating all of these professional "secrets" into your resume/CV, call on the experts at BlueSteps Executive Career Services! They’ll start with a complimentary review to give you individual feedback on your current resume/CV and then propose the solution that best meets your needs.

About Wendy Enelow

Wendy specializes in executive career coaching, executive resume writing, and executive job search. She has authored more than 30 books on related topics including Best Resumes for $100,000+ Jobs, Executive Resume Toolkit, Cover Letter Magic and The $100,000+ Entrepreneur. She is also part of the BlueSteps Executive Career Services operations team.


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I´m thrilled to see much of what I´ve advised to professionals captured and reinforced in this nutshell format. Thanks. It really endorses my perspective. I come from the hiring standpoint. I´ve had to staff with almost no outside help at all in weeks given repeated start-ups. This kind of environment calls for a hands-on approach and there is little room for CV´s that contain adjectives, for instance. I´d like to suggest members and readers refrain from "using the reader´s time" with phrases such as "strong leadership skills" and the like.

What's important is the relevance of the company, of the mission, of the scope embraced and resulting achievements. This should be reported in such a manner that any outsider grasps the impact/contribution that person made to what was relevant to the enterprise´s continued growth not only provides factual information that one can envision might repeat itself (given the context) but DEMONSTRATES competencies, i.e., one couldn´t have reaped results without being a strong leader, for instance.

Competencies are tested via assorted techniques and cross-checked with references. I always advise folks to collect 360 feedback from clients, suppliers, peers, subordinates, study pals and so forth cause it´s helpful for self-improvement purposes. It´s about how you are perceived, replaces skills and competency statements and once posted on LinkedIn for instance, eases cross-checks.

The second point I´ve sort of mentioned earlier: it´s about your contributions, not the results themselves. I´ve come across statements such as "deployed roadshow at 7 countries" and found myself saying "So what?". Same for achievements that read "20% increase in gross revenues". Folks must realise readers are not acquainted with that context, that they are not statusing a peer and this is in alignment with what you mention about providing a short sentence on the company, the mission cause a very large local multinational at a given country may be entirely unknown to readers. For all I know, Coca-Cola and McDonald´s just might not ring bells at countries that take pride or rather their own or other brands.

Bottom line: the story must be told as if to a total stranger and almost everyone has faced that kind of situation in their social/family circles, for instance. I´ve been using the BSC approach with coachees to push them into telling their stories from a big picture perspective and its proven to be quite transformational. Many now grasp where their goals came from, what was the hidden agenda corporate strategy aimed at and they´ve become more aware of what ultimately matters and most importantly, how what they achieve impacts or matters. It is shaping more mature professionals and helps boost their self-esteem too.

In a nutshell, I´d add these two tips: refrain from using self-praising adjectives/listing skills and competencies (which sounds narcissistic/personal mktg "smoke") and let that emerge from the reported context plus endorsements and demonstrate assertive behaviour by reporting results from an impact/contribution perspective. After all, to me, the single question that interviews attempt to answer is: given that "we" have the context in hands, do I believe this candidate shall contribute with "us" and if so, to what extent. If a candidate is able to pick from his past experience sample situations (instead of telling the whole gory story) where he/she was able to CONTRIBUTE and demonstrates from his/her recent studies, readings and chats that he/she has envisioned what just might be some of "our" core challenges and uses our time to ask questions and refine that canvas, risks of their not being the "best fit" are mitigated and both just might start envisioning what Day 1 might feel and look like.

I´ve also been advising those who accept your 8 steps approach plus these two I mention, to join BlueSteps.


BlueSteps Support's picture

Thank you for such a thought-provoking comment and for being a valued BlueSteps customer, Marcia! We agree, it's important to aim for the big picture and paint your story for an outside audience. Using concrete contributions and sharing the impact your work had is much more useful than a list of general skills with no proof.

Really very beneficial and precious statistics approximately such a particular and new trend topic. Thank you for sharing this excellent paintings for us. I’m absolutely impressed together with your writing abilities. And additionally I like the way you discussed this subject matter very effectively.

BlueSteps Support's picture

Sorry for the late response, but thank you for your feedback and support Justin! We hope you continue to engage with our content.

I am looking for someone that will write my CV, resume, make my Linked in account POP! I am looking to be found individuals and companies looking for a solid business leader.
Thank you.

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