How to write a CEO resume

Stand out from the crowd with our CEO resume tips

 

An executive CV is far more than a summary of a candidate’s experience, accomplishments and skills for a position. It is a veritable advertising tool that makes it easier to market your brand: you. And as with all effective advertising, you need to reach your audience by sending the right messages.

Are you looking to refresh your CV to get the job you want? Check out our helpful tips on what to include in your CEO resume.

 

What a CEO resume should look like

In terms of form, opt for simplicity and balance to facilitate reading:

  • An airy text (white spaces make the content stand out)
  • Bold type for company names and the positions you have held
  • Bulleted lists to present your skills or achievements
  • An easily readable font: the size is generally 11 points and slightly larger for the title of the resume and the different sections

 

Some CEO resume examples in 2021 have an elaborate layout and colourful graphics, which may distract the reader. Instead, try to draw attention to the content. 

Speaking of content, approach it as a story. Your resume should tell the story of your career path in three main parts:

  1. The introduction, which includes your contact information, title, a summary of your experience and your main skills
  2. The main body, which provides a snapshot of your work experience
  3. The conclusion, which includes other experience and your education

 

Like all good advertising, conciseness is the golden rule of a resume. Regardless of your years of experience, limit yourself to two pages, or a maximum of three if your experience or achievements justify it. Rather than impressing the recruiter, a novel-length resume or an exhaustive list of accomplishments will lead the person to suspect that you have trouble focusing on the essentials.

 

Let us now go through each of these main sections to see what your CEO resume should actually contain.

The introduction: Establish yourself as a gem from the start

 

Contact information – Your name and contact information (city, phone number, email address and LinkedIn URL) should appear at the top of the document. In addition, make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date and matches the content of your resume. 

Title – Forget the very generic “Resume” or “Summary.” An executive CV should have a title that reflects your specialization or the position for which you are applying, such as President and CEO” or “Vice-President, Human Resources.” 

Summary – To be effective with your advertising , you must first understand your audience. Before writing or rewriting your summary, take the time to learn more about the company you are targeting. Read about its values, mission and vision. Find out what skill set it is seeking. What are its goals and current challenges? For example, is it trying to expand its operations worldwide or manage phenommenal growth resulting from multiple acquisitions?

The summary must clearly show, from the outset, that you are the person the company is looking for. In one paragraph of just a few lines, you must state who you are, what sets you apart, what you have accomplished, how you accomplished it and what your goals are. This is all while keeping in mind the needs of the recruiter.

An effective summary

answers the main question every recruiter asks: “Is this candidate the kind of leader I’m looking for and will he (or she) help my business prosper?”

Have you faced similar challenges in your career? Emphasize this in your summary:

Perfectly bilingual senior executive with 25 years of experience, including 15 spent with a leading retailer. I mobilize teams during periods of organizational change using industry best practices. My approach helps improve the retention of new employees and the return on human capital. I would like to join a team of leaders who share my values of collaboration and excellence

Key abilities and skills – In table form, list a dozen of skills that define you and that correspond to those mentioned in the job posting. We recommend that you find the right balance between abilities associated with hard skills (organizational change, acquisition negotiations, partnership development, customer service strategy, etc.) and those related to soft skills (leadership, active listening, team spirit, power of influence, etc.). 

Difference between hard skills and soft skills

Hard skills are abilities that can be learned and passed on, such as sales forecasting, budgeting and public relations.

Soft skills are personal abilities that involve emotional intelligence, such as flexibility, creative thinking and communication.

The main body: Describe your career path in convincing terms

 

The heart of your resume should tell the story of your career. Start with your most recent experience and work backward to your earliest, going back only 10 or 15 years (or 20 if you have been in the same place for many years).

For each work experience, write the name of the company and the length of time you worked there. On the next line, describe the company’s operations in a single sentence so that the recruiter understands the scope of the business. Here is an example:

ABC Company 2006-2015

Home improvement retailer with a network of 750 stores across Canada and 21,000 employees (annual sales of $7.5 billion)

List the position(s) held within the company and your immediate supervisor (e.g., reporting to the Board of Directors or reporting to the CEO), a brief description of the job responsibilities, followed by a bulleted list of your major accomplishments.

Avoid passive sentences that simply describe the tasks associated with a role. To stand out and create a lasting impression, use action words and back up your statements with concrete results.  For example, instead of writing “As the head of the Human Resources team, I improved the work climate and sales in our network of stores,” write this:

  • Designed a recognition program that increased in-store employee satisfaction by X% and decreased turnover by X% in just 12 months, contributing to an increase in sales of $XM over the same period.

 

The conclusion: List other experience and training

This is where you mention other experience that strengthens your candidacy, such as your role on a board of directors or your social engagement. In addition to training (educational institutions and degrees), mention all certifications, publications and honourable mentions obtained.

Your impressive track record deserves a CV that reflects your accomplishments. We believe that these CEO resume tips will help you promote yourself and stand out from your peers. If you need additional advice, you can always count on PIXCELL, your strategic advisor & Montreal executive search firm, to help you through this process.

 

1. Julianne Pepitone, « Yahoo confirms CEO is out after resume scandal », CNN Money, 14 mai 2012, https://money.cnn.com/2012/05/13/technology/yahoo-ceo-out/index.htm. 

Distorting the truth

Do not succumb to the temptation of exaggerating certain achievements, omitting less conclusive work experiences or embellishing reality. The truth always comes out in the end!
As an example, consider former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, who was fired in 2012 after only four months on the job when it was discovered that he embellished his CV with a college degree he did not have 1.
It is far better to be transparent than to find yourself in an embarassing situation that brings your integrity into question.

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