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How To Write an Executive Resume For the C-Suite?

C-level jobs are some of the most competitive positions to apply for.

With so few openings and so many interested candidates, it’s important you stand out.

One way to do that is through your executive resume.

C-suite jobs require a properly formatted resume with the right blend of hard and soft skills.

Below, we’ll provide you with some expert tips to write an executive resume for the C-suite.

1. Begin with a clear job target in mind

As an executive, you are expected to have a clear job target in mind.

Applying to jobs with a general resume will do you no good. At the executive-level, a “catch all” approach does not work. Your resume should be targeted to the specific job you are applying to.

While leadership skills will need to be displayed on just about every C-level resume, there will be drastic differences between a CFO’s and a CIO’s resume.

Some common C-level job titles include:

  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
  • Chief Operating Officer (COO)
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  • Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
  • Chief Information Officer (CIO)
  • Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
  • Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO)

Once you’ve decided what kind of jobs you are interested in applying for, you can start crafting your resume.

Do not start writing your executive resume before having a clear target in mind. Your target job will be the baseline for the resume you are going to write.

2. Ensure your executive resume is ATS compliant

Applicant Tracking System (ATS) compliance is a huge topic of debate among the resume writing community. Many believe that if your resume doesn’t follow ATS guidelines, you will automatically be rejected for the job by the “robots” without ever being seen by the recruiter or hiring manager.

For obvious reasons, this could be a huge problem in your job search. If you are working with an executive resume writer, make sure they will provide you with an ATS compliant resume.

One clear giveaway that your resume is not ATS compliant is if your resume has fancy graphics, charts, tables, or icons. Anything other than plain text on your resume will likely cause issues with applicant tracking systems. If your resume isn’t automatically rejected, the information could be read inaccurately.

Additionally, adding relevant keywords to your executive resume can also help with the ATS. Take 5 minutes to read through each job posting you are applying to. Try to spot any words that seem to be repeated or emphasized. These tend to be the words that an ATS will be scanning for. If you haven’t already incorporated those words into your resume, you probably should.

3. Add a customizable executive headline

Always include a customizable resume headline on your executive resume.

Nearly every c-suite resume writer agrees that adding your desired job title to the top of your resume as a headline is a great way to grab the reader’s attention.

This section of your resume should be right under your contact information and right above your professional summary. It’s one of the first things that an executive recruiter or hiring manager will see when scanning your resume. They will know exactly what role you are applying for.

How to write an executive resume

This section of your resume can quickly be customized for each job that you apply to.

If Michael decided to apply to a job with a Vice President of Information Technology title, he could quickly change the headline. It would say Vice President of Information Technology instead of Chief Information Officer.

Your resume headline should always match the job title of the position you are applying for. The person reviewing your resume will see your relevance in the first glance at your resume.

4. Highlight your executive leadership skills

When you are applying for executive positions, your future employer will want to learn about your leadership abilities.

If you want to be competitive for an executive-level job, you’ll have to prove that you have what it takes to successfully manage and lead a team.

Since your resume is the first thing anyone will see, it’s important that you highlight your leadership skills throughout your resume.

Some common leadership skills include:

  • Active listening
  • Mentoring
  • Change management
  • Inspiring
  • Innovative
  • Conflict management
  • Decision-making
  • Visionary
  • Risk management

There are many different leadership skills to choose from. Be sure to focus on the leadership skills that seem most relevant to the job you are applying for. Check the job posting to

emphasize the skills that the reviewer will be looking for.

5. Get feedback on your updated executive resume

Before applying to C-level jobs with your new and improved resume, it’s important that you pressure test it with experts who understand your field of work.

If you have a couple colleagues or old bosses that will review your resume, see what they think.

If you don’t have any close connections that you would be comfortable with reviewing your resume, try reaching out to a few strangers on LinkedIn. You’d be surprised how willing people are to share their opinion on a resume.

The best people to get advice from are either people who have your desired job title or executive recruiters who regularly recruit for your desired roles.

Try to get feedback from at least 2-3 individuals before using the resume to apply for jobs.

Here’s a sample message you can send someone on LinkedIn:

“Hi Name. I hope your week is going well. I recently updated my resume and was hoping to get some feedback from an expert such as yourself. Would you mind taking a quick look at my resume and telling me your initial thoughts?”

A simple message like this can go a long way. Just remember to take feedback with a grain of salt. Many people will have personal preferences but if you start to notice any common trends, it may be something to change on your resume.

Written by: Mike Podesto is a former recruiter and current Founder & CEO of Find My Profession, a leading resume writing and career coaching company. Mike’s career advice has been featured on sites like Inc., Zety, Motherly, Fast Company, and more. His viral posts on employment have been seen by millions on LinkedIn. He’s even been featured in a variety of career-related podcasts such as the Hired podcast Talk Talent to Me, Strong Suit, and Authors Unite. Mike is passionate about helping jobseekers find fulfillment in their careers by breaking down the tedious job search barriers.  

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