CVs for executive leaders: Back to basics…

On a daily basis, I deal with executives who lead companies or sizeable businesses in large corporates, are adept and confident around the negotiating table, and orchestrate complex deals but, when it comes to putting together a CV that is essentially their personal branding tool, well…we’ve seen some sloppily thrown-together shockers!

Now, I know that it may seem like a trivial administrative task to formulate a document that accurately represents your career and achievements, but when one is competing for one’s next big career move, a well-formulated CV needs some serious attention.

Here are some pointers to ponder:
– Tailor your CV to suit the role you’ve been approached for, and to be read by a prospective employer. Highlight the relevant information that will showcase your suitability for the job at hand.

– Longwinded “story”–style CVs are hard work to read. Rather offer bullet points, in plain clear language. But please provide enough detail and information so that we have a view of the level that you operate at and the depth and breadth of what you’ve actually done. In strong action talk – not just a copy and paste of your KPIs!

– Don’t waste time and space at the top of your CV with vague objective statements. These days, the ‘who am I’ paragraphs with words like ‘motivated self-starter, entrepreneurial innovator’ etc make no impact at all – you might as well save space for information that matters.

– And what matters includes a list of your achievements, accolades and awards. Percentage growth and turnover figures speak volumes. But your role as class captain in Standard Five looks like you’re ‘reaching’ – you can leave these out!

– Memberships of industry associations, adjudication duties at industry awards, guest lecture duties at reputable learning institutions – these all give us an idea of the esteem in which you are held by the industry and your peers.

– You might also consider including a quote from a referee, which could add gravitas to a document that is essentially a piece of self-promotion.

And then the VERY basics (that even the most accomplished exec sometimes needs reminding of):
– Include your contact details and employment periods. These details matter!

– Where you’ve had a short stint at an employer or a gap in your employment record, include your ‘reasons for leaving’ or information about the gap.

– Keep it tidy! An aesthetically pleasing layout that is a logical and easy read will keep our interest. Please keep the fancy fonts, rainbow colours and pictures for another project.

– And spell- and grammar-check your document – please! Get ‘new eyes’ to give it a read too. A basic mistake is unforgivable. Particularly at your level…

And lastly, don’t forget about the digital domain –
– Your online footprint and profile are important. Google your name. What comes up? How can you strengthen your presence to complement your professional standing?

– Give consideration to how your CV reads on a mobile, handheld device.

The list is long – but worth due consideration. After all, you’ve spent decades putting an immense amount of blood, sweat and tears into building your career. Surely that deserves to be represented and supported by a document that reflects all that conscious thought and effort? I think so!

Barbara Hooper
Principal Research Associate

Barbara Hooper

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