Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume, explains nine easy ways professionals can successfully modernize senior-level resumes — without compromising their worth.
#1: Upgrade your contact information
If you possess a certification or other advanced degree that is valued in your field, be sure to include the initials of this credential after your name, at the top of your resume. By placing this information at the very top of your resume, you ensure that the reader won’t miss this valuable selling point that is further detailed at the bottom of your resume in your “Education” section.
Avoid unnecessary age discrimination by trading in your old email address from a provider like Comcast, AOL, and Optonline.net for a new one from Gmail or Apple that is dedicated to your job-search activities. This will make sure that a recruiter doesn’t assume you’re not tech-savvy as well as help you streamline and manage your job-search communication. Also, leave your mailing address off the top of your resume — your city and state or country are all that is required nowadays.
If you’ve avoided joining LinkedIn up to this point, now’s the time to reconsider your stance and create a professional-looking LinkedIn profile. Over 90 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to either search for candidates or help evaluate those who’ve applied for positions through other means. This social media platform is also useful in helping to map out your professional network and find out which of your contacts are connected to the firms you’re interested in working for.
#2: Get rid of your resume objective statement
Resume objective statements are no longer in vogue because they typically focus on explaining a candidate’s wants and needs without zeroing in on the information an employer cares most about: one’s qualifications. Instead, use this section at the top of your resume to provide your elevator pitch: In 3–5 lines, explain what you’re great at and passionate about, how you’ve provided value to the organizations you’ve worked for, and how you can provide similar value to your next employer. This section is known as an executive summary or executive career statement.
#3: Position your resume with a specific goal in mind
Although you may have worked in several different roles throughout the course of your career, your resume shouldn’t be a laundry list of everything you have done or could be capable of doing in the future. Instead, it should align with your current job goals. Tailor the information to highlight the responsibilities you’ve held and the accomplishments you’ve created that reflect your qualifications for your desired role. Avoid the jack-of-all-trades approach at all costs.
#4: Consider adding a “Career Highlights” section
Employ a “Career Highlights” or “Selected Achievements” section below your professional summary to call attention to approximately 3–5 of your most noteworthy career achievements. This is a useful resume technique for senior-level professionals whose most compelling selling points are often buried far down on the second page of the resume. A recruiter is more likely to notice these details during his or her initial resume scan when they’re highlighted within the top third of the first page.
#5: Emphasize your recent experience and accomplishments
Employers care most about what you’ve accomplished recently — not 20 years ago. Limit the details of your professional experience to the past 15 years and remove the dates associated with your credentials that fall outside this time frame. Focus on highlighting only the results of your experience during this time, allowing more space to elaborate on the most recent positions that are relevant to your job goals.
Summarize the roles you held outside this 15-year window at the bottom of your professional experience with a short “Early Career History” section that simply lists your former employers’ names and the job titles you held — don’t add the start and end dates of these positions.
The idea is to demonstrate your career progress and include the names of any noteworthy employers that are held in high esteem within your job industry while keeping the focus of your resume on your most recent experience.
#6: Condense your resume to two pages
The average recruiter reviews a resume for six seconds before deciding whether or not to eliminate the candidate from the pool of applicants. Anything longer than three pages won’t get read. In fact, professional resume writers rarely create a resume that’s more than two pages because of this.
Your resume should be carefully curated to tell your career narrative and explain to the reader why you’re qualified to perform the role you’re targeting. Review each line of your current resume to determine if it helps you accomplish this goal or if it should be removed from the document.
#7: Show, don’t tell
The most impactful resumes are those that focus on showing the reader why a candidate is qualified for the job, rather than talking about the skills the candidate possesses. For instance, while you might state in your executive summary that you are a results-driven leader, your words are meaningless unless you can provide proof of these skills further down your resume. Don’t just say you’re a leader; explain how, under your leadership, your sales team beat their quota by more than 20 percent for 10 consecutive quarters and became the No. 1 sales team in the region.
Use bullet points under each job description in your work experience to call attention to your accolades and major contributions. Whenever possible, quantify your success. There’s no better way to catch a recruiter’s attention than by offering measurable examples of your success. Use an action verb to state the results you or your team produced, and then explain the actions you took to achieve such a result.
#8: Aim for white space
How you present the information in your resume is just as important as the content itself. An organized layout with a clear, visual hierarchy is key. Avoid including dense blocks of text or an endless list of bullet points — both of these visual techniques will make the reader’s eyes glaze over.
Avoid overly-elaborate resume designs that detract from what the headhunter cares most about: your qualifications. When it comes to your resume’s design, less is more. Stick to a clean, simple design that makes it easy for the reader to quickly scan your resume and understand your career narrative and selling points.
#9: Optimize your C-level resume with keywords
If you choose to apply for positions online, chances are your application will be met by a piece of recruiting software known as an applicant tracking system (ATS). The objective of an ATS it to eliminate the least qualified candidates from the application pool, rather than identify those who are the best fit. Unfortunately, if your resume has not been written with the ATS in mind, even qualified candidates can find their resumes in the elimination pile.
To avoid this fate, be sure to optimize your resume with the keywords found in the job listings in which you’re interested and are qualified to perform. Take note of the terms that routinely appear in these job descriptions. If you possess those skills or experience, be sure to incorporate the words, as they appear in the job post, into the appropriate section of your resume. In addition, be sure to spell out any acronyms used in your resume. For instance, if you have experience in search engine optimization, be sure to spell out the term and provide the abbreviation within your resume: Search Engine Optimization (SEO).