Resume FAQs for Senior Managers

No professional looks forward to updating their resume in preparation for a career search. If you are among the fortunate few who can secure interviews simply by tapping your network, congratulations. For everyone else, dusting off and redesigning a resume is the first step to landing a new leadership role. Hiring processes change over time, and so do resume formats. As you begin to work on yours, consider these resume FAQs for senior managers to learn what hiring managers want to see on resumes.

resume faqs for senior managers

Q: Which resume style is best for me?

A: Generally, there are 3 styles: chronological, functional and hybrid.

A chronological resume is the most common. It contains — in this order — the executive summary, work experience (most recent first), and education. This style works best for an experienced manager job searching within the same industry.

Functional resumes highlight skills and professional accomplishments first and downplay the exact job history by adding it later. Functional resumes are favored by job seekers who are transitioning into new careers, or who have significant gaps in employment.

As the name suggests, the hybrid style combines the timeline of the chronological resume with the skills-focus of the functional resume. A significant summary of core competencies is followed by a chronological list of employment history and education. It is a good option for career-changers, especially experienced professionals who can show relevant skills up front.

Q: How long and how specific should my resume be?

A: Resumes are normally one to two pages. Professionals at the senior project manager level or above will likely need a two-page resume to display their full work experience. (In some fields, like R&D and academia, a three- or four-page resume is acceptable if you wish to list your publications.)

Senior managers with broad experience sometimes make the mistake of including a wide range of accomplishments on their resumes instead of selecting only those that fit the position. But hiring managers scan resumes for specific skills and keywords matching the job requirements. Keep this in mind, and tailor each resume accordingly – less is more if you can clearly articulate your value for the role.

Q: How do I handle employment gaps, like extended travel, family leave or unemployment?

A: To accommodate a gap year or extended travel period, consider adding a “Travel and Volunteer Activities” section to the resume, where you add brief details and dates. Be sure to include any experiences that an employer might like to see, such as foreign language study, or team project work in a multicultural setting.

Professionals who have left the workplace for a significant amount of time to take care of a family should use a functional or hybrid resume style. Any volunteer work, self-employment or continuing education during this time should be listed — without mention of family-related duties — in the appropriate resume section.

If you have been unemployed a short time for any reason, say, less than 12 months, you can simply list the year dates of employment (e.g., 2001-2007) rather than month/year dates for the positions before and after the gap.

Q: I’ve been self-employed and now I am transitioning back to a traditional job. How do I explain that?

A: Some professionals enjoy a stint as entrepreneurs. Many others work as consultants, freelancers or volunteers while in the middle of a career search. Whatever you’re doing, if it involves using your skills and education, list the activity as you would a normal position, as in: “Consulant, Your Company Name” with start and end dates.

Q: How do I handle a short-term position on my resume?

A: Again, use year dates instead of month/year when listing the job. If you have had more than two jobs during a one- to two-year period, consider choosing just one of them and including it with a year date. This way, you won’t appear as a job-hopper, especially if the short-term nature of the job was out of your control (i.e. company downsizing).

Q: Should I list hobbies, interests or civic involvement on my resume?

A: As a rule, not on senior manager resumes. But if an interest or activity clearly demonstrates a skill or experience related to the job, consider adding this section. For example, if you’re applying for a leadership position in a performance sportswear company and you are a marathon runner, add it.

Q: What about applicant tracking systems? Do I need to write my resume with keywords in mind?

A: If you are applying for a job in a mid- or large-sized firm, chances are your resume will be scanned by an applicant tracking system (ATS) before a human reads it. Today’s ATS is sophisticated – it doesn’t just parse keywords but also looks at context around keywords. This is good news, because it means that as long as you include keywords and phrases from the vacancy announcement, you can detail your accomplishments succinctly in your own words and still have an even shot at being noticed.

Note, however, that simple resume formatting is best for an ATS. Don’t include headers/footers, graphics, logos or odd characters, which an ATS cannot interpret.

Q: Do I need a resume video?

A: Resume videos are still only used by a minority of job applicants, but they can help you stand out in a crowd, especially if you’re competing for customer-facing management positions in sales, PR, media or a creative field. Videos should be professionally shot and edited, and be under 3 minutes long.

About the author:

Kate RodriguezKate Rodriguez is a freelance marketing copywriter based in Munich. She has over 20 years of professional experience in public and private organizations. A former international trade analyst for the U.S. government, she also worked as a university career coach, specializing in international career search. Most recently, she was employed at Experteer as a customer service agent and online marketing manager.

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