What’s the Best Executive Resume Format and Length?

by Meg Guiseppi on May 17, 2017


When I speak with executive job seekers, one of the first things they often ask me is how their resume stacks up.

Many of them have never been in a job search or haven’t faced one for a number of years.

They’ve either slid easily from one company to the next, without ever having to look, or have progressed up the ladder within one or more good companies.

Often these lucky job seekers haven’t needed a resume, and have missed the boat on the new resume strategies.

They’re woefully out-of-date on how their resume should look and read.

They also often don’t understand best practices for executive job search, and that networking is the best way to land a best-fit new gig.

You’ll note that I don’t discuss job boards here. For executives, especially at the c-suite and top levels, this method yields dismal results and takes up too much time that would be better spent in networking.

First, you’ll need 3 versions of your executive resume for various purposes:

1. A nicely formatted, visually appealing Word 2003 version (or second most recent version of Word).

2. A PDF version so that formatting of the above will set up exactly as you meant it to.

3. A stripped down, barely formatted text or ATS-friendly version to make it through an Applicant Tracking System. This can be created as a Word document.

For specifics on building the content for your executive resume, read my post, How to Build Personal Brand Content for Executive Job Search.

Which executive resume format(s) to send to which people

Your executive job search campaign will include networking and communicating with:

  • Executive recruiters
  • Hiring professionals (or Human Resources) at your target companies
  • People who work at your target companies
  • Your existing network

With recruiters and other hiring professionals, your first communication will probably include your resume, with a brief email expressing your interest. Send these people all three resume versions. You may not know whether they will review your resume on their desktop/laptop or mobile device, and whether they may pass it on to an Applicant Tracking System, so play it safe and cover all the bases.

Tap employees at various professional levels at your target companies and others in your network for informational interviews, to help you with company research and market intelligence.

Your initial short emails to this second group of people are just “feelers”. You’re not presenting yourself as a candidate yet, because you don’t know at this time where and how you might fit into those companies, so don’t include your resume. Once you get their feedback and determine the situation, customize your resume to position yourself as a good fit, and send a more detailed email with your targeted, nicely formatted Word resume.

Ultimately, your networking efforts should focus on penetrating the “hidden” job market. That is, coveted jobs that are never advertised anywhere.

What about executive resume length?

Don’t get bogged down by confusing dictates you may have read about resume length, like “your resume must never be more than 2 pages”.

Focus instead on detailing what makes you a good fit for your target employers, based on the research you’ve done to determine their current pressing needs, and how you’re uniquely qualified to help them problem-solve.

A three page resume is fine, especially for c-suite and senior-level executives . . . if you’ve ruthlessly edited down to the essentials, and included only the things that will matter to your target companies. Include a link to your LinkedIn profile – which should include the whole story – and direct people to find more details there.

That advice applies to most situations, except for these two (and perhaps others):

1. Executive recruiters have been known to ask for a lengthy resume (sometimes 4 or more pages) including ALL your career history in depth. Provide them whatever they require. They know what their client companies want to know about you.

2. An ATS-friendly resume has no length restrictions. In fact, longer is probably better. More content means it will contain more of the relevant keywords the ATS will be looking for.

More About Executive Resumes and Successful Job Search

Is Your Executive Resume an Interesting Read?

ATS and the Executive Resume Black Hole – What You May Not Know

Are You Executive Job Search-Ready?

Is Your Executive Resume Still Partying Like It’s 1999?

C-level Executive Resume Length: One, Two, or Three Pages?

Think Like an Executive Resume Branding Pro – 10 Resume Do’s and Don’ts

7 Deadly Sins of Executive Resume Writing

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