How to Write a Powerful Executive CV That'll Win You the Interviews You Deserve
Typically an 'Executive CV' infers that it will be describing someone in a senior role or at board level, sometimes called 'C Suite'. It matters little what the actual job title might be but there are some basic requirements for executive CV writing, irrespective of rank or position.
The higher up in the organisation someone reaches the more decision-making and the 'buck stops here' will apply. In other words there will be a huge expectation that any actions described on your executive CV will be perceived as progress and will undoubtedly add value to the organisation or their customers.
It is this capacity to add value by skill deployment that is an essential component of an executive CV. If you'd like someone else to improve your CV for you, then please see our professional CV writing service.
The sequence that information would be presented in is as follows.
Writing a Profile for an Executive CV that Grabs an Employer's Attention
- Irrespective of who will read your executive CV (or their frame of mind), your Profile at the very beginning will be the first part to be read and therefore has to grab the reader's attention - quickly in a mere 30 seconds.
- There is an old adage that initial impressions are critical in any new face-to-face meeting. True, but they are even more of a deal-breaker when that message is sent blind via a Microsoft Word document or a PDF!
- Your Profile has to create the right positive impression and make the reader receptive to the rest of your CV and make them want to meet you, whether this is the first CV they've read today or the 77th.
- It must demonstrate your relevance, which means that you need to write your executive CV profile in a way that carefully matches the experience and skills that they've asked for in the job advert.
- When you are learning how to write a CV, start by summarising all your relevant experience and abilities in just a few lines of text in the Profile, no one wants to read half a page of text - it's just boring for the reader. 6 or 7 lines of text written as a single paragraph is perfect.
- Stick to the facts and be prepared to back up any statement you make on your executive CV with real world examples at an interview, but as your CV is a sales document, it must sell you to the reader, so don't be shy!
- Remember the reader (your next potential employer or an executive headhunter) will want to match your executive CV to either a job advert or a specific job description / person specification. If this match doesn't leap out at them, your CV will go in the bin!
- It is crucial that you don't allow the reader to form the wrong opinion about you. Keep it simple and make sure that you have included all the attributes requested, but don't copy any job advert word-for-word.
- This serves the purpose of raising interest, plus the initial gatekeeper might not have a clue what the job is, so they will be looking for a match between advert and CV.
- Whatever you do on your executive CV, don't list information that is just important to you, but isn't relevant to the reader.
Executive CV Writing: How to Create a Powerful Achievements Section
- The Achievements section follows the Profile on your executive CV and must project a positive can-do attitude - you may need to transform the reader's negative mindset if they're having a 'bad' day or they're wading through a load of CVs and yours is the last and they'd rather be somewhere else!
- If you find it really difficult to identify your achievements or write a truly powerful achievements section, then you may want to consider using one of our CV writing services to write a top quality CV that helps you get the executive job interviews that you want.
- These achievements on an executive CV aren't a conventional happening, like winning a scholarship at university (usually too long ago and not relevant in this section), obtaining a qualification or simply being good at something.
- On a CV of an executive they serve a different purpose. Put simply an achievement is an example of where you have deployed a relevant and transferable skill to add measurable value.
- Adding value as an executive is all about deliverables and outcomes. These must be tangible and quantifiable and not anecdotal or subjective.
- For example on an executive CV you need to show how you've made money, saved money, improved efficiency or productivity, cut costs and made a real difference.
- It is no use listing just your skills, instead of proper achievements - this just won't cut it when you're applying for executive positions, as the competition is too fierce.
- You need to think hard about the skills that you are trying to sell. Make a list of skills, prioritise them in order of competency and then repeat the list for the skills required for the job(s) you will apply for.
- This will tell you what to champion on your executive CV and in particular what the achievements should focus on.
- Less is more when it comes to achievements, do not be tempted to brain dump every event that you feel is worthy of a mention. Too many and you will dilute the message and lessen the effectiveness.
- Four to six well composed achievements will delight the reader and should be understood and absorbed very quickly along with the Profile statement.
- When you want to win over an employer (or recruiter), no matter how well they do or do not understand the job you have applied for, then a quality achievement section on an executive CV will say it all!
Writing Your Career History for an Executive CV
- Having gained the attention of the reader and demonstrated your relevancy (sold yourself!) through the Profile and Achievements sections, the Career History then describes your jobs starting with the most recent first.
- For each job on your executive CV, you need to include your job title, name of employer and dates / months worked - try to get all this on one line and remember this sequence, it is important!
- If the reader will be familiar (to some extent) with your job title or the name of your employer then these headings will be sufficient. If not then consider a short précis to describe the nature of your employer's business and where you fit into it.
- Given the reader may be familiar with what you do all day, there will be little point in writing out generic duties and responsibilities on your executive CV that do not make the content personal to you.
- You must sell your skill deployment in this section otherwise you'll end up describing a job you happened to be doing rather than your ability to add value, which is very important when you're an executive.
- Ensure the content is skill-centred and value added in outcome, this makes it personal to you.
- There is little point in going into great detail about jobs from more than 10 years ago - they are unlikely to influence the reader to invite you to an interview today and you are simply giving them more irrelevant information to read.
- As CV writers ourselves, we would normally recommend that you give most space to your recent jobs and then include a lot less content for older jobs.
- Trading on former glory by taking half a page on your executive CV to describe something you did 10 years ago will not be of interest to the reader.
Executive CV Writing: Qualification / Education Section
- Keep this section of your executive CV brief and relevant - do not be tempted to include 'O' Level results from 25 years ago!
- If you have a degree then identify it first, then say where you took it and insert the dates on the right - not the other way round, it isn't the date that is important.
- Consider putting BA (Hons) or whatever letters you are entitled to use after your name at the top of page one as well - it is not bragging and does serve to tell the reader your academic level before they read the CV.
- Do not state everything that you've ever done here - it will take up a disproportionate amount of space versus the value it represents. Remember that it will not be that interesting to the reader, unless it's a recent relevant qualification!
How to Write the Training Section on an Executive CV
- You may feel it appropriate to include a brief summary of any relevant training that you've done on your executive CV.
- Again, don't spend half a page describing every bit of training from year dot - you will only be making the content irksome to read.
Hobbies and Interests on an Executive CV
- Only include really relevant hobbies and interests, no one is interested in learning that you like socialising or reading books or going to the cinema, it's not unique and won't influence an interview invitation.
- They really do not have a place or serve any useful purpose on an executive CV.
Additional Information Section
- This is usually the last section on your CV and it will be short - you can include useful information that is relevant to your application that doesn't fit elsewhere.
- Things like: Driving Licence - if clean say so, Language skills, IT / software competencies etc. But, keep it relevant! Don't include something just for the sake of it.
Final Thoughts on Executive CV Writing
- Anyone in a senior position is expected to have a capacity to hit the ground running and make a difference - so make sure your executive CV shouts about this!
- You must also ensure that your CV has a 'senior' tone about it so watch your language and keep it cup-is-half-full in style.
Need to Improve Your Executive CV?
- If you need help improving your executive CV, then our CV Service can provide you with a first-rate CV that will wow employers and executive recruiters and ensure you get the executive job interview you'd like.