Turning an Incredible Executive Career Into the Independent Career You Want: Optimizing Your Resume, CV, and Bio

Optimizing Your Resume, CV, and Bio

In our ongoing blog series, we explore ways to grow your executive career and secure the opportunities you want. In our last blog, Selling Yourself Clearly and Consistently, we shared tips for selling yourself clearly and consistently. In this post, we discuss the best ways to promote your unique skills sets on your resume, CV, and bio.

What’s happening: Independent opportunities are on the rise.

It’s a great market right now for independent C-suite executives. Nearly every company is striving to make big strategic moves—like revamp sales, define their succession planning, do rollups, or even sell their business.

That’s excellent news for independent executive candidates like you. However, with multiple independent executives to choose from, companies need to know why you’re the best fit.

What’s required: Clear differentiation, but also concise communication.

To stand out in an increasingly competitive environment, you need to become an expert at promoting yourself. That means defining your market segments and specializations. It also means learning to clearly present what business challenges you can solve, what markets you serve, what you can do, and how you’ve done it for others. The first place this information will be seen is typically your resume.

Resume vs. CV: Which is best?

There’s a difference between a resume for a full-time executive role and one for an independent executive. In addition, for independent executives, resumes play a vastly different role than a CV.

Simply put, your resume should highlight only the most important information in a concise format; while your CV will likely be more exhaustive and include every single job, project, and role, in addition to your educational history, certifications and skillsets. The CV is often used as a source for various components of your resume depending on who you are sending it to and the opportunity at hand.

Another difference is how these tools are used. Your CV is useful for Cerius to help match you to independent opportunities as they arise. Your resume, on the other hand, will be used by prospective companies to see your value proposition and determine if you’re the right fit.

How to Create a Stand-Out Independent Executive Resume

Different resume formats do different things. Choosing the right format all depends on what you want to accomplish.

Remember: As an independent executive, your resume needs to “sell” what skills you bring and what business challenges you can solve. Listing your work on multiple projects for 20 clients can be overwhelming (and difficult to fit on two pages). Instead of listing your entire career progression, you should narrow it down to your core expertise, and demonstrate your success through client testimonials, case studies, metrics, and business impact.

Option 1: Bio or Board format

Include your bio on the first page (with your background summary), use the second page to establish trust and credibility through testimonials, and use the third page to establish relevance through case studies and business results. This format provides just enough information to communicate your expertise while opening the door for a conversation.

Option #2: Presentation Style

Think of this resume like a pitch deck—similar to what you would use to fundraise. Create a 3-4 slide deck (in PDF format) to graphically show some of the business results you’ve achieved for companies you’ve worked with. This is a great choice when starting a conversation with CEOs (who love graphics).

Three Resume Formats

  1. Standard (Chronological) – This resume format presents your jobs, what you’ve done and a chronological history of your career work.
  2. Exec Profile Plus Chronological – This is a good choice if you have several decades of work experience to summarize. It’s a combination between an executive profile (which summarizes some key highlights) and plus some chronological experience.
  3. Functional – This is often the best choice for independent executives. Most of your job descriptions use similar language, and this resume format helps you reduce some of that repetition (which helps you condense to 2-3 pages). Remember to put the most important information (like career highlights, market niche, specialized skills and credentials) at the top.

Whichever style and format you use, remember to keep it focused on the content that matters—your unique value proposition, market specialties, and track record of success. The rest can be discussed during an interview.

Top 10 Tips and Tricks for Writing an Independent Executive Resume

  1. Keep it to 2-3 pages.
  2. Think about readability. Resumes are often scanned (so use bullets, no more than 5-6 lines per paragraph, font size no smaller than 10 points).
  3. Place important content near the top—like credentials, core skills and relevant accomplishments.
  4. Tweak it for the position you want. Include words and phrases used in the job post (enabling marketing automation to find you during scans).
  5. Focus on accomplishments. Highlight your actions and results, using metrics when possible (e.g., savings, increased revenue).
  6. Don’t get too fancy with design.
  7. Check for consistency. Make sure information doesn’t conflict with your LinkedIn profile and other sites.
  8. Update your resume frequently—while the work and results are fresh.
  9. Keep to the last 15 years, unless you create a functional resume (which shows your experience without the timeframes).
  10. Get constructive feedback!

Want to keep growing your executive career? Stay tuned to this blog series for additional guidance to help you find and land the roles you want. Coming soon:

  • November: Leveraging LinkedIn
  • January: Keys to Successful Interviewing

Learn how we can help your career grow.