Resumes and Cover Letters

What Stays and What Goes in an Executive Resume

Executive businesswoman thinking at her desk looking at her laptop

I see it all the time. Executives or aspiring executives whose resumes retain the same format that worked for them shortly after they entered the workforce decades ago.

If you are aiming for a next-level executive position or are an executive who moved up the ranks without needing a resume (until now), it’s important to understand there are fundamental differences how you must present yourself in a resume.

Here’s a section-by-section breakdown of what must stay, and what shouldn’t, in an executive resume.

Career Title

 Just like most of us would be lost reading a news story without a headline, a resume without a career title runs the risk of getting overlooked.

For executives, it is essential that their resume lead off with a brief, to-the-point headline that tells the reader the roles for which they are an ideal fit.

I recommend tailoring the headline to target specific roles and audiences (i.e. you can position yourself as an industry specialist by stating you are a “Manufacturing Finance Executive,” or remove the first word and appear industry agnostic by just leading off “Finance Executive.”)

Also read: Executive Challenge: I’m Good at What I Do – but Struggle to Say It on Paper


An executive summary must show you are a perfect fit for a role, to create a strategy and lead its execution.

Avoid the temptation to use grand adjectives or starting off with phrasing like “over 25 years of experience…” Instead, emphasize language that shows you understand your bottom line impact to the organization as a leader.

Size matters when it comes to executive leadership, and hiring managers want to know that you can handle a company, division or business line that is similar in size to theirs. To this end, I recommend you include size of teams/organizations and budgets managed to show scope.


When it comes to positioning your experience on an executive resume, similar to the summary section it’s important to indicate how you impacted the bottom line and/or furthered a corporate vision or mandate.

This can be accomplished by asking yourself about the challenge presented to you in the role. Articulate the strategy that you created and executed, and the outcome.

Because numbers usually speak louder than words, try your best to quantify each of these results. If you can depict them graphically with a graph or chart, all the better!

I recommend executives steer clear of the (inaccurate) misnomer that the more bullets listed the better. When it comes to writing your executive resume, think “highlight reel” versus “full documentary.”

Also read: How Older Executives Can Position Themselves as the “Dark Horse” Candidate…and Win


When you are right out of school or have just a few years of work experience under your belt, it is accepted (and recommended!) that you include scholarships and internships, and whether you graduated cum laude.

Once you are targeting a higher rung on the corporate ladder, additional information beyond your degree and academic institution is generally no longer relevant.

Instead, focus on professional development which may mean certifications and trainings that align with your career aspirations.

In the case of IT exec roles, technology certifications suggest to the reader you have a technical background and understand enough to lead technical teams. If you hold a PMP or are an Agile Scrum Master, for instance, I recommend you include this!

Climbing the Ladder or Retaining an Executive Role Means Embracing a Refresh

A resume merely current in content but not in language or format will not do your experience justice, and in my experience often prolongs the job search. Embracing these fundamentals will help to position you optimally for that executive or next-level leadership role.

Need Help Crafting Your Executive Resume?
Try Our Resume Writing Services

About the Author

Virginia Franco, NCRW, CPRW is the founder of Virginia Franco Resumes which offers customized executive resume and LinkedIn profile writing services for the 21st century job seeker.