professional writing tips for executive CVsEveryone knows that the higher you get up the corporate food chain, the more competitive it gets. In these more rarefied atmospheres, your peers / competitor candidates are of course much more capable. The real issue, however, is that there are far fewer available positions in senior management than at any other level, not surprising given the triangular structure of most organisation people charts.

This means there are numerous top dogs fighting over very few bones. And while many of those senior people understand full well how tough it can be to fight off the competition, if you’ve only just arrived at this level, you’ve probably been very good at your job, and on the way up you’ve had doors swinging open without much effort. For many this suddenly stops at Director level. Don’t take it personally! Fight back by making sure you have a professional CV – use City CV for if you want to stand out from the crowd with a CV of exceptional quality.

Writing a good executive CV for such a tough market requires very high levels of preparation, structural precision and skills-based quality of presentation. Here are 5 key strategies:

  1. Use keywords

    Finding the most relevant words and phrases that represent your position and industry is essential for getting past first stage Applicant Tracking Systems. Make sure the job titles, section titles, profile and professional experience are full of relevant keywords. Research jobsites and job descriptions if you need to, and make sure to include a ‘key skills’ section so that you can get a good cluster of 10-15 towards the top of the CV. You need to make sure your CV gets past the software and actually appears on a shortlist in front of a human.

  2. Write a great summary

    Start with a title. This needs to be keyword relevant, of course. Match the target position exactly if you can. If you’ve never been employed in a position that’s even vaguely similar, use ‘seeking:’ or ‘candidate for’. If you’ve done a similar role, but not had that exact position (you were Finance Manager, say, and you’re applying for a ‘Head of Finance’) then just put the target role; you are not obligated to describe yourself using exact job titles from past employers. Then summarise in 3 or 4 bullets your most relevant experience and strengths for the role.

  3. Think about skills

    Most jobs have a very clear required set of strengths, usually contained in ‘candidate essentials or desirables’ lists on job descriptions. Do you have those skills? Hopefully you do. In which case, make sure your CV reflects them. You can even structure your CV so that it exactly reflects a target job spec, illustrating each required skill in a list of bullets, using your achievements as examples.

  4. Illustrate your skills in achievements

    Think about the things you’ve done at work that you’re most proud of, hopefully ones which also made your employer’s environment a better place because of it. Focus less on your personal development, and more on how your presence improved the employer’s bottom line. CVs aren’t an exact historical record; they’re a brochure, an opportunity to show how good an employee you are, specifically for the job you’re applying for. Use active verbs in the simple past tense, describe clients won, or projects completed, or profit increased, and measure outcomes with numbers if possible.

  5. Keep it short and sweet

    Brevity and clarity are essential. Stay on two pages. An easy way to make this possible is to keep the CV focused on the last 5-10 years and summarise anything earlier. Write a first draft, then polish and trim, then do it again. Think lean, simple prose with as little descriptive or boastful language as possible; a good way to do this is to restrict usage of adjectives and adverbs.

If you are an executive or a senior professional it is vital that your job search arsenal is as good as it possible can be. City CV are well-versed in the nuances of executive-level roles and can help you with a keyword-rich, focused and precise CV, LinkedIn profile, cover letter as well as helping you brush up on interview skills. Call +44 20 7100 6656 today or send an email to enquiries@citycv.com.

Photo credit: ‘Pakora’