One problem executives run into when crafting their resumes is that, with such storied careers, it can be difficult to keep concise. But a long resume can work against you. Recruiters and hiring managers have only so much time to review stacks of resumes, so you want to deliver a clear, succinct message about what you have to offer. That means establishing a cohesive theme that tells your career story — leading inevitability toward your next gig.
Key to this resume strategy is targeting your resume to the main audience of decision makers who will be hiring for that role, and outlining the business benefit you will provide them when hired.
With more than 25 years of experience in enterprise technology management, Mihai Strusievici, most recently vice president of global IT at Colliers International, was finding it difficult to pinpoint what to highlight in his resume. We paired Strusievici up with Stephen Van Vreede, president, executive resume writer, and coach for ITtechExec.com, to help him strengthen his resume to convey his career path to CIO.
Here’s how Strusievici and Van Vreede worked together to establish a cohesive, streamlined resume designed to draw recruiters’ eyes.
Condense your experience
Reviewing Strusievici’s resume, Van Vreede found a solid foundation with “too much left unsaid in many of the bullet point achievements.” The two met for an in-depth video interview, during which Van Vreede uncovered more details about Strusievici’s career history and gained “deeper insights into the value he offers as a senior technology and business executive.”
From there, Van Vreede and Strusievici worked together to build a stronger resume that highlighted all his achievements and accomplishments in his career.
At four pages, however, Van Vreede knew Strusievici’s original resume was too long and would need to be shortened or else risk being overlooked in the early application stages. “Although the roles Mihai is pursuing are executive in level and strategic in nature, those reviewing resumes, at least the first time through the candidate list, are doing so very quickly — often in 30 seconds or less,” says Van Vreede.
> Download: Mihai Strusievici Original Resume
There’s no hard and fast rule for how short or long a resume should be, but the general advice is to keep the document to two pages or less.
To cut the resume down, Van Vreede combined “work history prior to 2005 into an abbreviated Additional Experience section without listing dates.” He then trimmed down any less relevant content — such as his experience with the Legal Services Society and Catalyst Paper and turned the focus to more pertinent roles. Van Vreede outlined Strusievici’s experience as senior director and vice president of IT since those roles are more relevant to his pursuit for executive-level positions. He still included work history prior to these roles but kept only the most pertinent accomplishments and accolades to keep things short.
Build a unifying theme
It’s important for your resume to have a cohesive theme throughout in telling your career story. Everything should point to why you’re qualified for an executive position and how your career has led you to the executive level. If you don’t create a theme, readers have to “digest enough information and then connect the dots to shape their perception” of you, according to Van Vreede. It’s to your advantage instead to control that narrative on your resume to ensure it reflects your professional brand and gets the right messaging across to recruiters and hiring managers.
Strusievici agreed that his resume “was lacking a theme,” and felt that it was “just a collection of statements that did not provide a clear picture of [his] achievements.”
It can be difficult to step back and objectively assess your career to establish a theme for your resume. Having an unbiased party, such as a resume writer, look at your career and help you uncover your achievements and successes can be helpful for building a strong resume.
“Striking the right chord with messaging is usually the most difficult item to achieve,” says Van Vreede.
To do this, Van Vreede helped establish a core theme for Stusievici’s resume, also known as a brand message or value statement. He based the core theme off Stusievici’s desired next role, the main audience of decision makers who are hiring for that role, and the “business benefit the company will realizing by hiring this candidate in the role.”
“In Mihai’s case, the business benefits were achieving operational excellence and gaining a competitive market advantage through innovation of digital solutions and business models using technology,” says Van Vreede.
They worked on “improving the achievement statements” as an exercise to help develop the brand message. Together, they “created content that highlighted accomplishments focused on digital innovation, business model transformation, and other activities that improved operational excellence and helped the company be more competitive in the market,” says Van Vreede.
Highlight your achievements
It’s always difficult to be objective about your own career history, as everyone has blind spots to their own achievements and successes. Van Vreede quickly discovered that Strusievici’s original resume had several hidden achievements that didn’t stand out because of how or where they were written.
Van Vreede discovered that Strusievici had noted progress he’d made to “establish a global technology innovation function,” but the way it was written made it sound as if he hadn’t made any headway on the initiative. During the interview, Van Vreede discovered that Strusievici had already made significant progress and had “delivered some great outcomes for the business, including three innovative solutions that he took from concept into production.”
At the top of the resume, Van Vreede included an executive summary to help establish the theme and to highlight some of Strusievici’s leadership qualities. He included a header that identifies Strusievici as a “senior technology and business executive,” and below that included a blurb, “driving digital transformation and technology innovations to achieve operation excellence and build competitive advantage.” This helps establish Strusievici’s experience and what type of leadership style he subscribes to.
> Download: Mihai Strusievici Final Resume
Your executive summary is a great spot on your resume to list relevant skills that you have developed through your career. For Strusievici, this meant featuring skills such as strategic planning, digital transformation, agile, data and analytics, and change management, among others.
Improving the aesthetics of your resume can potentially extend the amount of time someone spends looking at it. This can help you “gain some control over where the eye of the reader is directed,” says Van Vreede.
Although Van Vreede didn’t make dramatic changes to Strusievici’s resume, he did include formatting to help draw the reader’s eye across the document, bolding Strusievici’s key achievements for each role, adding extra details in a non-bolded font, and using color to highlight his titles. This helps highlight the most important information that recruiters and hiring managers should see.
The final result
Strusievici found the process “extremely pleasant, easy” and that it “delivered a lot of value.” He was “surprised by Stephen’s ability to capture the essence of what I wanted to say based only on a one-hour conversation.”
Van Vreede was able to take the resume from four pages down to just two, while building a cohesive message and theme throughout the document. He helped Strusievici uncover impressive career achievements and highlight his most impressive accomplishments throughout the final resume. In the end, Strusievici’s resume sends a clear message about his experience, leadership qualities, and what makes him qualified for executive IT positions.
“The focus of the resume changed from more tactical to more strategic. It also changed from having achievements that were more passive to more active combined with a link to how those actions favorably impacted the business,” says Van Vreede.