3 Ways to Capture Leadership Value in Your Executive Resume

by Smith-Proulx, Laura Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Executive resume writer Laura Smith-Proulx partners with C-suite, EVP, SVP, and Director-level job hunters to land choice jobs through powerful personal branding and job search techniques. A multiple award-winning, credentialed writer and the Executive Director of An Expert Resume, her work has been honored in the international careers industry and published in 10 career bestsellers. Her advice...
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So you’ve written and re-written your executive resume, but it still doesn’t feel right to you? Maybe you’ve added metrics and detailed your career promotions, all to no avail. If so, it might be time to up your game—especially if you want to generate interviews.

To create a powerful and effective leadership resume, you can find relief from using a concept called the S-T-A-R (Situation-Task-Action-Result) strategy.

This method (aptly named for a reason) helps you to capture and sharpen the information you’ll need for a masterpiece resume, starting with the description of leadership tasks and situational challenges, and ending with the results of your work.

Specifically, it is designed to avoid the common blunder of skipping ahead to present revenue or cost-saving metrics without describing how these successes came about. To really gain attention from employers, an executive resume must use a storytelling approach instead.

Note that are several variations of S-T-A-R, such as S.M.A.R.T. (Situation with Metrics, Actions, Results, and Tie-In) or C-A-R (Challenge, Action, and Result). The theory behind each method is the same, where the context of your work becomes the real "meat" of your leadership brand.

Does your leadership resume need the S-T-A-R overhaul? It does if you’ve written it to simply serve up your end results, as in these examples:

-Exceeded 2008 quotas 140%.

-Built 2 new offshore data centers.

-Staffed Dublin office with 300 team members.

Now, consider that your resume could elaborate further on each situation instead, as in these examples:

-Exceeded 2008 quota 140%, despite market entry from 5 new competitors and downward pressure on pricing that impacted revenue.

-Responded to increasing storage and monitoring costs, slashing expenses 30% with design and buildout of 2 offshore data centers.

-Dampened staffing costs for 300-employee Dublin center while bringing in new talent pool, reducing time-to-hire by cultivating relationships and volume contracts with European-based recruiters.

To extract the valuable information needed for a well-rounded executive resume story, you’ll need to start by making a list of all the career accomplishments you’d like to use as examples of your success.

These can be strategic initiatives that you’ve led, projects that you’ve championed, or company-wide changes that you have implemented.

To be on the safe side, ask trusted colleagues to help if you can’t recall sufficient high points or projects from years past. Then, capture your value for each story in these 3 steps, using the S-T-A-R formula:

1 – First, describe the situations you stepped into in each of your leadership roles.

What was happening at the company? Were revenues flat, and you were asked to improve them?

Did you inherit a disillusioned team? Was the company experiencing growth so rapid that internal procedures didn’t keep up?

If there were specific challenges that include operations in need of a turnaround, or executive teams that required significant political maneuvering, these situations can make for a great leadership resume story.

2 – Next, write a description of the actions you took (such as restructuring a team, adding new cost controls, reworking sales methods, etc.).

Here is where you’ll want to be descriptive, but as concise as possible. Most executive resumes should be no longer than 2 or 3 pages, but still give considerable detail on how you achieved the end results.

In other words, you’ll be describing your leadership style for employers to take note.

3 – Now, list the ultimate outcome for each project, and don’t forget to include metrics.

Revenue, profit, productivity, and costs all play an important role in your executive resume. Many resumes make the mistake of endlessly describing mundane duties and the scope of a candidate’s authority, while ignoring the fact that employers focus on results.

Your executive presentation needs to demonstrate the manner in which you tackled challenges, as well as the reasoning behind your actions and the benefit to the company.

Now, you’re ready to apply this strategy to each part of your background. Tighten your language to make each story fit into 2 or 3 lines, and your S-T-A-R story is done!

Repeat as often as needed for each highlighted success story on your resume—and you’ll soon be the recipient of more requests for interviews at the leadership level.