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Walking into Barnes and Noble or browsing Amazon, you’ll find any number of books offering advice on résumé writing. While the opinions in these books sometimes vary, most of them advise the same thing: keep it short, sweet, and full of buzzwords that a computer will pick up on. The simple fact, however, is that this advice is geared toward the masses. A quality executive-level résumé looks very different.

“Forget about the applicant tracking system. Forget about the buzzwords,” said Jeff Ketchum, President of the executive search firm, Automotive Recruiters International, Inc. “Be genuine. Be authentic. Be who you are.” While his advice seems counterintuitive to some of the books, the goal at the executive level is to get an interview rather than stand out to a computer.

According to Ketchum, the craft of résumé writing is really very simplistic, though despite its importance, many people mess it up. Even people who spend upwards of $1,000 to have their résumés professionally written often end up with something lackluster. “Out of hundreds,” Ketchum said, “there’s usually only one or two in which someone used their brain and made themselves noticed.”

The following are some tips to help you write the strongest executive-level résumé possible:

  • Think of your résumé as your executive marketing brochure. If you are an executive earning six figures a year, you don’t want to relegate your salary by using a boring, standardized résumé. Your résumé should advertise to a company how you can improve a company’s bottom line, how you can save them money, and how you can develop their culture.
  • Go into detail. “One of the things I’m amazed at is, despite the size and intelligence of a company, how much credibility and credence that these senior level executives put behind a résumé,” Ketchum said. “You can have a candidate with a three page résumé, who on a scale of one to ten is a five, and you can have another candidate who is a ten out of ten that has a one page résumé, and they’ll take the first one every time.”
  • Don’t assume that anyone has heard of the companies for which you’ve worked. Write a paragraph about each company for which you’ve worked. Include the company’s background, history, etc. Someone reading your résumé will usually not have a clue about who these companies are.
  • Write your “story” in the first person. Write exactly what you do, what you are responsible for, and what is special about your position. Write in in your own voice, and don’t be afraid to go into detail. Most people just summarize.

Other things to include:

  • Contact Information at the top.
  • If you feel compelled to include an “objective,” make it short, to the point, and make it your own. Avoid the typical clichés.
  • Your education in reverse chronological order.
  • Any specific industry certifications. One or two real certifications. We’re not talking about Word Processing 101
  • For each position include: a paragraph about the company, a paragraph about your position with your title and dates, and 1-3 bullet points of specific results that you are proud to have accomplished.
  • If you’ve had many positions at the same company, write about each position separately.
  • A few personal interests and community involvement at the bottom.

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