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Laura Smith-Proulx photoSending out an executive or professional resume that you've invested significant time (or money) into, but still failing to get employers' attention?

If your value proposition is buried under long, drawn-out sentences, your brand message may be lost—and your audience confused about why they should hire you for a leadership role.

Here are some tip-offs to a too-wordy resume that fails to distinguish your skills and kills your chances with recruiters:

- Your leadership resume easily exceeds the maximum 3 pages that recruiters will read

- The results of your work appear all the way at the end of each sentence—buried and hard to find among lengthy, drawn-out explanations

- You've started many phrases or sentences with the same word, which weakens your message

- Your bullet-point sentences are longer than 2 or 3 lines, which makes them nearly impossible to scan quickly

- You've added too many adjectives and adverbs, with every achievement noted as "outstanding," "exceptional," and worst of all, "successful." (if your efforts weren't successful, why would they appear on your resume?)

If any of these apply to your resume, it's easy to trim excess words and get hiring managers to act on your qualifications. Here are 3 ways to cut to the bottom line on your leadership resume, quickly and efficiently:

1 - Skip the verbs and excess explanation for increased impact.

As a branded marketing document, your leadership resume can make use of sentence fragments that are concise and to the point. However, using too many words in these sentences—instead of focusing on results—can obscure the message in your resume, as evidenced by this example:

Original: "Led large-scale operations restructuring and expansion of call centers and company facilities, resulting in a 63% profit increase in just three years and the region's lowest personnel costs."

New: "63% profit increase in 3 years plus lowest per-employee expenses with enterprise-level operations restructuring and expansion."

Here, the original sentence was condensed 37%--but it still conveys the same meaning. Now, imagine what cutting more than a third of the clutter could do for the clarity of YOUR executive resume!

To use this technique, make list of front-loaded results sentences like these, give this section a name (such as Selected Leadership Results), and then pop it on front page for maximum exposure.

2 - Take out your long and winding summary paragraph.

There's no need to bore your reader with a lookalike resume summary or profile that states the obvious, such as:

"Accomplished professional with proven operations leadership, technology utilization, and marketing experience in the manufacturing industry. Skilled in leading projects in fast-paced settings, with excellent team-building and cross-functional communications skills."

The problem with a paragraph like this isn't the writing itself; it's the fact that this description could apply to almost anyone!

What I recommend instead is a tight description that includes a description of your executive achievements—cutting down the volume of words while delivering a tightly branded message, as in these examples taken from leadership resumes:

"VP Technology attaining 99% over-goal performance by exceeding SLA requirements through strategic planning, cost containment, and contract negotiations."

"Asset management executive and former CFO skilled in negotiating transactions with Fortune 100-1000 companies and improving profit potential through targeted risk assessment."

3 - Learn to write a branding headline for yourself.

A trade secret among professional and executive resume writers, the headline is actually a tagline that allows you condense more data into a tight space. The best part? Your resume can use more than one headline to convey your strongest points.

Here are some examples of headlines that encapsulate value and position the applicant for a particular role:

"Senior pharmaceutical executive behind accelerated, multibillion-dollar product launches"

"Global growth for new-media marketing company achieving worldwide recognition"

"Investment expertise that promotes financial health through investment & capital planning"

A branding headline can quickly give employers the "big picture" of your achievements, without taking up precious space on your executive resume.

To create this statement, combine the position you seek with a major achievement from your career, showing the results of your work or the approach that you use. In fact, you can lift a success story directly from the body of your leadership resume and summarize it in this manner—allowing you to remove extraneous detail from elsewhere in your document.

As you continue to adjust your executive resume and tighten the language, be sure to show it to colleagues and others familiar with your work.

You might find that, even with excess words removed, that your resume still conveys your brand message—and faster to boot.

Executive resume writer Laura Smith-Proulx, CCMC, CPRW, CIC, TCCS is an award-winning Executive Resume Writer and former recruiter who has achieved a 98% success rate opening doors to prestigious jobs through personal branding techniques. The Executive Director of An Expert Resume, she partners exclusively with CIO, CTO, COO, CEO, CMO, CNO, SVP, VP, and Director-level candidates.



Published - November 2010

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