CV Tips for Executives

CV Tips for Executives

Have the rules of CV formatting changed in the last few years? Is there a “right way” to prepare one? Are there international standards when it comes to CVs? Continue reading to find out! [Spoiler alert: The answer is three times yes!]

The single most important thing to remember about your CV is that the goal of the CV is to land an interview, not a job. It is the first impression you will make as an executive. And it makes the difference between “invite” or “delete”.

With that in mind, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What role are you specifically looking for?
  2. Why do you qualify for that job? What are some concrete examples that support your claims?
  3. Why are you the best candidate?

Make sure that these three answers are visible at first sight when somebody opens your CV and looks at the first half of the first page.

How to structure your CV the right way

That brings us to the structure; from top to bottom:

CV header

The header includes your first and last name and only relevant contact details without any descriptive words. Avoid mentioning irrelevant information such as your date of birth, nationality, marital status, number of children, etc.

Additionally, the name you use on your CV should be consistent with the name you use on professional social media platforms (e.g. LinkedIn) or the one you use in your email address.

Profile Summary

Your Profile Summary is the section where you present yourself as the perfect fit for your potential job and prove that you are the ideal and most qualified candidate. Stay away from “corporate blah-blah” and put it through the “LinkedIn test”:

  • If somebody with a similar background could see your profile and say “Oh, I like that summary. I will use it myself!”
  • If they could then copy/paste it for their own use – that means it’s not unique and concrete enough.

The profile summary is like a trailer for a movie – select the most relevant fragments from your career to engage the reader’s interest.

Professional Experience

The Professional Experience part enlists all relevant positions – the operative word being “relevant”. Exclude unrelated, early career experience! Describe your scope of responsibilities in legible bullet points and add a separate section for selected successes that are expressed measurably – for the past 7-10 years or three most recent roles. Why? Given how little time recruiters, hiring managers and decision-makers have, part of the interview has to already happen at this stage via CV. That is one of the major changes in CV writing of the past years!

Education

Under Education, mention only your tertiary education. If relevant, you can rename that part into “Education, Certificates & Selected Training” or something along those lines.

Other CV sections

Other sections of your CV should contain only relevant information for your career goal and hence the reader’s perspective.

Once your CV is ready, proofread it. Some professionals still believe that “messy CV = messy candidate”. Some recruiters won’t even interview a candidate whose CV has spelling mistakes. To get it right, double-check everything. Make sure there are no mistakes and there is consistency in dates & names, bullet points & letters at the beginning of sentences, margins & the background, title sections & fonts, and style & formatting in general.

Other practical CV tips for Executives

  1. Enlist only the languages you can actually work in.
  2. Avoid mentioning your personality traits or describing yourself by saying “I am a creative person.” You’re an executive – allow your successes and delivered projects to speak for you.
  3. Save your CV as “Last Name First Name_CV EN”.pdf and only ever share that format, unless you are later asked to submit a .doc version.
  4. Ideal length: 2-3 pages. A rule of thumb is “1 page per 10 years of experience.” Exceptions may apply.
  5. Photo – the ever-present question: yes or no? The overall international trend is to go off-photo to decrease the chances of getting discriminated against. In Europe, only add a professional photo if it helps you convey a certain message, style or personal brand.
  6. Don’t use 2-column CVs, as they don’t work well in ATS systems. They are also difficult to read, they are not user-friendly, and – although it doesn’t seem like it – they waste space. Read our article on the topic here!
  7. If your country requires it – add a data protection clause at the end of the document.

CV for ATS – make sure you do it right

Last, but not least: we have to mention the CV for ATS. Whenever you are asked to upload your CV into a database that then matches your CV against the job ad you are applying for, we recommend that you have a dedicated CV for that channel as ATS software will most probably have difficulties scanning information included in your regular CV (in tables, columns, header, footer, hyperlinks, etc.). To read more about that, check out our blog post “Hack ATS! – a step-by-step guide on how to prepare an ATS-compliant CV”.


Feel free to request a complimentary CV ATS Report from us to check whether your document is well-adapted for ATS: