by Roger Samuel, Executive Vice President and Practice Leader, MSA Search
As an executive recruiter, I often see résumés that feature an executive summary and maybe a "career objective" on the first page. A little secret into what recruiters look for first when receiving dozens of resumes a day: experience and accomplishments. We will pretty much ignore these editorial comments you are writing about yourself on our way to ascertaining: what are you doing now? How long have you been in your current role? And, what have you accomplished in this role as well as previous roles? If that information peaks our interest, we'll keep reading.
The best résumés, in my opinion, tell a story of your career progression. What I'm looking for after that initial scan is how long a candidate has been in various roles, and just as important, with various organizations. I highly recommend that if you've been promoted within a particular organization, list the total years you were with them before articulating various roles within. I love to see internal promotions; it tells me that you were (or are) good enough at what you do.
I also recommend you add a sentence or two describing the various organizations you've worked for. How many beds, net revenue, a brief description of the significant moving parts of the organization (for example, one acute care hospital, seven ambulatory sites, and a 47-provider multi-specialty practice). Again, this will end any guessing on our part as to whether or not you've done work at the scope necessary to succeed in the position we're recruiting for.
One of the absolute keys to getting your résumé into the "yes" pile is to focus on your accomplishments. Even at the most senior-level positions, I still see résumés that are a laundry list of items taken from a job description. Believe me, we know the key responsibilities of a CFO or CNO. What we're interested in is: what have you done to add value to the organization? And the more specific and measurable you can be, the better.
Finally, I like to see a strong, well-written cover letter accompanying the résumé submission. In fact, I often counsel candidates to take the career objective paragraph out of their résumé, and instead, make a strong case in a cover letter as to why a particular position is attractive, and why they feel they're uniquely qualified for the role. This letter accomplishes quite a few things:
- Articulates for a recruiter why this position and why now
- Helps a recruiter prepare for the initial call with you by covering why this position and why now
- Gives the recruiter a brief example of your ability to write well and make your case
- Shows a recruiter you're doing more than just fishing your résumé—you're taking the time to personalize a cover letter specific to a particular position
My final advice is to ignore the old adage that your résumé must be a certain length. Face it, the longer your career, the longer your resume should be. Tell your story!