By Roger Samuel, Executive Vice President & Practice Leader, MSA Executive Search
As an executive recruiter, I often seen resumes whose first pages are consumed with some type of executive summary and maybe a “Career Objective.” A little secret into what those of us who review dozens of resumes a day look for first—experience and accomplishments. We will pretty much ignore these editorial comments you’re 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 and past roles? If that information peaks our interest, we’ll keep reading.
The best resumes, 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 one or more times with a particular organization, you list the total years with that organization 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 to warrant a promotion.
I also recommend that you add a sentence or two describing the various organizations you’ve worked for. How many beds, net revenue, and a brief descriptor of the significant moving parts of the organization (one acute care hospital, seven ambulatory sites, and a 47-provider multi-specialty practice, for example). 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 resume into the “yes pile” is to focus on your accomplishments. Even at the most senior positions, I still see resumes that are a laundry list of items taken from a job description. Believe me, we know the key responsibilities of a CFO…or a 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 submission of a resume. In fact, I often counsel candidates to take the career objective paragraph out of your resume, and instead, make a strong case in a cover letter why this particular position is attractive to you, and why you feel you’re uniquely qualified for the role. This letter accomplishes quite a few things. First, it articulates for me why this, why now for you. Second, it helps me prepare for our initial call by covering the why this why now question. Third, it gives me a brief example of your ability to write well and make your case. And finally, it shows me you’re doing more than just fishing your resume…that you’ve taken the time to personalize a cover letter specific to a particular position.
My final piece of advice is to ignore the old adage that your resume must be a certain length. Face it, the longer your career, the longer your resume should be. Tell your story!