How to Write an Executive CV

By Ian Viner

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Here's a detailed look at how to write an Executive CV, hope these ideas help. Note: Before you start typing out your new CV go into the Page Layout settings and make sure that you have selected “Single Line Spacing.”  Furthermore go into your Custom Margins and set the margins to 1.8 all round.


Executive CV: Personal Details

You don’t actually need the words “Personal Details” but at the top of the CV all we need to see is your name, mobile telephone number and an email address.  The name should be in size 18 font whereas the rest of the text should be in size 11.  Make it easy for the reader to find out how to contact you and choose a nice easy to read font style such as Calibri.


Executive CV: Profile

Lots of people give this section different names such as Personal Profile or Professional Profile but our choice would be Executive Summary, and we prefer to see this section written as 5 bullet points.  Choose round black dots as your bullet points and don’t go for anything too fancy, but make sure that the bullets are dragged across to the left hand side with each bullet directly underneath the E in Executive Summary.

The first of these bullet points should really spell out to the reader exactly what it is that you do.  For example you may be “A highly strategic and results driven Sales Director” which has a far better impact than if you say that you are hard working, reliable and trustworthy.  This first bullet point should be no more than 3 lines long and should also highlight your main strengths, so in the case of our Sales Director we may go onto say that they are strong at developing new and existing business with major corporate clients, building strong working relationships with key customers, and negotiating contracts at senior level.  However, this will be different for every candidate.

The other 4 bullet points should all contain a summary of your key skills and in what context you use them, and should be no more than 2-3 lines long to gain maximum impact.  For example you may want to highlight your strong leadership skills, and in particular how you use them to manage your team.  In this case you may want to include your recruiting, training and motivating skills while at the same time you could also mention your coaching, mentoring and team building abilities.  Furthermore, you might want to bring in your management style, your experience of conducting appraisals, and in particular your ability to set new targets and objectives.

Another important set of skills to get across are your Stakeholder Management skills, otherwise known as Relationship Building.  There may be a number of different groups of people who we build and maintain strong relationships with at work – for example, we might do this by influencing and persuading a whole variety of internal colleagues at all levels, while at the same time we might use our presentation and reporting skills with Board Level Directors.   Sourcing and negotiating with suppliers is another key area to consider, and we may well use our selling and communication skills with our customers.

The other skills to include in the Executive Summary will clearly depend on your background.  A Graphic Designer would obviously want to include their creative and innovative skills whereas an Accountant would want to mention their analytical and evaluation skills.    Similarly an HR Manager would be looking to include their ability to implement new policies and procedures, while a Project Manager might want to get across their planning and problem solving skills.


Executive CV: Key Achievements or Career Highlights

From researching numerous HR Directors and Recruiters we believe strongly that a CV should include a Key Achievements or Career Highlights section to get across a small selection of achievements as early as possible in the CV to capture the reader’s attention and get you noticed.  Our choice would be to use 4 bullet points here but they are of course interchangeable according to where the CV is going.  Ideally the achievement should include a measurable figure where you improved the performance of the company over a period of time, and should be no more than 3 lines long.

Each achievement should start with an “Action” word such as Delivered, Generated or Increased so that the reader can see that you made a difference.  You then need to get a figure in nice and early into the bullet point to show the amount of difference you made.  For example, our Sales Director might want to include a line which starts “ Delivered an increase in sales from £10m to £25m.”  The second part of the bullet point needs to quantify the achievement by showing the reader how it was done by a series of actions.

Achievements are not always sales related and in many cases they can highlight a number of cost reductions.  In this instance we might use such Action Words as Reduced, Saved or Lowered.  However, it’s possible that the bullet point cannot include a figure at all in which case there will still be an outcome to the situation and this would still be written at the beginning of the sentence.  Never use a full stop in the middle of a bullet point, and make sure it flows nicely to ensure the best possible impact.


Executive CV: Career History

It’s important to make sure that you record your Career History in reverse chronological order.  Keep it simple by having the job title on the far left – name of your employer in the middle and dates on the far right – years not months – and all on one line – in bold - and underlined.  Don’t bother including the name of the City where the company were based, and definitely not the address.  Under this line and in Italics we like to see a short summary as to what the company do, what line of business they specialise in and what their turnover is.

From this point you can go straight into your Bullet points about the job starting with an overview as to your key areas of responsibility, how many staff reported to you and who you reported to.  Again no more than 2-3 lines here.  Don’t ever use the word “I” – always talk in the third person and in the past tense.

The amount of bullet points you include in each role very much depends how long you were there and how much responsibility you had.    However, you have to aim for as many achievements here as possible, and the more measurable ones the better.  A CV with lots of figures in it will have far more of an impact than one without, so it’s important to research the company properly before you leave as it will be harder to find out the facts afterwards.

Thinking about the Sales Director client we have mentioned so far here are a selection of examples of measurable achievements that we would expect to see on your CV.

Of course, it is not compulsory to include all of your previous jobs, and we would advise you not to include anything before 1995 as that takes you back 20 years.  In fact most companies will concentrate on what you have done in the last 10 years and you should have more bullet points for your recent roles, and then less as you go further back although we prefer to see a minimum of 2 bullet points per job.

If you feel that including previous roles is an absolute must then we recommend creating an “Earlier Career” section with just the Job Title and Name of Employer mentioned, but no dates.


Executive CV: Qualifications and Training

After the Career History we recommend having a heading entitled Qualifications and Training so that you don’t end up having too many sections.  Again bullet point each of your entries to make them stand out, and start with your most senior qualification – possibly an MBA at the top end of the spectrum – membership of a Professional Body – a BA (Hons) Degree in Finance – or perhaps a BTEC in Business Studies.  If you have some of these qualifications then we would be inclined not to bother with A levels or GCSEs.  However, if you are still a student or haven’t been to University then you will need to include the number of A levels and GCSEs on the CV, although I would be reluctant to have the subjects or grades mentioned. There is no ideal amount of entries here although 6 should do the job nicely.


Executive CV: Interests

Interests are not compulsory on a CV although there is the school of thought that if you have a common interest with the interviewer then it helps to establish a rapport, and it might even help you get the job.  Clearly if you have held positions of responsibility in your extra-curricular activities this is perhaps more likely to impress the reader than if you are merely a member of a Gym, or go swimming once a week.  People who have cycled from London to Brighton to raise £10,000 for a Cancer Charity would be well advised to include this in the Interests section of a CV.


Executive CV: References

Under no circumstances should References ever be volunteered on a CV.  They should only ever be requested after they have offered you the job.  Even then you may prefer to provide the name of your previous Line Manager who doesn’t still work for your former Employer.  Statements such as “References Available on Request” should never be included on a CV.

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