expert resume tips and cover letter suggestions

Resume Tips and Cover Letter Suggestions for Senior Executives

November 17, 2023

The first 10 seconds and most of the resumes and cover letters go to the bin.

Today, the most crucial stage for anybody applying for any role is passing that 10-second scanning period. Senior management and leadership roles are even tougher to crack because mere 2-3 pointers not optimized for the role can still lead to dumping of the resume. Then how to tell the HR/Headhunter that YOU ARE THE ONE for the role, only through your resume & cover letter? Hence Resume tips and Cover Letter Suggestions become important!

While everybody knows how to make a resume, you can stay 10 steps ahead of your competitors showing recruiters what they want to see.

1. What are headhunters looking for?

Keeping the generic components of the resume aside, these two components are absolutely critical to a leadership role:

  • Quantification of achievements
  • Evidence of your performance

With an experience of helping around 100 professionals land a big career break and going through the most effective practices followed by top recruiters in the industry for VP, President, C-Suite, and Senior Management roles, we have arrived at a conclusion that incorporating these two elements in your resume builds your profile extremely strong for the job.

1. A. Quantification of achievements

💡 Nailing experience section of your resume

Failing strategy: Listing your roles and responsibilities or contributions in the pointers for each job experience

Winning strategy: Listing in bullet points your 3-4 key achievements (quantified) for each job experience.

EXAMPLE

  • Developed a test automation tool that reduced testing time by 55%.

As you have noticed already, quantifying is not limited to achievements alone. Adding numbers to your experience and evidence of performance adds credibility & value to the claim.

1. A. i. How do you quantify performance when it is unquantifiable?

There are many things that are important to employers, and while it may not seem readily quantifiable, you can still come up with numbers to present them:

1. SCALE AND SCOPE

  • How many employees have you supervised?
  • How large were the budgets you handled?

Example:

“Provided leadership & strategic direction to 20+ members of the Marketing Team.”

2. FREQUENCY

  • How much work were you able to complete in a given time?
  • How often did you perform certain tasks?

Example:

“Rapidly incubated & implemented 6 mentoring cohort programs within 6 months across 5 countries ”

3. RANGE

  • Can’t figure out the exact number? Estimate.
  • But remember that you’ll probably be asked about the reasoning behind your statement during a job interview, so make your calculations well-informed.

Example:

“Introduced new data security procedures, resulting in no data breaches for 29 weeks, saving $5,000–8,000 monthly.”

Types of achievements that you can add to your Resume

  • Revenue or sales you increased for the company
  • Money you saved for the company
  • Time you saved for the company
  • Problems you identified and solved
  • Ideas or innovations you introduced
  • Procedures or systems you developed, implemented, or optimized
  • Special projects you worked on
  • Industry awards you won (i.e., Best Digital Marketing Campaign Award)
  • Work-related awards you won (i.e., Salesperson of The Year)
  • Promotions to higher positions you got in your job
  • Additional training you completed and professional certifications you received
  • Funding, grants or scholarships you received
  • Popular publications, reports or presentations you (co)authored
  • Blogging and influencing on social media
  • Media coverage you gained for the company
  • Other accomplishments such as volunteering or achievements in sports

1. B. Evidence of your performance

  1. B. i. A vague claim about having an experience does not work
  • Evidence of performance can be given by being highly specific about your contribution  & backing it with numbers.

EXAMPLE: 1

Wrong way to place your performance:

  • Developed, reviewed, and tested innovative and visionary new applications using emerging technologies.”

Right way to back performance with evidence:

  • “Designed and implemented a new IT management model with Apple’s New York branch, increasing quarterly productivity by 33% and resulting in an increase in employee satisfaction.”

EXAMPLE 2:

Wrong way to place your performance:

  • Responsible for buying office supplies.”
  • Significantly increased online sales.”

Right way to back performance with evidence:

  • Negotiated (action verb) with office supplies vendors (specific duty), saving the company $12,000 annually (quantified achievement).”
  • Redesigned the e-commerce sales funnel through A/B testing, resulting in increasing monthly revenue by 112%.”
  1. B. ii. Where & how to include this?
  • Include this in the skills section
  • Keep the evidence backing your experience in 3-4 pointers (2 is too less, 5 is too much)
  • If you’re skeptical of adding or eliminating a pointer, check if it adds value, if not, it’s better to eliminate the pointer altogether.

💡 With each set of 3-4 pointers of evidence backing a skill/experience with numbers, you should add one “Key Achievement” that is backed by numbers.

1. C. Other Things That Recruiters Appreciate: Must know resume tips

  1. C. i. Longevity at previous jobs

“The time an applicant stays in a role can be an insightful indicator of their loyalty, commitment and overall skill set.”~ Sara Laures, VGM Group, Inc.

NOTE: If you have switched jobs frequently, it may be a red flag for the recruiter. However, you can still make up for it with your achievements and performance section.

  1. C. ii. Fit for company environment (must-haves for Startup Resume Tips)

While the guide will help you with writing a resume for Big Organization, you may have to take care of additional factors when writing Resume for a Startup. Here’s what to include:

  • The varied scope of responsibilities & experience
  • Ex: Include bullets about times that you’ve made sense of ambiguous data, worn different hats to help your team out, or even led major changes yourself.
  • Demonstrates: You can wear multiple hats in the role
  • Add startup experience if you have any
  • Demonstrates: a good fit in a fast-paced, agile, and do-it-yourself environment.
  • Identify the skills that will help the startup
  • Ex: Public speaking skills, crisis resolution, relationship building & management
  • “Gave 3–5 group presentations a month to employees and clients. They were posted to YouTube. Most got 1,000–50,000 views.”
  • Demonstrates: beyond the role abilities with which you can support the company’s growth.

💡 NOTE: Big company working styles are no-fit for startups. However, there are ways in which a startup can leverage the brand image of your prior experience or your network. Anticipate how your background can help the company and showcase it on your resume.

  1. C. iii. Branding the accomplishment without numbers

Even if you don’t have a specific number to share, you can increase your bullet point’s impressiveness by dropping a fancy brand name or title into the story.

  • “partnered with Disney to roll out the new site
  • “worked with the CEO to develop a content strategy”

2. How to frame each pointer in the most optimized way?

2. A. Problem-Action-Result (PAR) Technique

Each pointer can create the highest impact & ensure clarity when presented with the P-A-R technique.

EXAMPLE 1

For Key achievement:

Developed a test automation tool that reduced testing time by 55%.”

Problem: Testing took too long.

Action: Developed a new tool.

Result: Testing time cut in half.

EXAMPLE 2

For evidence of performance points:

“Commended for creating the in-house newsletter to communicate management’s vision. Reduced email back-and-forth by 35%.”

Problem: Poor internal communication.

Action: In-house newsletter.

Result: Back-and-forth emailing was reduced by over one-third.

TRY YOURSELF

For a bullet point in your Resume, practice writing:

Problem:

Action:

Result:

2. B. Top 8  Value Additions To Add To Your Bullet Points

Value in business originates with an increase in something or a decrease in something. When the delta between before and after results in profit, it means the value was created.

  • Revenue Generation
  • Awareness Increase as Marketing Goal
  • Attracting Customer
  • Happy Customer
  • Company Growth
  • Happy Employee
  • Cost Reduction
  • Process Efficiency

These value-addition factors can easily be used as practical Resume Tips as well as your interview answers.

3. Best Resume Format For Your Career Stage & Optimizing It

3. A. Combination Resume

  1. A. i. Who can benefit from this resume tips
  • Seasoned professionals with very extensive work experience
  • Helps them emphasize their most impressive achievements.
  • Career-changers who haven’t yet worked in their target industry.
  • Helps them showcase key skills relevant to the job they’re trying to land.
  • Employment-gappers who, nonetheless, have many years of relevant work experience.
  • With enough verifiable wins under their belt, they’ll be able to assure the recruiters any potential gaps don’t matter.
  1. A. ii. How to Format Your Combination Type Resume:
  • Chief Focus is on the skills required for the job. This section is placed on top & kept relevant to the role you are applying for.
  • Flaunts Achievements in a quantifiable manner relevant to each skill.
  • Work Experience is positioned in the middle of the resume.
  • Reverse chronological order is followed.

This is what the format of a stand-out resume can be, that suggests you’re the perfect fit for the role in one look.

3. B. Switching Career

1. Remove industry-specific technical language

Skill in Earlier Resume: (Industry specific: Investment Banking)

  • Created & manipulated financial models used for quantitative valuation analysis, including discounted cash flow, leveraged buyout, trading comparable, and transaction comparable analysis.

Skill in Career Switch Resume: (Transferrable skills)

  • Communication, problem-solving, project management, and teamwork.

2. Demonstrate interest in your new field

  • While switching careers, the most typical question you get asked is “Why do you wish to switch careers?”
  • The easiest way is to demonstrate it with collaboration projects, volunteer work, and new undertakings in the old job that corresponds to the new industry.

Example: For someone changing career into IT/coding:

  • Member, IAENG Society of Software Engineers.
  • Volunteer IT Admin for a local animal shelter.

4. How to tailor your Resume for the specific Job-Role?

4. A. Anticipating the needs of the company:

  • The gaps that you can fill.
  • The company goals you can help achieve.
  • The leadership qualities the company is looking for.

4. A. i. Tailoring your introduction

  • Target position in the company if you are switching careers / Previous role held if your career graph is linear
  • Branding statement as your introduction.

How to build your branding statement

  • In our previous article “How to get spotted by headhunters”, we discussed a formula to come up with your USP.
  • Tweaking it for a desired job role, we are sharing it here again for you.
  • PromptYour answer 1Your answer 2Your answer 3What is the position for keywords from the JDYour experience/accomplishment with that abilityWhat you want to be remembered for what will interest them about your abilityProposed USP
  • If you skip the branding statement, you can simply use Objective Summary
  • for whatContact details & LinkedIn profile

4. A. ii. Showcasing Leadership on Your Resume

  • Dedicate the top section of Skills & Achievements to it.
  • Identify the leadership skills mentioned in the JD & analyze which other skills may be necessary
  • Add keywords, action verbs, and numbers to hit the bullseye with every bullet.

HOW TO PRESENT LEADERSHIP ON YOUR RESUME

  1. Management Skills

JD keywords: mentoring, office management

  • Hand-picked by upper management to mentor teams and managers from other departments. Facilitated a 15% increase in policy compliance.
  • Managed head office with 21 staff members.
  • Used a targeted approach to hiring, compensation, and engagement and slashed turnover by 25%.

b. Interpersonal Skills

JD keywords: charisma, conflict management

  • Elected by popular vote of 500+ employees to lead the company’s Goal Compass team. Facilitated reaching all four goals in one year.
  • Resolved conflicts on the production floor by leading meetings between opposing parties. Slashed time lost to intra-term conflicts by 30%.

c. Team Leadership Skills:

JD keywords: supervision, giving recognition

  • Supervised a team of 7 CNC operators. Consistently hit all production targets, turning out 17% fewer defects than the plant average.
  • Gave persistent, daily recognition for jobs well done. Also used monthly & quarterly recognition to gain 10% higher morale scores than the company average.

d. Technical Leadership Skills:

JD keywords: Agile planning, fact-finding

  • Used Agile planning for 10 projects per year. Saved $45,000 a year in quality issues.
  • Conducted 1–2 fact-finding operations per month to address quality concerns. During my tenure, customer complaints dropped by 22%.

e. Team Building & Nurturing Skills:

JD keywords: team building, commitment to quality

  • Conducted 3 team-building events per year with 30 staff members each. Contributed to raising job satisfaction scores by 20% in 2 years.
  • Led patient-care quality improvement drive. Helped raise scores on a nursing portion of the HCAHPS survey by 23%.

f. Communication Skills:

JD keywords: giving presentations, PowerPoint, written communication

  • Gave 3–5 group presentations a month to employees and clients. They were posted to YouTube. Most got 1,000–50,000 views.
  • Demonstrated why we should use Trello as an office kanban system. Gained 100% buy-in. Cut delivery times for projects by 18%.

4. B. How to tailor your resume based on keywords

💡 Research has shown that almost 40% of recruiters automatically dismiss resumes that are generic and not tailored to the position.

Step 1:

Start by finding a couple of offers similar to yours.

Identifying the keywords should not be limited to your JD alone, instead, look for Job offers/descriptions similar to yours.

Step 2:

Now, highlight/note down the skills.

Step 3:

Next, make a list of overlapping skills in different JDs.

Step 4:

Finally, go to LinkedIn and snoop around for professionals with the job title from your job offer. Note, professionals who have done a good job of optimizing their LinkedIn profiles will have used keywords.

How this helps:

  • Helps is passing the ATS Scan
  • Helps in grabbing the attention of HR

Keywords are important because it's the primary way recruiters source candidates on LinkedIn and in their HR systems (ATS). A candidate whose resume doesn't include the exact-match keywords will not show up in the search. The job description is the best place to identify the top keywords.”~James Hu, Founder & CEO at Jobscan

  • USE CASE:

The Keywords found in JD:

  • Provide mobile application project design and development (1)
  • Meet with members of technical staff, business owners, and other stakeholders (2)
  • Design and communicate project requirements (3)
  • Review test results and direct further development (4)
  • Mentor less experienced staff (5)

Java Programmer

  • Black Knight Financial Services, Jacksonville, FL
  • 2010–2018
  • Designed and developed up to 10 applications projects per year (1).
  • Designed project requirements (3) in cooperation with data analysis teams.
  • Participated in project meetings (2) with technical staff members, business analysts, and external stakeholders.
  • Trained and mentored (5) over 15 junior programmers and developers.

Key achievement:

  • Developed a test automation (4) tool that reduced testing time by 55%.

4. C. Why & How-to Use Action Verbs in Resume

  • Each bullet point with a strong action verb conveys the specific role and level of involvement in each accomplishment.
  • Strong and unique action verbs demonstrate the breadth of one's skillset and experience.
  • Helps avoid vagueness or clichés that are unimpressive and uninformative.
  • Portrays a more confident and assertive presentation.

💡 NOTE: The single largest mistake that most candidates make is that they specify the achievement but do not specify their exact role, and contribution within the team in achieving the results.

5. How to Write a Killer Cover Letter: 3-Step Suggestions

Getting the basic right:

  • Research & try to address your Cover letter to the recruiter, if not, then the individual who posted the job vacancy.
  • If that fails, address the cover letter as “Dear Hiring Manager”
  • Starting your cover letter off with the phrase “To whom it may concern” is very impersonal, and it shows that you didn't do your homework.

5. A. Start with a hook

  1. A. i. Boring starters that you should avoid:
  • I am writing to you today because…
  • This letter is in response to…
  • Thank you for considering the attached resume…
  • The position of <executive> at <company> is a good fit for me because…
  • I have <X> years of experience in…
  1. A. ii. Catchy Hooks to begin with:

Start with a compelling question

  • Does your company need a proven leader to help guide your staff in increasing sales and expanding your market share?
  • Would a sales executive who has a decade-long track record of double-digit growth be an asset to your company?

Start with the topmost skill for the job & back it with numbers

  • Creative thinking and strategic planning: my strongest skills, with 30% revenue growth to prove it.

Start with your USP & follow it with a story

  • Dealing with tough clients is my specialty.

5. B. Embody the company in the body

💡 Make it easier for the human to read your cover letter:

  • Keeping it short - Try to keep the cover letter close to 150 words
  • Keeping it crisp - Use bullet points to make your points

How you can make it about the company:

  • Determine the company’s pain point
  • Help the company visualize you in your role
  • Review the company's products, operation modules, expansion plans, specializations, brand voice, and value, to pick aspects you can highlight.
  • Tie the company’s goals with your aspirations & create a rapport with the hiring manager.
  • Discuss why you want to work for the organization and your potential contributions.
  • Next, you may state how you plan to use your expertise to help the company improve its operations or address pressing needs.

EXAMPLE:

I've worked as a sales manager at Foster's and Co. for the last two years. In this position, I've led several projects with different timeframes, budgets, team sizes, and scopes. Last year alone, I helped the company close three of its largest all-time deals.

While I love my current job, I believe it's time to move to a larger organization like H&J Solutions. I've been following your organization and adore your client-centered approach to sales. I plan to use my strong negotiation skills and negotiation proficiency to help you close more deals.

  • Dos & Don’ts for a compelling cover letter
  • You may have plenty of experience and accomplishments to talk about. Resist the temptation to use your cover letter to shovel more about yourself and yourself only toward a hiring manager.
  • Have you long admired the company, agree with their environmental policy, or want to live in the city where they’re located? - tie it back to how it’s helpful for the company
  • A good cover letter complements your resume—it doesn’t copy it.

5. C. End with a CTA

What is not a Call-to-Action:

“I’m looking forward to hearing from you”

What are good CTAs: Cover letter suggestions

  • Please review the CV I've attached to learn more about my qualifications. I'm available for interviews whenever it suits you. Thank you and I'm looking forward to your response.”
  • “I’m excited to have the opportunity to talk about how I could join your team in its quest for XYZ value. I’m particularly thrilled about XYZ project and would love to know how I can contribute to it.”
  • “I would love to get your thoughts on what I mentioned. I am happy to hop on a phone call at your earliest convenience to discuss how I can help XYZ company with XYZ issue.”

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