Sep 18, 2016

ON Partners: Modern Executive’s Guide to Resumes from ON Partners


Whether you are actively seeking a new position or simply open to the possibility, it’s important to keep your resume current – and that doesn’t refer only to your experience.

If over time, you’ve simply been adding your new career skillsets to the top of the same dusty resume, it may be time for a makeover. That said, there’s no need to go overboard – at this level your resume should be more about substance than it is about style.

Executive recruiters see their fair share of resumes on a daily basis, and these documents are a first impression. Given that clients rely on their executive search partners to sort through the minutia and offer opinions and data on which candidates are a best match, you’ll want to put your best face forward.

Here are a few things that executive recruiters care about, or don’t:



  1. Cover letters – don’t waste your time here. Everything we need to know should be clearly and concisely outlined in your resume. Most CEO’s think and communicate in bullet points. Do the same when highlighting your career accomplishments.
  2. Know where to focus – while your entire work history is important, the majority of your resume content (and data) should focus on your most recent roles – going back over the last decade. Brevity is appropriate beyond that. For discussion purposes, your last 10 years are likely the most relevant to the impending search. Your conversation should focus here. The product you launched in ’88 isn’t nearly as interesting (or current) as the innovation your drove to scale last year.
  3. Objective statement – at this level your objective should be obvious. Rather than stating an objective, use this space to write a summary statement, or simply dive right into the details of your work experience. The only time an Objective statement is warranted is when you are searching for your first job out of college. Otherwise you risk being overlooked because it makes you look too junior or your objective does not align to the company or role.
  4. Resume infographics – don’t over-think this document. A concise, well-written, and grammatically correct CV trumps a colorful pie chart every time. Infographics are fillers that can be hard to read and harder to understand. Quantify your success in bullet points. Differentiate yourself with numbers, not pictures.


  1. First impressions – Pay attention to the basics. Personal brand matters, and it starts with your resume. Use basic fonts, clean formatting, and thoroughly check spelling, grammar and facts. One misspelling, or obvious error can appear sloppy and prevent you from advancing in the process. Fairly or unfairly – perception can become reality.
  2. One size does not fit all – in today’s highly specialized market, one resume does not fit all situations. Tailor your resume to address the position you are being considered for. Do your homework, highlight specific skills and contributions you’ve made that translate to the immediate opportunity.
  3. Wins – show me. Don’t tell me. Highlight your wins and quantify your successes. General statements about process improvement or non-descript mentions of growth raise more questions than positive impressions. Be direct in describing what YOU did, what YOU drove, and how YOU exceeded goals.
  4. Transitions – too many jumps (especially short, winless-jumps) are cause for concern. Good executive recruiters and hiring leaders will want to go deep here to better understand your movements, motivations, etc. Make sure the story is tight. No excuses or blaming others. Don’t dwell and certainly don’t ramble. Be honest, professional, direct – and above all… concise.


  • References – this is a critical step in the executive hiring process. For many it’s an assumed lay-up on the path to an offer. For some it’s a shocking end to a process halted by the comments from a former superior or colleague. Don’t underestimate its importance. Make sure the references you provide – especially current/former bosses and Board members – are positive, truthful advocates on your behalf. It’s also imperative to ensure that former superiors and Board members not listed are in your corner as well. The likelihood of the search partner and/or hiring executive having mutual connections to your past is high. If you haven’t already, re-establish those relationships. It only takes one bad reference to derail an otherwise perfect marriage.



Bryan Buck, Partner



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Since 2006, ON Partners is the only pure-play executive search firm building diverse C-level and board leadership teams. We rebuilt the institution of executive search for the way you work. Our approach includes present partners who engage with their clients from the first brief to the final decision, individually crafted solutions that are unique to each client, and an easier experience all around. Named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms and to the Inc. 500/5000 Lists nine times, ON Partners is consistently ranked among the top 20 retained executive search firms in the U.S.

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