Advice & insights: masterclasses from industry leaders

The Art of Executive Career Building with Adrienne Tom

Adrienne Tom

Adrienne Tom

Career Coach & Resume Writer

Key Takeaways

  • Resume Evolution: Executive resumes have evolved from basic job histories to strategic documents, requiring a balance of AI and personalization for effectiveness in the job market.
  • Resume Trends: Modern resumes should blend hard and soft skills, use AI for assistance, not creation, and highlight leadership and operational skills with authenticity.
  • Effective Resumes: Standout executive resumes are tailored to specific jobs, focus on results over tasks, and are easy to read with a professional layout.
  • Common Resume Mistakes: Executives often err by using a one-size-fits-all approach, failing to tailor resumes to specific job applications and not highlighting unique value propositions.
  • LinkedIn Optimization: A robust LinkedIn profile is essential. Common errors include minimal profiles and underestimating the platform’s value. Active engagement and strategic content are crucial for visibility and opportunity discovery.
  • Job Search Strategies: Successful job searches require diversified tactics, not relying solely on resumes or online applications. Networking is key, especially for executive-level positions, in a highly competitive job market.

The Evolution of Executive Resumes

In our conversation with Adrienne Tom, founder of Career Impressions and a distinguished career strategist and resume writer, we look into the dynamic landscape of executive resume development and LinkedIn optimization. Adrienne offers her expert perspective on the evolution of executive resumes, highlighting the balance between AI assistance and personal touch. She also sheds light on the common mistakes in LinkedIn profiles and the power of this platform in career advancement. Join us as we explore Adrienne’s insights on crafting standout executive resumes, effective networking strategies, and the nuances of navigating the modern job market.

How have executive resumes evolved in the past decade, and what trends are emerging now?

Picture of Adrienne Tom

“What was once considered a basic job history file has evolved into a strategic marketing document. Job seekers who haven’t kept up with the evolution of the resume are often discouraged by the lack of job results. Basic executive resumes stand a much lower chance of getting noticed and competing for attention when it comes to top jobs.

A few recent and important resume trends include:

  • Leveraging AI, but not leaning solely on this offering to manage your resume-writing process. Although AI has benefits to support resume writing (think: idea generation and research), it should NOT be used as the solitary resume creator. If an executive only uses AI to craft the file, there is a high chance that they will end up with a generic file full of general content that lacks personalization and an authentic voice. 
  • Blending both hard and soft skills. Modern executive resumes must share a narrative of leading operationally while defining leadership style, philosophy, and unique value proposition. This hinges on blending soft and hard skills and employing an authentic voice that lets readers better understand who you are as a leader. It is essential to spotlight value offering, EQ, and cultural fit in addition to showcasing big business wins.”

“The very best and highest-performing resumes are often:

  • Relevant. The file’s content is written specifically for each unique job opportunity. This includes the integration of appropriate language and keywords, the inclusion of well-aligned skills and examples, and the removal of anything unrelated to the target job. 
  • Results-Rich. Versus task heavy. Employers are not interested in reading what people were ‘responsible for’ in resumes, especially at the leadership level. Instead, they need to read specific examples of leadership success, demonstrating how leadership style and offerings will produce similar results and provide clear ROI.
  • Readable. If the file is hard to read, it may not be read. Often, professionals mistake ‘nice-looking’ and fancy resume designs as being better performers. In fact, readers usually prefer resumes that are easy to follow, with a clean and professional format.”

“The biggest mistake I see executives making with their resumes is assuming that ‘one-size-fits-all’. The opposite is true. Many executives have a rich history behind them and feel that their job titles are enough to explain their value, while resume readers are hungry for specifics.

At the executive level, you’re not applying for jobs in bulk. Instead, you are (or should be) focusing on a specific role in a specific company(ies). You must tailor the resume to each application. Understanding the target organization and their unique pain points is imperative to demonstrate how you are a well-matched solution and fit for individual business requirements.”

Leveraging LinkedIn for Career Advancement

“I commonly see two big mistakes that job seekers make with their LI profiles.  

The first mistake is having a paltry profile. If you have only plugged a few basics into your profile, your image is suffering. Employers and recruiters use LinkedIn to search for candidates and cross-check work history and skillsets. A meagre profile communicates two potential things: you don’t care or know how. Take action to populate your profile with controlled content and brand imaging to ensure your leadership story is properly positioned. Write a compelling headline, complete all sections to maximize visibility and value, and keep content future-focused. Meaning don’t write your headline and About section focused only on what you’ve done in the past. Focus on where you want to go next.

The second mistake is dismissing the site as ‘something that only benefits job seekers’, which is untrue. The best time to build your LinkedIn profile, connect with people, and participate on LinkedIn is before you need it. If you find yourself suddenly unemployed and decide it is time to start using LinkedIn, you will be playing catch up. Instead, get active on the platform. Leverage the site to conduct research, build connections, engage with professionals, and increase your visibility. The site is designed for engagement – so get engaged!”

“The best thing a professional can do on LinkedIn is to be consistently active on the site. And this doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Start by visiting the site for just 10 minutes every day. Read and engage with posts on your feed. Conduct meaningful outreach to people of interest. Leverage the site to research job requirements. Post thought leadership of your own. It is essential to get on the radar of the people who make hiring decisions; consistent site engagement can help increase visibility with these decision-makers – who can introduce you to opportunities.”

“Aim to deepen your connection with readers in your About section. To start, write this section in first-person and infuse personality. People want to hear your authentic voice! Next, engage readers with a personal story that blends who you are, what you are known for, and why you do the work you do. Also, be strategic with the reason you are creating this content. What is the purpose of your profile? Do you want to attract board positions, or are you looking for your next job opportunity? Align content with these goals while writing engagingly.”

Navigating the Modern Job Market with a Winning Strategy

“The best job searches involve a diversified approach. Every job seeker is unique; therefore, what works for one person may not work for another. It is imperative not to hyperfocus on just ONE tool (like the resume) or ONE strategy (like applying to online positions). Build a plan that includes diversified tools and activities and execute the plan with care, adjusting as you go to accommodate for what is working and what is not.”

When aiming for executive-level positions, how should job seekers tweak their approach?

Picture of Adrienne Tom

“Positions at the top are often (not always, but often) found through networking or reputation. Who you know can be very important for an executive-level search. Building and fostering a strong network can be imperative for getting noticed for top jobs. At the executive level, you must go beyond ‘looking for jobs online’ and focus more on connecting with the people who hire for the types of roles you want.”

In your experience, what unique challenges do today’s job seekers face, and how can they overcome them?

“Today’s job seekers face a lot of competition. Many jobs get hundreds of applicants, making a targeted job search even more critical. Use customized outreach, engagement, and resumes. You will not get noticed if you are only leaning on basic strategies or basic career files.”

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