Does Your Resume Lack Focus? How to Tailor it to Your Dream Job

⇒ Can the readers of your resume discern – by glancing at it for just a few seconds – what you want to do in your next job and the most important selling point(s) you bring to that job?  If not, you’ve committed the blunder of an unfocused resume.

To ensure a sharp focus, you will likely need to create a couple of versions of your resume, building one or more boilerplate versions that you then customize to each specific position. That doesn’t mean you have to rewrite your resume for each opening, but you do need to tweak it and focus it toward the specific opportunity to show that you are a fit for any vacancy to which you send your resume. You’ll be moving things around, adjusting words and phrases, and adding a focus and dimension to your resume that will make both hiring managers and applicant-screening software programs take notice.

By tailoring your resume to each job, each employer, you’ll appear better qualified – and a better fit – than those job seekers who do not tailor their resumes.

Your resume must be a collection of accomplishments and achievements from your previous work experiences. If your resume is simply a rehash of job duties and responsibilities, no amount of tailoring will help. Presenting your value proposition, skills, accomplishments, qualifications, and other selling points in the best light possible will all come more easily if you have in mind an overall focus for your resume.

The result should be a resume that illustrates your accomplishments in terms that the employer understands, showing how your achievements and qualifications match directly to the requirements and job description of the job you seek.

A broad overview of the steps to a focused, tailored resume follows:

Step 1: Search online for job listings for the job you seek. Once you’ve gathered at least five of these job postings, analyze the common qualifications each employer seeks. Modify your basic resume with this new information, especially keeping note of keywords and phrases and industry jargon/ buzzwords.

Step 2: Once you are ready to apply to job postings, review the job descriptions and required qualifications and make edits to your resume – especially the executive summary. Next, to portray your accomplishments, draw from the wording the employer uses to describe the ideal candidate. Your result should be a resume that mirrors the requirements the employer seeks. Another effective method for branding yourself is with the filename of your resume. Save your resume with the employer’s name in the file name, such JackGreeneResume-Apple. Or include your name and a brief branding label – such as “JackGreene–SupplyChainExecutive.”

Step 3: Nothing resonates more with a hiring manager than reading a resume that uses phrasing that mirrors language used by the employer. A very simple way to add an extra level of effectiveness to your resume is judiciously modifying some of the ways you describe yourself and your experiences using some of the same words and phrases the organization uses to describe itself. (Don’t go overboard here; employers are turned off if you copy and paste huge hunks of job descriptions into your resume).

For example, a job seeker applying for a position with the Walt Disney Company might include words such as “magic,” “dreams,” “innovation,” “excellence” in describing himself or herself.

Spend some time on each prospective employer’s website – and/or review any organizational literature. You’ll want to seek out common words the employer uses to describe its culture, organizational philosophy, and employees. Some employers have amazingly rich career/job sections on their corporate websites that go into great detail about organizational values, culture… and some even include quotes and testimonials from current employees. Take some of the words each employer uses to describe itself and its employees and use those words on your tailored resume.

Step 4: Turn to your network and find leads to people who work in the field – and, ideally, people who work for your targeted employers. If possible, schedule informal discussions or informational interviews so that you can glean even more insider information – and ideally additional insights and keywords that you can use to again modify and sharpen your tailored resume.

There is no excuse to EVER send a generic, untailored resume to a recruiter or employer. Not only will it be a great waste of your time, but you’ll continue to be frustrated with your lack of results. Tailoring your resume is as simple as outlined in this post – and the time and effort to conduct the research you need to dramatically improve your resume is minimal when compared to the better results you’ll get.


If tailoring your resume makes you uncomfortable, or you simply don’t have time,
consider working with us to manage the process for you.

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*This article may be republished with written permission.  If you are interested in posting this article on your blog, please email me at  I will respond within 2 business days with my required signature and credits.

Tips For Creating a One-Page Resume

While most executives have a multi-page resume, the one-page resume is a valuable tool to include in your executive portfolio. You’ll most likely be using your resume in a multitude of ways.

While an executive search firm may not mind reading your two- or three-page resume, you most likely should have a one-page resume for the various types of networking activities and events in which you will be participating. For example, you may want to update your closely knit contacts about your current status. These are people you’ve known for many years and who may be assisting you in your search. They may already be familiar with your qualifications, and you want them to have an updated resume so they’re clear about what type of position you are currently pursuing. You may also want to share your one-page resume at networking events, tradeshows, conferences, or the like. Or you may want to share your one-page resume during an information gathering or business meeting.

While creating a one-page resume is often a daunting task, here are a few pointers:


  • Get clear on “exactly” what type of position you will be pursuing. Consider your brand, your passions, your unique and innate talents, and your value proposition. Then focus the entire resume on those qualities.

Executive Profile

  • Your executive profile should include your branded value proposition. Recruiters want to know what can you do for their client/company.
  • Eliminate soft skills. Go for one-line zingers that will grab their interest, such as: “Launched 7 business units, integrated 4 acquisitions, and led 3 turnarounds.” Or, “Drive 4 businesses to rank among the most profitable units in their industry.”
  • Include three or four of your strongest core competencies.

Education and credentials

  • In a one-page resume, this section is generally positioned immediately following your Executive Profile.

Professional Experience

  • Include one line that describes the company (public, private, global, VC funded), major product(s) or service(s), and industry.
  • Create one line that includes your title, the size of budget you manage, number of direct reports you manage, and other key information that will fit on that line.
  • Add one line that describes your challenge(s). Were you brought in to turn the business around, or where you brought in to launch a new division or product, or to penetrate new markets? In just a few words, describe why you were brought in to the company.
  • Accomplishments — In 25 words or less, describe what you have contributed to the company during your tenure. Articulate what value you created or delivered for each company. If you’ve worked for one company for many years, you may need to do this for several divisions or business units.
  • Only include the companies you have worked for in the last 10-15 years.

Leadership Roles

  • Leadership roles, such as Board positions, may be listed.

Associations / Affiliations

  • Only list associations or affiliations if they are extremely relevant.

On a one-page resume, it’s okay to abbreviate more than usual. You’ll also want to condense your contact information to one line following your name. It’s also okay to reduce the size of your margins.

Creating a one-page resume will take some time. You will struggle with eliminating all the great details of your accomplishments. But, remember, you have your traditional resume to give to appropriate decision makers.

*This article may be republished with written permission.  If you are interested in posting this article on your blog, please email me at  I will respond within 2 business days with my required signature and credits.


Incorporating Keywords In Your Resume

Regardless of how you plan to distribute your resume, keywords or buzzwords are a critical element in marketing yourself to the prospective employer. A resume rich in keywords is critical whether you are:

  • Selectively sending your resume to the hiring decision maker or an executive search consultant
  • Responding to a position posted online
  • Posting your resume on an executive search firm’s site, a membership organization’s site, or a function- or industry-specific site

In nearly all of the electronic options, your resume will be entered into a database where the recipient(s) can conduct a search of the most qualified candidate.

And how do you think these folks initially determine who’s the most qualified? Keywords. Their own set of keywords, based on the requirements of the position.

Due to the plethora of job seekers in the market, employers are only considering candidates who are a “perfect fit”. And today, recruiters are expanding their list of requirements to include very specific requirements.

For example, some job postings include the geographic location in which you must reside. Some require specific company experience, for example, you must have worked at Coca Cola for five years to be considered for the position. Some even state, “The unemployed need not apply.”

So, your first challenge is to figure out which keywords to include. In selecting keywords, it’s important to be crystal clear about your functional target. It also helps to be clear about your industry target. Positioning yourself as an expert in a function and an industry greatly enhances your chances of being selected.

Generally, keywords are nouns or noun phrases. The most common type of keyword that employers search for is a position title. Other keywords include degrees, prestigious college names, credentials, licenses and technical certifications, as well as hard skills (areas of expertise), techniques or tools (B2B business development, environmental engineering, Six Sigma, lean manufacturing), soft skills (team building, cross-cultural leadership), languages, affiliations, industry jargon and geographic locations (cities, states and even telephone area codes). If you are searching for a position in the Silicon Valley and your residence is in “Alum Rock” rather than “San Jose,” in parentheses add, “Silicon Valley area,” or “10 miles outside the Silicon Valley area.” Remember, a recruiter selecting candidates for a Silicon Valley company may be based in New York and may not be familiar with the outlying cities.

Next, research job postings and select four to five positions that sound like your dream position—postings for which you feel 110% qualified. You may also want to visit industry-specific association websites to identify keywords. Association sites generally educate members on the current trends and challenges facing the industry.

Read through each position or website and record all of the keywords. Look for keyword similarities and patterns across all positions and websites. Create a list that you can refer to and update on an ongoing basis. Then, rank order the keywords by the number of times they are mentioned in the various postings and sites.

To determine the keyword strength of your resume, run a search on your resume for each of the keywords on your new list. Highlight the ones you find. Now, you can determine which keywords you will need to add. While it is okay to include a keyword list in your executive summary, you will also want to weave the keywords throughout your resume because some systems are able to decipher lists from content and rank keywords found within the content higher on the search results.

When embedding keywords in the experience section, create a quantifiable value proposition story encompassing the keyword or phrase. For example:

“Developed and successfully executed strategy for divestiture of 3 facilities within 16 months to yield $8MM in cost reduction and $280MM in asset sales.”

“Restructured manufacturing-driven inventory management system into a global organization based on solid forecasting methodologies. Reduced back orders 50% while improving customer service levels; improved inventory turns 10%.”

In the examples above the keywords are in bold.

Caution, do not use so many keywords that the resume does not read well when viewed by the human eye. The number of keywords you use will depend on your function, industry, qualifications and years of experience. For example, if you have been in operations or technology for 20+ years, you will most likely have numerous keywords that you could include in your resume. However, only include keywords that relate to what you would like to do next.

If you intend to pursue different functions and industries, you will need to create multiple versions of your resume that include keywords appropriate for each function and industry. While this is a lot of work, it is critical in today’s job market. Just be sure to track which resume you sent for each position or which resume you posted on each site. Some functions and industries combine well on one resume and others do not. For more about this topic, read: How Many Versions of Your Resume Do You Need?

You should also include keywords in all of the documents in your executive job search portfolio (cover letters, bios, online profiles, positioning statements, leadership profiles, success stories, branding statements, introductions, reference dossiers, thank you letters, etc.).

While a targeted search is the most effective job search strategy, there may be times when you must use some of the online venues to pursue a position, at which point your keywords can make or break the opportunity.

The strategies outlined in this article can also be applied to your LinkedIn profile.

Feel free to send an email to of you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

How Many Versions of Your Resume Do You Need?

In today’s economy where hiring decision makers are extremely risk adverse and will only consider executives who are a “perfect fit” for the organization, it is important to target your resume.

However, many executives reason that they don’t want to miss out on any opportunities and therefore create one resume that showcases all of their functional areas of expertise as well as all of their knowledge, skills and abilities. When hiring decision makers read this type of resume, the message they receive is that of confusion. Most likely they will not take time to figure out what the candidate can do for their company because it’s buried in irrelevant information (as far as they’re concerned). Hiring decision makers may get the impression that the candidate is a jack of all trades and master of none. They may get the sense that the candidate won’t be able to focus on the functional role they’re filling. Or in today’s economy, they may assume that the candidate is desperate and will settle for anything, at any salary they offer, no matter how low.

How To Determine If You Need Multiple Versions

Since every hiring decision maker is looking for the “perfect fit,” you may need to create multiple versions of your resume when you are considering:

Multiple Roles: A few functional roles can be blended on the same resume. To determine which roles can be blended, use the job boards as a research tool. Search your favorite job board for positions with the functional roles in which you have an interest. Notice how many, and what types of companies or industries, blend the roles in which you are interested. If there is no blending what so ever, then you must create separate versions of your resume.

For example, some companies blend the following roles:

COO/CFO; CIO/CTO; Sales/Marketing; Sales/Business Development; and CMO/CBO. The larger the company, the more apt these roles are to broken out separately, however, in the small- and mid-size companies, you may find these roles blended. Many companies integrate the COO role into the CEO or CFO role. Likewise many companies combine all of their technology roles under a CFO, COO, CEO or engineering officer.

Similarly, only the larger companies have a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) or CBO (Chief Brand Officer) role. Many small- and mid-size companies integrate these roles under their marketing executive. So you will need to have more than one version of your resume if you intend to consider companies of all sizes.

Multiple Levels: If you are seeking a senior management position or a middle management position you will need to create two resumes.

For example, if you will be pursuing a CFO role or a Director of Finance role, you will need two versions. The reason being, if you write a resume strong enough to land the CFO role, you will over qualify yourself for the director-level role. Conversely, if you write a resume for a director-level role, you will under qualify yourself for the CFO role.

Multiple Industries: Most hiring decision makers are looking for people with industry experience. If you are targeting a specific industry, create a resume that highlights your experience in the industry. If you do not have experience in the industry, create a version that does not mention industry. While candidates recognize that their role is transportable across multiple industries, the truth of the matter is that hiring decision makers almost always require industry experience.

Multiple Company Sizes: Most hiring decision makers are looking for executives who have led a company of similar size and standing. If you are considering companies of all sizes, create different versions of your resume. For example, if you have been leading a multi-billion dollar company, you may want to consider converting any accomplishments stated in dollars to percentages so that you don’t over qualify yourself. Additionally, if you are pursing a position in a company that is larger than any you have worked in, you may want to convert dollars to percentages to seemingly even the playing field.

Other Considerations: Organizational structure, geographical orientation, business or value drivers, growth style and rate, product/service types, and customer types. You may need to create multiple versions based on these considerations as well.

While creating multiple versions takes considerable more effort, it IS worth it. When posting your resume to job boards, you will need to pick one version. However, that shouldn’t’t be much of a concern since a miniscule number of executives land a position via job boards. If you decide to post your resume on a job board, post the version focused on the position for which you are the most qualified.

Writing Success Stories

Whether you call them CAR (challenge, action, result), STAR (situation, task, action, result), PAR (problem, action, result) or OAR (opportunity, action, result) stories, these stories are a critical component in your resume, leadership addendum, positioning statement and other marketing collateral, as well as in your interview.

When creating success stories, select ones that will demonstrate and showcase your executive brand. This is what will help you attract the right type of position. Actions always speak louder than words and are often times more effective because you’re helping the recruiter understand the value you bring to his/her organization.

  • Explain the situation, challenges, roadblocks and extenuating circumstances. For example, what made this initiative difficult? What impact would it have on the organization if it were fixed? The impact may be different than the actual results, so consider both outcomes and include both if appropriate.
  • Explain the actions you took to resolve the problem and who was involved in solving the problem. The amount of detail you include will vary depending on the venue. For example, in your resume, you will need to keep your actions to a minimum to meet traditional page length requirements. However, in your addendum and your interview, you can expand on your actions in greater detail.
  • Explain the results or outcomes. How did the results impact revenues, profits, marketshare, stakeholder or shareholder value? What did the results enable the company to do? What was the strategic importance–the long-term impact on the company?
  • Optionally, you may want to include the knowledge and expertise you had that enabled you to solve the problem. Or, you might want to include what knowledge or skills you had to quickly learn/develop to solve the problem.

Be sure your success stories include the who, what, when, where and how.

Executive Branding Tip 10

Integrate your brand in to your career marketing materials.

Weave your clear and compelling brand into your value proposition, accomplishment statements, resume, online bios and profiles, letters, website, blog, web portfolio, career biographies, positioning statements, leadership philosophy, and any other self-marketing materials you have created.

Tips for Ensuring Your Resume is Compelling

Never has the job market been so competitive and brimming with extraordinary talent. Today’s executive resume must be a professional marketing piece that sets you apart from your competitors. Gone are the days when you can compile a chronological history of your work experience and expect it to generate interviews. Your resume must be a marketing piece that is targeted to a specific audience and clearly demonstrates value.

To ensure your resume is compelling, make sure in focuses on the following key areas:

Leadership – As a senior executive describing how you came to join the company and explaining what you were brought in to accomplish for the company exhibits senior leadership, demonstrates you understand what corporations expect from you and that you are focused on the company’s growth and prosperity. Helping the recruiter understand the overall picture can also add greater impact to your accomplishments.

– List accomplishments that tell a “brief” story. Include the scope of your challenges, issues or problems, the actions you took, and the quantifiable results you delivered. Your accomplishments must include dollars, percentages or comparative figures.

Value Proposition – It’s critical to include “bottom line” contributions. Make sure your resume is about what you can do for the company versus a long list of responsibilities. It must demonstrate how you have impacted the top or bottom line, market share, stakeholder or shareholder value. Listing an accomplishment without the bottom line impact deflates your value proposition. It won’t deliver the punch you’re looking for.

Your Executive Brand – Executive and personal branding is the future of executive career management. It means identifying and communicating what makes you unique, relevant and compelling so that you can achieve your career goals. Your executive brand is what will distinguish you from your competitors and market the value you consistently deliver to companies. Branding is about differentiation. It’s about leveraging what makes you exceptional so you stand out from the myriad of executives who offer seemingly similar talents and expertise. Recruiters and hiring managers receive hundreds of resumes for every position posted. Your brand is what will distinguish you from others and provide you with the competitive edge.

Focus & Strategy – While you may have several functional areas of expertise, you need to focus your resume on one or two. Including too many functional roles sends a message that you’re not clear about what direction you’re taking your career. It can give the impression that you’re desperate – that you’ll settle for any type of position. Recruiters want to know your “primary” expertise and talents. What problems are you best at solving for companies. If you have a broad range of roles you can fill, create multiple versions of your resume with each version targeted on a particular functional role. Each resume needs to have a focus and theme to be compelling.

Marketing – In a well-written marketing piece, the copywriter prioritizes the messages to be conveyed. S/he begins with the top two or three points s/he wants to ensure everyone reads and then proceeds with the next four to six points and so on with the intention of motivating you to read the entire marketing piece…and ultimately to purchase the product or service. Your resume should follow the same stylistic format. Prioritize your messages and present them strategically. Also, pay attention to the words you use in your resume as they will set the tone and energy associated with you. The overall tone of a written message affects the reader just as one’s tone of voice affects the listener in everyday exchanges. The tone of a message is a reflection of the writer and it affects how the reader will perceive the message. Today’s executive resume must be focused, succinct and dynamic.

Appearance & Length – It’s important to use a contemporary format that aligns with the level of the position you are seeking. Lack of sufficient white space and the use of tiny fonts are two of the biggest turnoffs to recruiters. While two or three pages is the maximum length for a senior-level executive resume, there are numerous other marketing pieces you can include in your portfolio of marketing materials that will allow you to expand on your qualifications while keeping your resume to the preferred length.

There’s a lot of strategy that goes into crafting a dynamic resume. Make sure you’re clear about your target audience and the message you want to convey before you sit down to create this very important marketing piece.

How to Improve Your Response Rate

In this highly competitive market, it’s critical that your resume and cover letter be specifically geared toward a specific opportunity. One size does not fit all! Customized marketing documents are crucial for senior-level executives.

Following are several areas that will need to be customized:

Function – It’s critical to target your resume to the functional role you’re pursuing. Recruiters are looking for a specific candidate. Portraying yourself too broadly sends a message that you are desperate. While broad and diverse functional experience across all phases of the business can be an asset, it is important to target your resume for the opportunity you are currently pursuing.

  • If you are pursuing multiple job titles (for example, COO, CFO, CIO, and/or general manager), you need more than one version of your resume. In this competitive environment, you need one resume for each function unless the position description specifically requires a combination of two functions (for example, CFO/COO). While you shouldn’t eliminate all the information about the other functional areas, you should emphasize one function more prevalently than the others.
  • If you have extensive experience in just one function, focus on the depth and breadth of your experience. Within your profile, position yourself as an expert in your function.

Industry – Executive search consultants and corporate recruiters look for candidates with industry experience. Within your profile, list your industry experience as it relates to a particular opportunity.

  • If you are changing industries, research each industry in which you have an interest and create a resume for each industry. Familiarize yourself with their lexicon of buzzwords, lingo, expressions and terminology, as well as their unique concerns, challenges and trends. Explore the industry’s trade associations, publications and conferences. Note the topics being addressed as these will be related to the challenges and concerns the industry is facing as well as the trends and direction in which the industry is headed. Translate your experience and qualifications to fit the target industry.
  • If you have industry experience, focus on depth and breadth of your experience.

Size of company – Executive search consultants and recruiters search for candidates who have worked in a company whose size compares to the size of the company they are representing. Make sure your resume includes the company size.

  • If you have worked in corporations that are significantly larger than the target corporation, consider omitting the size of the entire company and focus on the size of a division or business unit that would be more relevant to the size of the target corporation.
  • If you have worked in companies that are considerably smaller than the target company, perhaps you could focus on the size of the larger parent company, if applicable. If that’s not an option, you may want to focus more on their industry ranking, competitive intelligence, ground-breaking efforts, or other areas that may be appealing to the target company.

Profit & Loss or Budget Size – Recruiters look for candidates who have held financial responsibility similar to that of the position they are filling. If you have not defined the size of the profit and loss responsibility you have held or the size of the budget you have managed, consider adding that information.

  • If you have managed P&Ls and budgets much larger than the recruiter’s company, consider leaving out the size of the financials for the entire company and instead focus on the financial figures of a division, business unit, group or project in which you were involved.
  • If you have managed P&Ls and budgets smaller than the recruiter’s company, consider focusing on how the P&L and budget has grown during your tenure to demonstrate that you manage growth or consider focusing on your participation in the parent company’s budget, if applicable.

Staff Size – Recruiters look for candidates who have led and managed teams similar in size to the company they are representing.

  • If you have led and managed teams much larger than the company is requiring, you may want to mention your number of direct reports versus the total size of the team.
  • If you have not managed teams of a similar size, you could include the number of people impacted by your role or the number of people you influence despite the fact that they don’t directly report to you.

Local, National, International Experience – Recruiters scan your resume to see if you have worked at companies with a similar geographic focus.

  • If the recruiter is representing a regional or national company, you should tweak your resume to reflect the same type of geographical territory.
  • If your resume focuses heavily on international experience, you may want to tone down the international experience by eliminating a few references to other countries.

Other comparisons recruiters consider include the company’s customer classification, industry ranking, company culture, products and services.

The goal is to create a resume that aligns with as many of the company’s requirements as you can. In some instances you may need to tone down the resume so you don’t appear over qualified and in other instances you may need to up-scale your resume to match the requirements.

While this is a great deal of work, you will eventually develop a portfolio of targeted resumes that you can use repeatedly for similar types of positions.

The bottom line: It will increase your response rate.