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Careers Archives | Underwood Executive | Executive Search & Talent Management

8 tips for an Executive Resume in 2021

By | Coaching, Recruitment, Talent

”Have you got any advice on my CV?” or “What do you think of my resume?” and “How can I improve my CV? are the questions we are asked every day here at Underwood Executive.

The executive resume is a sales tool – it is a preview document with the goal of winning an interview.  The resume is not a document to tell the interviewer everything about you (no DOB, how many kids you have or what you enjoy doing on the weekend).  It’s an appetizer, a taste of what skills and competencies you have to offer as a high performer.

The best resumes are visually appealing, easy to read and have very little narrative and more dot point facts and figures.

Specifically, here are 8 tips to producing an effective executive resume:

  1. Short & sweet– preferably 3 pages (maximum 5) is enough to demonstrate skills, experience, competencies and achievements. Anything longer tends to suggest long narratives, too much waffle or a retyping of a job description. Use a crisp font style and size (please not Times New Roman!), use dot points and short clear sentences. Never use third person or ‘me-centred’ statements with lots of opinion. We want to see white space – not long paragraphs or over indulgent sentences. Always consider readability and not squeezing too much on one page.
  2. Personal details – your name, mobile number, email and LinkedIn URL (make sure you customise this) are best in a header so these details carry across to every page. It is also recommended you use page numbers, so when someone prints your CV it is easy to put in order.
  3. Give yourself a title – the first thing we should be able to see on your resume is what type of executive you are eg: General Manager HR or Chief Financial Officer. Giving yourself a title or several titles makes it easy for the reader to make a connection to the types of positions you are going to be interested in. You can separate titles, just like you can on a LinkedIn profile eg: Group Executive HR | Organisational Development | Change Agent.
  4. Competencies & key words – what are your stand out strengths? Those skills that someone should be hiring you for? What competencies have allowed you to succeed in previous positions? We need to see these skills listed on the front page. Think of these as key words that should be repeated throughout your resume to sell your story and they become the key message to reinforce your strengths.
  5. Career summary– having a table on the front page of your resume that summarises your career history with the company, position title and dates/length of service is a quick reference point for the reader to see your career in an easy snapshot.
  6. Company descriptions– not everyone has worked with well-known brand names like Woolworths or Commonwealth Bank, so we always recommend 2 – 3 sentences saying who the company is, the revenue turnover of the organisation, the industry, number of staff etc. Any information that makes it easy for the reader to make a connection and understand the type, size and complexity of the organisations that you have worked for. Further additions can be hyperlinks to the organisation and the use of logos.
  7. Dates– a resume without specific dates (months and years) is frustrating, as we can’t determine length of service in each role.  Being clear about employment dates and gaps is critical in producing an honest and up to date document. This also includes having dates for when you have completed relevant qualifications. Always check to make sure these dates and descriptions match your LinkedIn profile too.
  8. Career history – always start with your current or most recent position making it very clear your job title and key responsibilities. To give each role size and scale, you can say who you report to eg: CEO and include how many staff report to you eg: 5 Managers, 46 team members, budget responsibility and the role purpose. Including key achievements under each position demonstrates you have performed well, what you have contributed and what success you have achieved. Where possible use as many facts and figures, such as sales results, cost savings, engagement survey results, change management projects etc. Don’t go back any further than 10 years in great detail, as prior experience can be summarised and shows how your career has progressed, but we don’t need the actual key responsibilities for all of these past positions.

Remember that an executive resume is about making yourself and your career stand out through highlighting your most important skills and milestones. You won’t be able to get all of this information in a succinct document, so don’t even try. In this situation, less is more. Too often resumes become versions of war and peace and you lose the reader by confusing them with too much irrelevant data and information that takes away from your core skills, experience and achievements.

If you want your CV noticed, ask yourself what is the most remarkable and significant information as an executive that I want to get across? What skills have I developed to achieve success so far in my career? What makes me more appealing to hire than another executive?  What can I bring to the table that potentially others can’t? What do I want to be known for? It is the answer to these questions that you need to prioritise.

A great executive resume is appealing, concise, informative and relevant with key words and factual information.

Need help? Speak to our consulting team about a career coaching session here.

Underwood Executive becomes only South Australian member of exclusive global executive search body AESC

By | Executive Search, Leadership

Underwood Executive has just been accepted into the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) – a global industry profession that sets the highest quality standards in executive search and leadership consulting worldwide. There are currently no other recruitment firms in Adelaide who have been accredited by the AESC.

To be included amongst these elite members is a significant achievement for Underwood Executive, who commenced operations in 2011. Only a small percentage of firms that apply to the AESC meet the rigorous requirements of AESC membership. Membership is selective and conducted by a global team to ensure due diligence standards are met. This included Underwood Executive sharing their unique methodology, various research and reporting techniques as well as undergoing an extensive evaluation of their processes, including client references and ethical standards.

As the only firm in South Australia qualified as an AESC member, it further reinforces Underwood Executive’s commitment to providing the highest quality standards in executive search right here in Adelaide.

Patrick Rooney, Managing Director at the AESC for APAC & Middle East said “when you choose a search firm who is a member of the AESC, you know you are getting a seal of quality. Underwood have joined an elite group of professionals who share best practice and knowledge in the industry, which helps guide the ethics and standards across the globe”

Nicole Underwood, Founder and Managing Director said “attracting global talent to Adelaide and selling the value to those wanting to return home is a real advantage when our search practice is based here. We know the selling points of the Adelaide lifestyle, the top employers and what executive opportunities exist here”. Underwood is certainly challenging the status quo and setting the standard in doing things differently.

She continued, “we are thrilled to be part of this global profession that shares best practice, knowledge and networks. It reinforces our commitment to providing the highest quality standards in executive search here in Adelaide, as the only South Australian firm with AESC membership. I am looking forward to the conference in New York in 2020 to meet with like-minded business owners and search consultants”

Underwood Executive has also recently won “Executive Recruiter of the Year” 2019 with Human Resources Director Magazine (HRD) this year, as well as being named as one of LinkedIn’s Most Socially Engaged Firms. Both accolades were in competition with Australia’s biggest recruitment firms and again, Underwood was the only South Australian winner.

The AESC has over 16,000 members ranging in size from large global firms to boutique firms, spanning over 70 countries. Members place more than 100,000 executives each year in board and C-level positions for the world’s leading organisations of all types and sizes.

Underwood Executive is an exclusive executive search and talent management consultancy based in Adelaide specialising in sourcing C-suite, leadership and hard to fill positions.

Press Release | Underwood Executive Becomes AESC Member | Dec 2019

20191205 AESC Welcomes Underwood Executive into Membership

Caution! Why you shouldn’t hand over your referees before interview

By | Recruitment

Reference Checking A natural step in the recruitment process is for employers to verify your employment history and job performance in previous roles before making you a formal offer of employment. Nothing new here.

However, there are things that you should strongly consider before casually handing over your referee details.

Talking to an executive this week about his current job search, I learnt about his staggering experience with sharing his referees with a local Recruiter before meeting with the client/employer. Typically at an executive level, reference checks are not completed until much later in the process, when the candidate and client have met and decided they are both keen to progress the recruitment process. In this instance the candidate completed full psychometric testing and reference checking prior to any formal interview or meeting.

Presumably because the candidate had his referees listed on his resume, the Recruiter proceeded to speak to them without seeking permission first.

The first the candidate knew about it was when one of the referees called and told him that not only had he been drilled about his job performance and working relationship, but then the Recruiter had proceeded to canvas the referee for the job in question. So much so, the referee was then invited in for interview for the same job! The candidate was clearly gob smacked. He had potentially just done himself out of a job by providing competition for the opportunity, albeit unintentionally. He was absolutely floored that this could happen and questioned the integrity of the Recruiter.

Some of you may argue – so what? What is wrong with that? The referee might be a better match for the job in question and the Recruiter needs to act in the best interest of their client. I would argue that there is due process, common decency and respectful communication in question here.

With this example in mind, I recommend that all executive candidates do not include a referee list on their resume, unless of course it is explicitly requested as part of the process and you have informed your referees of the role you are being considered for. If you progress past first round interview and there is genuine interest where both you and the employer feel there is a match, then, and only then, should you discuss your referees.

Referees are busy and a thorough reference check will take at least 20 – 30 minutes to get a detailed understanding of not only roles and responsibilities, but KPI’s, outcomes, job performance, areas of strength, development areas, leadership style and communication skills. A hectic executive is not going to appreciate being called every few weeks by another potential employer or recruiter to have the same conversation. The risk also is that it potentially reflects badly on you, as your referee might be feeling ‘over it’ and thinking ‘not another reference’ and if these feelings are coming out in their tone, it could overshadow their true assessment and reflection of your job performance in the past. It is better that your referee is only interrupted and called for a role that you are very close to securing and will accept if offered. Don’t waste their time or yours for roles you aren’t 100% serious about or when you are in the early stages of a process and unsure of how close you are to winning the job.

Other quick tips:

1. Always ring your referee before they are contacted and ensure they are still happy to act as a referee for you. Quickly explain your current situation and the type of role you are going for – this will help give them some context before receiving a call and it also helps frame their reference to match the type of role you are going for.

2. Tell the referee who will be calling. You could always text the person’s phone number for them to save in their phone, so that when the number comes up, they know who it is. It’s all about taking responsibility and making it as easy as possible for all parties involved.

3. Find out the best number to reach them on and when is the best time to call and communicate this back to the person who will be ringing.

4. Make reference checking easy for your recruiter – text or email the exact referee details including current employer, exact title, best numbers to call on, email and even a link to their LinkedIn profile. The more prepared everyone is for these conversations, the more meaningful the exchange and information obtained – all of which helps your case and increases your chances of being offered the role.

There are certainly many examples out there relating to where reference checking can go wrong for different parties involved. Even last week, after I conducted a glowing reference check for my candidate, she rang to say “Hey, I heard you spoke to Chris (the referee), he didn’t realise I was on the job market and offered me a job with his new employer”. Now, lucky for me, she didn’t take it and won the role with my client – but it is a clear reminder that as a candidate on the job market, you need to take responsibility and be on the front foot when it comes to providing referees and having conversations upfront, where you set expectations and create the most favorable set of circumstances for all involved.

Have you been conned? 5 ways to avoid a bad hire!

By | Recruitment

How many times have you hired a dud? How many times have you kicked yourself for not following your gut and made a poor recruitment decision? Was it that they were 5 minutes late for their interview, did they have a sweaty handshake, were they reluctant to provide relevant referees or was it that unexplained gap in their CV when they were taking a ‘career break’?

After a recent conversation with an employer, they told me about a senior executive they had to let go after they failed to deliver the agreed outcomes and how their dictatorial leadership style nearly destroyed the organisation’s culture.  I was curious – how did you hire this candidate in the first place? Where did the recruitment process go wrong? It seems it was just one mistake after another.

Here are my 5 key tips to avoid making a decision you may regret:

1.     First impressions

There’s a lot to be said about first impressions.  Tell me, was the cover letter a generic template? Did they address your name and title correctly? Did you receive their application within 5 minutes of you posting the vacancy online? What about their LinkedIn profile? Don’t ignore first impressions – no matter how great their experience and skills appear on paper.  Sure, sometimes the right candidate might be late for your interview for a genuine reason and they may apply immediately on-line due to being in the right place at the right time. However and this is a big however, when things don’t start adding up or you have a ‘feeling’ – stop, take a look back and you may see a pattern of question marks or incidents that might make you reconsider the consistency and quality of the applicant.

2.     Interview attire

I’ve written previously is the business suit dead? In my experience, candidates who are making the effort and really going all out to impress – which often include wearing a suit, do tend to be the ones who make it to a shortlist. Recently, I was recruiting a Business Development Manager and every male applicant I interviewed wore a full matching suit and tie. In the past, when I have had candidates come to interview for executive roles in more informal attire and I have ignored this or given them a ‘pass’, it seems that they then slip up later in the process. Don’t ignore first impressions – they count.

3.     Gut feeling

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that is screaming something is not quite right here? Don’t ignore it. Don’t bury it, flush it out.  If you can’t identify exactly what it is, my advice is having another meeting in a more casual environment when someone is more likely to relax and be themselves. You can take someone else with you from the organisation for a second opinion or you may wish to ask them some scenario questions such as what would you do in the first 30 days if you win this job? Finally, you can conduct reference checking.  End of the day, if you can’t qualify what you feel in your gut, my advice is don’t hire because when something eventually doesn’t go to plan or pan out, you will kick yourself for not listening to your intuition.

4.     Referees

This is where a lot of recruitment processes fail.  You only have to look at serial applicants or non-performers who are continually re-hired – how did that happen? They weren’t reference checked at all or they were referenced with the wrong people.  Speaking to the right referee is a skill and then asking the right questions to get the answers you are after can be the difference between hiring a star vs. hiring a dud.  Are you accepting mobile phone numbers? Are you qualifying the person is who they say they are? Or are you just asking closed questions and fact checking? Don’t delegate this task as an administrative process as even the best con man, who can blitz an interview, can be “found out” at this stage.

5.     Theory vs. examples

Throughout the interview, make sure you are listening for real examples.  These are situations and examples the candidate has been in where they can easily describe the situation, what they did and what the outcome was.  If they are regurgitating theory or telling you what they would do vs what they have actually done – you should immediately visualise a neon warning sign flashing above their head.  When someone is out of their depth and hasn’t performed the tasks or been in the situations before, they won’t be able to be specific. If you can’t visualise the example – keep probing and get very specific.

Hiring a dud is an expensive, painful and emotional mistake. Getting the recruitment decision wrong can impact culture, destroy morale and consume your time, thoughts and energy.  The devils in the detail! Don’t short-cut processes just because you know someone who would be perfect or they have worked for some high profile brands, so they must be good. Rubbish. Running a thorough, consistent and vigorous process where you listen to facts, intuition and behaviours could save you a lot of time, heartache and pain.  Don’t ignore the warning signs…..there are red flags, there always are, you just need to know where to look.