How to Write an Executive CV

By Ian Viner

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Here's a detailed look at how to write an Executive CV, hope these ideas help. Note: Before you start typing out your new CV go into the Page Layout settings and make sure that you have selected “Single Line Spacing.”  Furthermore go into your Custom Margins and set the margins to 1.8 all round.


Executive CV: Personal Details

You don’t actually need the words “Personal Details” but at the top of the CV all we need to see is your name, mobile telephone number and an email address.  The name should be in size 18 font whereas the rest of the text should be in size 11.  Make it easy for the reader to find out how to contact you and choose a nice easy to read font style such as Calibri.


Executive CV: Profile

Lots of people give this section different names such as Personal Profile or Professional Profile but our choice would be Executive Summary, and we prefer to see this section written as 5 bullet points.  Choose round black dots as your bullet points and don’t go for anything too fancy, but make sure that the bullets are dragged across to the left hand side with each bullet directly underneath the E in Executive Summary.

The first of these bullet points should really spell out to the reader exactly what it is that you do.  For example you may be “A highly strategic and results driven Sales Director” which has a far better impact than if you say that you are hard working, reliable and trustworthy.  This first bullet point should be no more than 3 lines long and should also highlight your main strengths, so in the case of our Sales Director we may go onto say that they are strong at developing new and existing business with major corporate clients, building strong working relationships with key customers, and negotiating contracts at senior level.  However, this will be different for every candidate.

The other 4 bullet points should all contain a summary of your key skills and in what context you use them, and should be no more than 2-3 lines long to gain maximum impact.  For example you may want to highlight your strong leadership skills, and in particular how you use them to manage your team.  In this case you may want to include your recruiting, training and motivating skills while at the same time you could also mention your coaching, mentoring and team building abilities.  Furthermore, you might want to bring in your management style, your experience of conducting appraisals, and in particular your ability to set new targets and objectives.

Another important set of skills to get across are your Stakeholder Management skills, otherwise known as Relationship Building.  There may be a number of different groups of people who we build and maintain strong relationships with at work – for example, we might do this by influencing and persuading a whole variety of internal colleagues at all levels, while at the same time we might use our presentation and reporting skills with Board Level Directors.   Sourcing and negotiating with suppliers is another key area to consider, and we may well use our selling and communication skills with our customers.

The other skills to include in the Executive Summary will clearly depend on your background.  A Graphic Designer would obviously want to include their creative and innovative skills whereas an Accountant would want to mention their analytical and evaluation skills.    Similarly an HR Manager would be looking to include their ability to implement new policies and procedures, while a Project Manager might want to get across their planning and problem solving skills.


Executive CV: Key Achievements or Career Highlights

From researching numerous HR Directors and Recruiters we believe strongly that a CV should include a Key Achievements or Career Highlights section to get across a small selection of achievements as early as possible in the CV to capture the reader’s attention and get you noticed.  Our choice would be to use 4 bullet points here but they are of course interchangeable according to where the CV is going.  Ideally the achievement should include a measurable figure where you improved the performance of the company over a period of time, and should be no more than 3 lines long.

Each achievement should start with an “Action” word such as Delivered, Generated or Increased so that the reader can see that you made a difference.  You then need to get a figure in nice and early into the bullet point to show the amount of difference you made.  For example, our Sales Director might want to include a line which starts “ Delivered an increase in sales from £10m to £25m.”  The second part of the bullet point needs to quantify the achievement by showing the reader how it was done by a series of actions.

Achievements are not always sales related and in many cases they can highlight a number of cost reductions.  In this instance we might use such Action Words as Reduced, Saved or Lowered.  However, it’s possible that the bullet point cannot include a figure at all in which case there will still be an outcome to the situation and this would still be written at the beginning of the sentence.  Never use a full stop in the middle of a bullet point, and make sure it flows nicely to ensure the best possible impact.


Executive CV: Career History

It’s important to make sure that you record your Career History in reverse chronological order.  Keep it simple by having the job title on the far left – name of your employer in the middle and dates on the far right – years not months – and all on one line – in bold - and underlined.  Don’t bother including the name of the City where the company were based, and definitely not the address.  Under this line and in Italics we like to see a short summary as to what the company do, what line of business they specialise in and what their turnover is.

From this point you can go straight into your Bullet points about the job starting with an overview as to your key areas of responsibility, how many staff reported to you and who you reported to.  Again no more than 2-3 lines here.  Don’t ever use the word “I” – always talk in the third person and in the past tense.

The amount of bullet points you include in each role very much depends how long you were there and how much responsibility you had.    However, you have to aim for as many achievements here as possible, and the more measurable ones the better.  A CV with lots of figures in it will have far more of an impact than one without, so it’s important to research the company properly before you leave as it will be harder to find out the facts afterwards.

Thinking about the Sales Director client we have mentioned so far here are a selection of examples of measurable achievements that we would expect to see on your CV.

  • Increased Sales from £18m to £30m by strategically targeting potential customers, networking with industry contacts, winning a series of tenders and by making a number of Board Level presentations

  • Improved Service Delivery from 96% to 97% by reducing picking errors in the warehouse, appointing dedicated Sales Order Processing staff, using dedicated Drivers and better planning and forecasting

  • Generated an additional £2m in revenue by adding 6 new Product Categories to include Crew Meals, Special Meals and Hot Breakfasts by working closely with the New Product Development team

  • Won the Alpha Supplier of the Year Award for Product Innovation and 100% Customer Service by introducing a pro-active development schedule and reacting quickly to customer’s urgent requirements

  • Delivered an increase in revenue from £13.5m to £23m by strategically aligning the target market, designing and presenting a solution, submitting formal tender proposals and negotiating the contracts

  • Reduced Operating Costs by £1.5m by focusing on core strategic clients, identifying areas for savings, seeking board approval, increasing service quality with existing clients and re-deploying staff into business critical areas

  • Increased Customer Service levels from 78% to 93% by concentrating on fewer clients without compromising revenue, introducing the SLA Scorecard system into all customers, and holding more regular meetings to manage client relationships

  • Improved Customer Contact rates from 55% to 85% at Vodafone, and conversion rates from 23% to 37% by receiving customer accounts 2 months earlier, introducing a 3rd party provider to make calls and identifying right risk groups

  • Generated a £16.3m increase in sales by achieving a 75% success rate with tenders reaching the shortlist stage through appointing a team of bid writers, internal networking and setting up a new process

  • Increased turnover from €120m to €200m by leading the takeover of 25 companies in Europe, entering new markets in France, Belgium and Poland, and by recruiting and coaching a team of 5 specialists

  • Delivered a €32m increase in revenue following the takeover of Luc Olivier SA in Belgium by conducting market research to find target companies, compiling a shortlist and negotiating a senior term loan worth €250m with the banking consortium

  • Won the €17.8m contract with Orifarm in Denmark on the provision of a licence and production of a contraceptive drug by utilising an existing contact with the client and by running clinical trials

  • Grew turnover from £24.2m to £26.4m by increasing Public Sector revenue through winning 4 large tenders, and by improving performance management with the team and changing the target market

  • Turned a £200k loss into a £1.2m profit by improving gross margin from 27% to 43% and by promoting the product mix to generate more sales of A3 than A4 machines

  • Awarded the Regional Manager of the Year at the Annual Konica Minolta Business Awards for being the best performing region in the UK and for delivering outstanding quality and customer service

  • Improved Employee Satisfaction from 70% to 90% on the Annual HR Survey, and reduced Staff Turnover from 39% to 15% by improving recognition of staff performance, rewarding them with new incentives and providing better leadership, coaching and training

  • Grew revenue from £2m to £50m in 3 years thereby surpassing 4 year ”earn out” plan by establishing the company as a serious player in the corporate fit out market

  • Delivered £26m in new project revenue with Jones Lang LaSalle Head Office, London through developing a relationship with Head of Project management and submitting successful  bid

  • Generated £3.6m in new business inside one year by establishing a new route to market and by the presentation and submission of formal tenders

  • Increased turnover by £33m in 3 years in retail and corporate refurbishment contracts through winning new and increasing existing business by developing and networking with key stakeholders

  • Generated £66m in new revenue from 88 service stations by implementing cleanup programme in conjunction with environmental assessors to identify sales for residential and commercial use.

  • Delivered £10m refurbishment project for 120 outlets within 12 months and 7.5% under budget by closely managing external contractors, designers and internal project managers.

  • Delivered incremental sales of £17.5m by developing and introducing a new design into 65 service stations over an 18 month period, liaising closely with contractors, Area, Site and Retail Managers.

  • Generated additional sales of £14m and profits of extra 6% through the management of a new rebranding project, delivered 5 months early and £3.5m under budget.

  • Generated a 47% increase in sales by analyzing strengths and weaknesses of existing routes to market and by working more closely with distributors and dealers to optimize their potential

  • Delivered an additional 27% in revenue in ROW area by presenting to new customers, growing the business in each territory and by cementing relationships with key decision makers

  • Grew PMC business by 20% in the region in the first year through identification and selection of new routes to market together with effective management and direction of existing partners

  • Increased international business by 200%  over a 6 year period by consistently exploiting new relationships and innovative use of a wide range of products

  • Delivered $2.4m worth of revenue which equated to 104% of target in the first 12 months achieving a Grade 2 Performance recognition by regularly presenting to prestigious new and existing customers

  • Generated $800k in new business delivering anti-virus software through identifying existing customers via the internal CRM system, and targeting new projects directly or through Channel Partners

  • Won $4.5m in sales by targeting competitors customers by being in the right place within the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Spam and Email solutions, and running marketing campaigns, events and seminars

  • Attained Top External Account Manager and Top 10 Sales position becoming a member of the Presidents Club 3 years running, including reaching 130% of target, and sales of £2.3m on renewals and upgrades

  • Grew sales from £22m to £31.6m worldwide by re-structuring the territories into 3 distinct regions, by appointing a new sales team and by setting new targets and objectives by product, by customer, by region.

  • Delivered an increase in revenue from £10m to £12m in EMEA region by carrying out a full review of distribution, by recruiting new Sales Managers and appointing new distributors in 12 countries.

  • Improved forecasting accuracy to 95% by closer liaison with customers, timely communication with the manufacturing sites, finance and supply chain, and through better analysis of buying patterns and history.

  • Drove sales from £10.7m to £12.2m in a shrinking market by visiting all key accounts, establishing contractual commitments, forward purchasing schedules and by creating an awareness of the full offering capabilities.

Of course, it is not compulsory to include all of your previous jobs, and we would advise you not to include anything before 1995 as that takes you back 20 years.  In fact most companies will concentrate on what you have done in the last 10 years and you should have more bullet points for your recent roles, and then less as you go further back although we prefer to see a minimum of 2 bullet points per job.

If you feel that including previous roles is an absolute must then we recommend creating an “Earlier Career” section with just the Job Title and Name of Employer mentioned, but no dates.


Executive CV: Qualifications and Training

After the Career History we recommend having a heading entitled Qualifications and Training so that you don’t end up having too many sections.  Again bullet point each of your entries to make them stand out, and start with your most senior qualification – possibly an MBA at the top end of the spectrum – membership of a Professional Body – a BA (Hons) Degree in Finance – or perhaps a BTEC in Business Studies.  If you have some of these qualifications then we would be inclined not to bother with A levels or GCSEs.  However, if you are still a student or haven’t been to University then you will need to include the number of A levels and GCSEs on the CV, although I would be reluctant to have the subjects or grades mentioned. There is no ideal amount of entries here although 6 should do the job nicely.


Executive CV: Interests

Interests are not compulsory on a CV although there is the school of thought that if you have a common interest with the interviewer then it helps to establish a rapport, and it might even help you get the job.  Clearly if you have held positions of responsibility in your extra-curricular activities this is perhaps more likely to impress the reader than if you are merely a member of a Gym, or go swimming once a week.  People who have cycled from London to Brighton to raise £10,000 for a Cancer Charity would be well advised to include this in the Interests section of a CV.


Executive CV: References

Under no circumstances should References ever be volunteered on a CV.  They should only ever be requested after they have offered you the job.  Even then you may prefer to provide the name of your previous Line Manager who doesn’t still work for your former Employer.  Statements such as “References Available on Request” should never be included on a CV.

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