Working Strategies: C-suite candidates and the needed paperwork

Amy Lindgren

“Send me your materials.”

Résumé? Curriculum vitae? Biography? What should executive-level candidates forward when recruiters make this request? Lesson one for executive job search: In this situation feel free to reply, “What do you prefer?”

For the moment, the most adaptable and widely used document is your résumé, so that’s a good place to start. Once you have that organized, you can improve your LinkedIn profile, draft a one-page bio, and consider whether a CV is needed. Here are some tips to help you get prepared.

Résumés for the C-Suite

If you’re focused on a C-suite position, that is, a leadership position with the word “chief” in the title, your résumé needs to promote your “C” qualities. For example, CFOs (chief financial officer) are long past the days of entering financial data or developing quarterly reports. Those skills are assumed but unlikely to be used — which means they don’t need to be highlighted.

If a CFO isn’t going to showcase accounting skills and a CTO (chief technology officer) isn’t going to brag about software packages, what are they going to describe instead?

Leadership. Plain and simple, executives are hired to lead. They must also know their discipline, of course, but they’re unlikely to be hired based on that knowledge alone. To position yourself as an executive or high-level director, follow these résumé strategies:

1. Lead with an Executive Summary: Also called a Professional Profile, this short synopsis provides your leadership experience and related training while setting the tone for the résumé.

2. Highlight key leadership skills: Some categories might include: Strategic planning, change management, diversity and inclusion, financial oversight, team building, and communication. Think about your own leadership skills, and then create a résumé category to call them out with some detail provided.

3. Demonstrate expertise in your discipline and industry: Back to our CFO or CTO example — what are they specifically good at in their disciplines or industries? Examples could include corporate tax strategies, mergers, cyber security, etc. Either candidate might be well-versed in an industry, such as hospitality or retail. Create another résumé category to capture these points, making it easier for employers and recruiters to see your strengths.

4. Keep job descriptions short: Focus on numbers and high-level projects rather than daily tasks. For example, “Led 30+ accounting team members in preparing / reviewing financials for six corporate acquisitions over two years, totaling $3.6B in value.” The goal is to provide a scope of your capabilities, not an exhaustive litany of the steps involved.

5. Consider a Projects section: If our CTO masterminded an enterprisewide technology changeover, that might merit its own paragraph. Consider major projects you led to see if any fit this concept.

6. Include community engagement: Have you led fundraising committees or served on a nonprofit board? Perhaps you helped your house of worship improve their building with a new kitchen. The higher the level of your community involvement, the more important it is to include on your résumé.

Is a CV needed?

In most fields, that answer will be no. The CV, or curriculum vitae, is a traditional tool used by physicians, academics, attorneys and others with letters after their names (MD, PhD, etc.). It’s generally used when moving from one “like” position to the next — from being a doctor in one hospital to being a doctor in another hospital, for example. But if this doctor is now applying to be a hospital executive, the hiring committee might be calling for a CV. If so, the best strategy is to modify the traditional CV format with some of the elements used for executive résumés.

What about LinkedIn?

Yes, you need a LinkedIn profile. It’s one of the first places recruiters will check, either on a blind search for candidates, or as part of their due diligence after receiving your résumé. One strategy is to modify your LinkedIn as a mirror of your résumé, by including elements from your leadership and expertise categories in the About section of the LinkedIn profile.

And a bio too?

Maybe, and maybe not. An executive bio can be useful in your candidate package, describing you with more warmth and personality than your other materials can do. It’s usually just a few paragraphs with a photo, but it needs to feel professional to be effective.

Now that you know more about the materials used in executive job search, you can get started on creating yours. For more background on executive job search, check my columns from the last two weeks on strategies for identifying and finding high-level roles. Next week we’ll complete the series with leadership books that have crossed my desk recently.

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Amy Lindgren owns a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at

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