Stop Tweaking Your Executive Resume–Do this Instead

I’m going to take a minute to deconstruct one of the biggest myths in executive job search.

Let me start by asking you a question.

Was it a few minutes?

Was it an hour?

Several hours?

How did that feel, spending all that time rearranging the words on the page?3D Rendering of two overlapping circles in glassy blue

Here’s a big secret, revealed just for you, about how much time you should spend retooling your resume for each job.

15 minutes. Max. Maybe less. For real.

If you spent more than 15 minutes per role, you’re doing it wrong. Let’s break that down.

To be fair, when resume writers and recruiters talk about resume tailoring, they’re not wrong. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see that you’re the right fit for the position. Some of that will come from the specific language you choose to include in your resume.

But if you’re spending more than 15 minutes rewriting your resume, simply to get caught in some ATS keyword search rather than from your executive experience, you’re doing it wrong. You are entering the game far too late, using downstream tools to create downstream effects. What if you could use upstream strategy instead?

Let me tell you about what I call “the great Venn diagram in the sky.”

A Venn diagram is a handful of overlapping circles, each containing data sets. Where the circles overlap, the data sets are similar. Where they don’t overlap, the data in each circle is completely independent from the rest.

Step 1 is to narrow down your search to the top 5 roles you are most excited about.

For step 2, visualize a Venn diagram that looks a lot like the Olympics logo—let’s say 5 circles, each holding one of those positions. Do those circles overlap based on role characteristics, expectations, industries, executive levels, functional requirements? If so, terrific. Now write your resume directly to the center of those roles, and downstream “tweaking” will be a few minutes per resume. Probably less than 15 minutes.

If three of them overlap, but two are very different from those three (and, probably, fairly different from one another), then discard them. They are not in your plan, and changing up your resume for those roles will be more like a complete rewrite.

“,” . “ , , , ? ?”

The only answer is radical acceptance that opportunities 1-3 are in your current plan and the others might become part of your next-tier plans. Alternatively, it’s time to ditch 1-3 and focus on roles that look like #4 or #5. Either way, you have to make hard choices early on in your job search. It’s literally the only way forward.

Taking this approach does two things for you: It gets you off the “resume tailoring” hamster wheel that has sucked up the last dozen-plus (or more) nights of your life, and it gives you the type of exquisite focus that hiring teams and recruiters love to see.