What is an executive resume?
In medicine and academics, we tend to have a curriculum vitae that is exhaustive and factual. And this is often sufficient for staff physicians and faculty members. But as you think about future roles in leadership, and particularly executive leadership roles, you’ll want to consider a supplemental and complementary document called an executive resume. If you have no idea what this is, and just started to freak out a little, don’t worry! Fortunately, it’s not that hard to understand and create an executive resume. (Technically, it should be résumé but finding the accents on my keyboard is too much work.)
A CV does a great job of cataloging data, facts, and information about you. It is static and is very 2-dimensional to a reader. In fact, who really reads a CV? When I look at a CV, I flip through it. Most of the time, I’m comparing what I see to a mental checklist of standards. Do they have boards, a medical license, and what is their training? Do they have publications, grants, books or chapters? And I’m always looking for (hoping for) something that makes the person interesting. Most CVS are pretty formulaic and (I’m sorry to say) a little boring. A boring CV does not mean a boring person, and is certainly not disqualifying. But, the details of your professional life may not appear as outstanding once they are turned into summaries for your CV.
Returning to the subject, if a CV is 2-dimensional and flat on the paper, an executive resume can add another dimension to the image of you. In an executive CV, you can bring to life your jobs and experiences and illustrate your skills, talents, and experiences. This document can make you leap to life from the page.
The executive resume is not about titles, it is about successes. This is where you show interviewers that you not only held a title, but that you delivered on it. It’s also a great place to explain the programs and initiatives you’ve created or led. The executive resume helps show that you don’t just have credentials, you also have the magic touch to get things done.
What goes into an executive resume?
I don’t think there is one format that is perfect for everybody. I’ve provided you a downloadable generic template here (look below in your download bar.) After you work with it a bit, you’ll want to customize and make it your own. I think there is general agreement that it should be relatively short. One to two pages is ideal, with three as a suggested maximum.
I use the following categories in my personal executive summary:
- Career profile
- Areas of Expertise
- Professional experience
- Education and training
Let’s spend a little time with these categories.
I really don’t like the old-fashioned “objective” statements on resumes. They feel a lot like writing my personal statement for…well, every educational application ever. Instead, think of writing a career profile about you and your leadership. If you are currently in an executive level job and want the same job, you can title this section with that specific role. If you are seeking a different role, try using a more generic title, like Physician Executive Leader, as you can see in the template. This section will give you an opportunity to summarize your overall leadership qualifications and to highlight the type of role you are seeking. It is not very time consuming to customize this for specific jobs and for the specific institution to which you are applying.
Areas of Expertise
This section is much more fun to craft. Take a little time to think about your best executive level qualities and strengths. What makes you special and unique? You can even do a fun exercise of asking those you have worked with closely to list your top strengths as a potential or current leader.
Use this pre-work around your strengths to describe your leadership at its best. I like to use bullets to pull out the things I want a search committee to really remember.
The next section is your professional experience. Here, you will list your past positions and job titles that are most relevant and important for the job you are seeking. This does not have to include every position you have had. You can mix jobs and specific roles in this area too. For example, I list Chair of Pathology, which is my full-time employment and I list Chief of Staff, which was a volunteer 2-year elected position.
Under each job or role, list your major accomplishments, projects (with outcomes, metrics and data), financial successes (with numbers), and other things that demonstrate you are able to get results.
Education and Training
The last section is easy and is simply a summary of your education and training. You can include your degrees and also certifications that may be important for the job you are seeking.
Final hints and tips
Make sure you are crafting your executive resume for the job you want, not the job you have. In order to do this, think about the skills, attributes and behaviors that are needed for that next level job.
For example, if you are a staff physician applying for a section chief role, you will probably be required to demonstrate more group and team leadership and system-based thinking. Personal excellences is expected and is a pre-requisite, so you won’t want to focus things like your clinical productivity or outcomes. Instead, think about demonstrating answers to questions like these:
Have you led a utilization management project that yielded financial savings?
Have you managed other physicians or staff and led a team?
Have you managed a budget or part of a budget?
If you are a Section or Division Director and applying to become a chair, a search committee will be looking evidence that you can lead across different stakeholder groups and team. You’ll also need to show ability to be more outward facing rather than inward facing and more institutionally minded. For most chair searches, there will be a position description and this can be a great place to get an idea of the characteristics and experiences the institution wants. Think about questions like these:
Have you led projects that pull together multidisciplinary teams?
Have you developed and mentored faculty who have been successful in their own right?
Have you demonstrated an ability to create and implement your vision, even at a smaller scale than a department?
Although an executive resume may not be requested or required for physicians until they are applying for top executive positions, providing one with your CV and cover letter will help you stand out among applicants at any level of leadership. Crafting your executive resume can also be a great tool to help you summarize for yourself why experiences and skills make you the ideal candidate for a specific position.