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CEO Resume Example & Writing Guide

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CEO Resume Example & Writing Guide
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Two words of advice can be your guideposts for writing a winning CEO resume: strategic and specific. Readiness for this big career move is largely owing to the strategic abilities that make you a visionary leader. Now it’s a matter of channeling everything this organization needs from such a leader into the most persuasive selling points you can make for yourself. 

Whether it’s the incumbent CEO whose shoes are being filled, a board of directors or a selection committee, the hiring decision-makers you need to influence already know what they are looking for. Adopting their mindset is the starting point for strategically targeting every word of your resume.

This CEO resume writing guide, along with the corresponding resume example will cover the following topics:

  • Role of a CEO and job market outlook
  • General writing tips for a CEO resume
  • The best format for structuring your CEO resume
  • Advice on each section of your resume: summary, work history, education and skills
  • Professional resume layout and design hints.

Resume.io has developed more than 300 occupation-specific resume examples and serves more than 11 million customers, so you’re in good hands. Let’s dive in! 

What do CEOs do?

CEOs hold the most senior decision-making authority, and are pivotal to communications between the board, other executive officers and staff managers. What most CEOs have in common, by virtue of job title, is their highest-level executive rank in developing strategies and policies, and providing overall corporate direction. Typically, CEOs report to a board of directors or similar governing officers in overseeing and guiding operational practices and procedures. 

Anything and everything can fall within the scope of a CEO’s responsibilities and authority, depending on the organization in the private or public sector. The specifics of every CEO resume will depend on the job being sought and the employer.

What CEOs earn and future job prospects

If income alone were a reason to envy CEOs, earnings data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) validates popular belief. In May 2020, the mean annual salary for those holding chief executive positions was $197,840. In the top-paying employment sectors, CEO salaries range from about $250,000 to $275,000.

The BLS projects a 10% decrease in the number of chief executive positions from 2019 to 2029.

This decline is attributed to improved office technology, organizational restructuring and greater concentration of jobs in large, established companies. The high pay and prestige associated with CEO positions contribute to competition among qualified applicants.

How to write a CEO resume

If there’s anything that hiring decision-makers can take for granted in your CEO resume, it’s this: you’ve earned the kind of bragging rights exclusive to top-flight candidates with superior levels of career experience. But presumably the other serious contenders have too.

So in a playing field that’s even on most qualifying counts, your case for being the best “next boss” comes down to being different. Up next are some wording tips for a CEO resume that illuminates your brightest star qualities. But first, this is the basic framework of components:

  • Summary (sometimes called profile or personal statement)
  • Employment history
  • Education
  • Skills

Each section will be covered later in this guide, along with CEO resume examples. Our general advice here applies to your CEO resume summary, employment history and skills.

Superlatives, sprinkled in with action verbs and the right keywords describing your skills and accomplishments will not look out of place in any CEO resume. The same goes for buzzwords — “in-the-know” lingo relevant to the profession and industry. But let’s focus on the wording of your CEO resume.

A CEO of your caliber can readily come up with boatloads of appropriate terms and phrases. The tricky part is to not go overboard seeking the hiring team’s endorsement of your fitness to steer this ship. 

The other tricky part is to sound original, as well as authentic, with resume wording that no other candidates will use exactly the same way. Your approach needs to be both careful and creative, in deciding what to say and how to say it.  

Expert tip

Customize and optimize

It may be second nature to tailor each version of your CEO resume to the specific job and organization they aspire to lead. You know how to find out everything you can, including from inside sources, about the hiring team’s wish list priorities. This is the basis for selectively customizing your CEO resume wording, which should closely match the job requirement terminology used in the career ad posting.

You might also expect your resume to be screened by automated applicant tracking systems (ATS) software, along with dozens or hundreds of others submitted online. Only those that rank high enough for keywords reflecting job requirements will pass through this filter for review by human recruiters. Optimize your resume accordingly with the right keywords throughout.

Best resume format for a CEO

The most commonly used chronological resume format is generally recommended for structuring a CEO resume. It gives hiring decision-makers the most straightforward overview of your career highlights in the employment history section.

But if the CEO position you’re pursuing would be a radical departure, or your management background has not followed a linear path of employee positions, take a look at alternative resume formats. Having primarily a consulting background of contract work might be a reason to consider a functional resume structure. This could focus on an area of professional expertise or industry. 

It never hurts to take a look at the resume format and structure of other management application documents. For more ideas and inspiration, you’re invited to look at these examples from the Business & Management category: 

CEO CV summary example: your deliverables

So far, so good, if your CV has passed through the ATS filter and into the sights of human readers. But now, to grab hold of their attention, the wording must make you sound like an exceptional CEO, not just a good one. This needs to happen off the top, in the summary section (sometimes called profile or personal statement).

Expert tip

Occupying the first-things-first spot on your resume page reflects the summary’s importance in creating a strong impression at a glance. Yet, you would not be the first job seeker struggling to write it well.

Don’t let this block or slow you down. Leave the summary until last to write. Keep in mind it should hit the high notes in describing your qualifications, without duplicating your accomplishment and skill descriptions.

Every word counts in this synopsis of your qualifications. Your resume summary is a written version of the elevator pitch you might very well be invited to present face-to-face during an interview. In just three or four strategically focused statements, it articulates and substantiates the deliverables you bring to this organization as its next CEO. Above all, it provides tangible evidence of your accomplishments in terms that the recruiting can relate to.

Here’s the basic formula for building four CEO summary statements:

  1. Adjective + CEO with <number> years of <type of experience>.
  2. Seeking to <how you’ll contribute> at <hiring organization>.
  3. At <past employer>, <most impressive achievement(s)> by <$ or % measurable result>.
  4. A <adjective> + <leader-specific noun> who <key ability or trait + desired result>.
Do

Experienced CEO with an extensive background in administrative and marketing roles with a professional health care provider association and a volunteer-run arts center. Strong financial management and strategic planning skills. A detail-oriented leader with a track record of meeting income and membership growth goals.

Don't

Seasoned CEO with over 10 years of executive experience in the nonprofit sector. Seeking to raise voluntary membership enrollment and dues income by 30% at More Music Association. At Crosstown Cultural Collective, raised revenue from $4.7 to $8 million through innovative fundraisers and subscriber incentives. A resourceful catalyst for income growth and renewed vibrancy through community engagement.

Below is a CEO resume example summary you can customize.

Adaptable summary resume example

Results driven Chief Operating Officer with several years of experience helping to guide and lead companies to their greatest potential. Bringing forth the leadership skills necessary to foster growth in dynamic environments. Adept in cultivating strong relationships with business partners and clients, resulting in large-scale financial growth.

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Employment history sample: the “chief” in CEO

This CEO resume section is the place to convince hiring team members that you’ll give your all to getting the right results. It’s about the promise of your past performance — actions and outcomes you can deliver again. The CEO whose job you may be taking over is not interested in a static list of duties along the lines of: “responsible for blah, blah and blah ...” Neither are the board members whose thumbs up you seek to win. 

Mentally trade places with everyone who will be reading your resume and assessing your worthiness as a CEO candidate. Imagine how busy they are with unrelated preoccupations, and their eyes glazing over from reading too many generically tedious resume job descriptions. What would jolt you to attention in a stand-out employment history example? 

Expert tip

“CEOs have it easy. They get golden parachutes and relax while everyone else works hard.”

Not true, says Tom Gerencer, career writer at resumelab.com. The CEO works harder than anyone, with 10 times the stress. Everything is riding on your shoulders.”

A successful CEO resume instills confidence in your fitness to carry that weight, he adds. Otherwise, unconvinced recruiters will see you as a liability.

To write a resume that works for the employer you are trying to impress, learn what it needs, then show you can provide that. 

The notion of trying to distill your most impressive accomplishments down to listed one-liners can seem daunting, if not impossible. Here are three pointers to simplify the task.

  1. Selectively stick to the “strategic and specific” theme of this writing guide. Zero in on what this employer needs in the way of CEO deliverables.
     
  2. Each accomplishment should be quantifiable.
     
  3. Break each into three parts:
    - Action verb conveying your skill
    - Specific task completed
    - Measurable outcome benefiting the organization

For instance:

  • Developed trade relationships with 16 biotechnology suppliers in Latin America.
  • Restructured membership service programs to achieve 19% enrollment growth and 24% revenue increase.
  • Provided executive leadership in launching three new e-publications, generating $3.2 million in advertising revenue and affiliate marketing commission.

Below is a CEO employment history resume sample.

Here’s an adaptable CEO employment history resume sample:

CEO at Maynard Technologies, New York 
May 2016 - June 2021 

  • Determined and implemented strategic direction for product management and development processes.
  • Oversaw the development of new products and services.
  • Established short-term and long-term goals.
  • Effectively oversaw executive leadership and company recruitment goals.
  • Increased revenue by over 150% in a 5 year time-span.
     

Vice President at Hasselback Operations, New York 
April 2012 - April 2016 

  • Effectively managed and motivated sales and marketing teams, resulting in greater revenue.
  • Successfully managed overall budget activities.
  • Collaborated with management and other employees to achieve company goals.
  • Helped to achieve measurable change in the company through determination, leadership, and hard work.
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CEO resume education example: learning to lead

While there is no prescribed post-secondary learning path to becoming a CEO, rarely will the education space on a CEO resume be blank. We’ve heard about the iconically successful entrepreneurs who made it big without a college degree: Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg readily spring to mind. But clearly, they had other exceptional claims to fame and fortune. 

Your CV education highlights will likely be straightforward.  List the relevant degrees earned from colleges you attended in reverse chronological order, from highest to lowest levels. Be sure to mention scholastic awards or other special achievements and honors. 

Statistical insight

Research data published by businessinsider.com revealed surprising education facts about CEOs.

  • One-third have engineering degrees
  • Only 11% have MBAs
  • Fewer than 10% graduated from Ivy League schools

Any diplomas, certifications and internships relevant to your executive development also belong here — selectively, of course. The same goes for professional memberships that widen windows to expand and elevate your knowledge and skills. Don’t overlook anything that sets you apart as someone who places a high priority on continuous learning to keep pace in your field and on top of your game. 

Expert tip

Make it all count … and not only the learning sessions you’ve enrolled in as a participant, both on and off the clock. What about the courses you’ve taught, workshops you’ve led and conference keynote speaker gigs? Perhaps you are a published author with books, articles or blog posts to your credit. Maybe your accomplishments have earned peer recognition. And don’t forget about mentorships, philanthropy and volunteer community service.

Consider adding a custom category for these achievements and contributions, perhaps as an education subsection.

Below is the education section from a CEO resume example.

Here’s an adaptable education section from a CEO resume example:

Master of Business Administration, NYU, New York 
September 2008 - May 2011 

Bachelor of Science in Economics, Fordham University, New York 
September 2004 - May 2008

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Skills example section: best of the bunch

The CV skills list on a CEO resume might seem deceptively simple to create. From leagues of expert sources, you’ll find hundreds of variations on dozens of vital hard and soft skills for CEOs, and twice as many deemed valuable or useful. It’s not so easy to be scrupulously selective about which ones belong on your CEO resume for this particular role. Deciding which ones to exclude may be tougher than you expect.

Go back to our earlier advice on how to write a CEO resume. Pay close attention to the importance of keywords — often skill-specific buzzwords — exactly matching the posted job requirements. Additional insights you have into the employer’s wish list should reinforce your choice of skills.  But strive for originality by adding your own twist to vague or hackneyed skill jargon.

Check out a CEO resume sample for the skills section below.

Adaptable skills resume example
  • Project Management
  • Business Strategy
  • Adaptability
  • Risk Management Analysis
  • Effective Communication
  • Key Partnership Development
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Resume layout and design: looking the part

A visually compelling CEO resume can boost your chances of winning a job interview. Imagine that best case scenario unfolding as you are welcomed into the conference room: Everything feels exactly right within seconds of your introduction to the interview team. From your shirt color and shoe style to your confident posture and earnest facial expressions, you’ve got this! You look like you belong here

And that’s no accident, right? It’s what happens when any serious CEO contender is fully prepared to score high on all job interview counts. Looking right for the part is naturally part of your preparation strategy, knowing the interviewers will start making up their minds the instant handshakes are exchanged, before you even say a word. 

Now imagine this — not getting that job interview at all, and not for lack of a word-perfect CEO resume. However diligent you are in saying all the right things, the right way, the chance to impress interviewers might never happen if your resume fails to look as good as it sounds. 

The attention and effort you put into a stylishly eye-catching resume will never be wasted. Anything less than a professionally polished appearance could deter readers from wasting more time than their passing glance took.

Strive for a visual impact that’s striking, but gimmick-free: impeccably neat, clean and streamlined. Less is more when it comes to an uncluttered reader-friendly layout. But be generous about page margins, line spacing and overall white space for proportion and balance to offset the text-heavy sections. 

Expert tip

Most of the creative leeway for resume design lies in your choices of font style and size, text formatting, graphic flourishes and color splashes. This can be your secret weapon, however subtle, in making an instant connection with would-be interviewers. 

Just as your wardrobe choice for that occasion would fit the corporate image and workplace vibe — buttoned down, casual or somewhere in between — so should the look of your resume. From web page headers and annual report chapter titles to product logos and CEO blog archives, all provide visual brand clues. Align your own graphic style to that effect: compatible but not copycat.

More than likely you know where to turn for graphic design expertise, or your own instincts and talents are reliable. Either way, the Resume.io builder tool can save you time and bother without sacrificing originality. Start by browsing our collection of field-tested resume templates in four style categories: Modern, Creative, Simple and Professional. Take your pick from a wide selection of designs, click to download and start entering your own replacement text. 

Key takeaways for a CEO resume

  1. Evolving technology and organizational restructuring are decreasing the number of CEO job opportunities, making the competition more intense than it already is for these financially rewarding and prestigious positions.
  2. When the playing field is even on most qualifying counts, your case for being the best “next boss” comes down to being different through persuasive resume wording.
  3. Adopting the mindset of hiring decision-makers, by knowing their wish list priorities, is how you strategically target your CEO resume in relatable terms. It’s also a basis for matching keywords to pass through the automated applicant screening software.
  4. Be selective in determining which skills and accomplishments to include or omit, focusing on quantifiable benefits to past employers that you can deliver again.
  5. A CEO resume that looks as good as it sounds can improve your chances of meeting interviewers face-to-face. Leave the layout, design and formatting details up to the experts, by using our online resume builder and a field-tested template.
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