Crafting a standout CV is your window of opportunity to showcase how you operate at the highest levels, explain Sarah Howson and Marianne Whitlock
In the ever-evolving world of business, the role of an Executive Assistant at the C-Suite or board level is both challenging and pivotal. As the right-hand person to top executives, you play a crucial role in ensuring the smooth functioning of the executive’s office. Crafting a compelling CV is not just about listing your experiences; it’s your window of opportunity to showcase how you operate at the highest levels representing your executive and the business you are employed by.
In this article, we will guide you through crafting a CV you can be proud of. With there only being the well-known ‘4 seconds’ to make an impression, and, in some processes we’ve seen over recent years, over 150+ applications for a role, getting it right is non-negotiable. Your CV is not merely a list of achievements; it’s your public record, akin to a board paper, presenting a comprehensive view of how you work. It’s an employer’s instant window into how you summarise information, selecting and displaying content relevant to your role. Being able to translate the best version of your career journey onto your CV is fundamental and one of the best ways to get your foot in the door when it comes to securing an interview.
A Unique Role: Educating Your Audience
Before delving into the intricacies of CV crafting, let’s discuss the unique responsibilities Executive Assistants shoulder. Not everyone ‘gets’ the nuances of this position, from navigating complex schedules and project managing multiple projects from start to completion to discreetly handling confidential information with high EQ and diplomacy. The ‘top half page’ of a CV serves as an educational preamble, highlighting to the reader the distinctive demands of the Executive Assistant position. It’s not ‘just’ diary management or inbox management, as you well know… This role is so much more, and it’s your responsibility to bear that in mind as you write. Your audience, whether it be an HR professional or a hiring manager, does not always understand the position. As recruiters, we are forever educating leaders, and your CV must do the same.
Formatting Excellence: View Your CV as a Board Paper
Presentation matters. Always. Opt for a clean, professional style. Use a legible font, ample white space, and consistent formatting throughout. Your CV must be a pleasure to read, reflecting your meticulous attention to detail. Create your content using professional business language. Use strong verbs and impactful phrases that convey authority and professionalism. Your language must mirror the level at which you operate.
CV Headings: Making an Impact
Whilst we appreciate that everyone will have a different opinion on how a CV should be laid out, we recommend the following:
Personal information: What to include
Your CV begins with the basics: your name, contact details (for data protection purposes, leave off your complete address), and professional title. However, at the executive level, personal details extend beyond the usual. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is prominently displayed, offering a deeper insight into your professional journey. We always say no headshots on a CV; LinkedIn provides that element should a hiring manager wish to delve deeper. It goes without saying a professional photo over a ‘selfie’ is a must.
Your personal summary or career summary: Unique value proposition
Immediately following your personal details, incorporate a concise summary of your experience. This section is your ‘elevator pitch’, encapsulating your career narrative and highlighting your unique value proposition. Address your commitment to confidentiality, exceptional organisational skills, and the ability to navigate high-pressure environments seamlessly.
Key career achievements: Showcasing you, your capabilities & your strengths
Now, the spotlight turns to your key career achievements, the section where you substantiate your executive prowess. Be specific, quantifying achievements where possible. This is not the time for modesty – detail your contributions to the success of the executives you’ve supported. Whether it’s streamlining operations, managing complex schedules, or orchestrating high-profile events, articulate how you’ve added tangible value.
Your career history: A journey unveiled
Your career history is more than a list of roles; it’s a narrative of your journey. Present your experiences in reverse chronological order, ensuring that your current or most recent position takes precedence. For each role, detail your responsibilities, accomplishments, and the impact you’ve had on the executives you’ve supported. Please don’t regurgitate a job description, though, and certainly don’t copy and paste the same wording from one role to the next.
Paint a picture
Tailor each role description to align with the expectations of a C-Suite or board level role. Take the time to explain what the organisation does; one of the most asked questions from a client is, “What does the company do?” Explain to your reader whether you work in a boutique oil and gas services company with 20,000 employees and an international presence, or a biotech start-up with 30 employees and a remote HQ. Emphasise your involvement in strategic decision-making, your role in maintaining confidentiality, and your adeptness at handling sensitive information.
Executive Assistants often collaborate extensively across departments. Highlight instances where you’ve fostered effective cross-functional relationships, demonstrating your ability to be a linchpin in the organisation. Share internal and external stakeholder relationship examples where you’ve connected dots and added value.
Don’t forget to include the final sections, Education/Professional Development as well as Hobbies & Interests.
Recruiter Insights: Common Mistakes to Avoid
As recruiters, there are common mistakes we often encounter in Executive Assistant CVs. Steering clear of these pitfalls will help you stand out as a professional candidate:
Lack of specificity
Vague descriptions and generic accomplishments do not provide insights into your true capabilities. Be specific about your achievements and the impact you’ve made.
Neglecting technological proficiency
In today’s digital age, executive support often involves various technologies. Highlighting your proficiency in relevant tools and platforms is crucial.
Overlooking soft skills
While technical skills are vital, don’t forget to showcase your soft skills. Effective communication, emotional intelligence, and adaptability are highly valued in this role.
A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for business support CVs. Tailor your CV for each application, aligning it with the specific needs and expectations of the role.
In today’s demanding business landscape, your CV as an Executive Assistant must surpass the ordinary. It is your strategic document, your personal board paper, showcasing a snapshot into your career journey.
As you embark on perfecting your CV, remember the famous Maya Angelou quote: “People will never forget how you made them feel.” Craft a CV that not only displays your competence level but leaves a lasting, positive impression on those who review it.
You are not ‘just’ an Executive Assistant; you are the glue that holds everything together, the conductor, and the guardian of executive success. Let your CV reflect that with every word and format choice.