Make your executive summary rock

Make your Executive Summary rock

This video is 14.5 minutes long. It explains the purpose and benefit of a good Executive Summary, and how to write one.

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See an index of all the lessons here.


Hello, my name is Matt Krause, and I am the CV Doctor in Istanbul, Turkey.

Today’s lesson is called, “Make Your Executive Summary Rock”.

By the way, “rock” is an American slang word, what does it mean?

“To rock” means to be really good. Not just really good, but full of life, full of energy. Brilliant. Far better than anything else.

What happens when your Executive Summary rocks?

Companies call you for interviews.

A good Executive Summary fascinates the reader, it tells him you are going to solve his problems, and it makes him want to call you right now!

A good executive summary…

Tells a dynamic story in less than 10 seconds
Has only 4-6 bullet points
Is clear and easy to read, not stuffed with keywords
Can only apply to you – it does not sound generic, like it could describe anyone

The first thing to remember is, the Executive Summary is different from the Professional Work Experience section.

Your Professional Work Experience is about the details. You have 1-1/2 pages to fill up with lots of details about things you’ve done, and the things you’ve accomplished.

So if you’ve been working on your Professional Experience, you need to step back. Take a break. Go do something else for a few days.

Why? Because for the Executive Summary, you have to think about the bigger perspective. What kind of brand do you want? What kind of positioning do you want? What kind of story do you want to tell? What kind of picture do you want to paint?

Imagine the Executive Summary standing on its own, all alone. There is no Professional Experience section, no Education section, no “Languages and Training” section, none of that stuff.

But still, the Executive Summary has to tell your story all by itself. When the hiring manager reads your Executive Summary, he has to know who you are, and what you can do.

So start by thinking about the main things you want to stress in your story.

What do you want to show in your picture?

Let’s use my own CV as an example, and find out how to improve the Executive Summary…

Before we start editing, let me sum up what picture I want to paint…

I want to tell the story of business communication, and of helping people express themselves more professionally.

However, I want the reader to know I have a business background. Operations, finance. I want the reader to know I am a business person, not an academic person.

Okay, now let’s take a look at my CV, and see if it does that…

Here’s the old version. What you see here now, is actually two years old. It’s been a long time since I updated it…

My career has changed a lot in those two years, so my executive summary is going to change, too…

You see, right now there are 6 bullet points. Only one bullet point, the first one, is about coaching, training, language. The other 5 are about my experience BEFORE I started communications coaching.

Look at them…

“International trade experience, big money, financial analysis, ERP systems, ecommerce.”

These are all good, and valuable, parts of my experience. I want my new story to have them, too…

However, I want my new story to say more about business communications coaching.

Look at the first bullet point.

It mentions “executive level”, but it doesn’t specify “business” language. I want it to be very clear that I’m doing business communication. So let’s add that word in there.

However, remember your summary needs to be quickly and easily scannable in 10 seconds. So when you add a word, you should get rid of one, too.

In this case, I’m going to get rid of the word “coaching”, because I already mention “training”, and the two are kind of similar…

Now, I want to add something else about business communications, maybe another bullet point.

But remember, I have to keep it short, and I already have 6 bullet points. So if I want to add another bullet point, I’ve got to get rid of one.

Well, about two years ago, when I was doing this version, I was talking to a lot of ERP people (in other words, “Enterprise Resource Planning” — big computer systems companies use)…

And I wanted an Executive Summary that had some keywords that were going to appeal to them. I wanted to “catch their eye”.

So two years ago, I added that part about ERP systems implementation.

But now, today, that’s not really relevant. I’ve moved on, my career has changed.

So I can get rid of that bullet point entirely, and make room for one more about business communication.

Okay, what are we going to say now?

Well, “executive level training for business language and presentation”, that’s pretty general.

But the others are general, too — international trade experience, big budgets, financial analysis, ecommerce, all those are pretty general.

But in an Executive Summary, it’s okay to be general. Remember, we are telling our overall story, our summary. We are painting the big picture.

Okay, let’s take a moment, step back, and think about this…

I’m going to give you a tip, a useful phrase, to help you figure out what you want to say…

Complete this sentence…

“This guy can help you…what?”

Think of someone you really impressed. Ideally, someone from your target audience.

Imagine him talking to another person. Imagine him saying, “You need to talk to Matt, he will help you…”

So now, I’m thinking of a particular client, someone I worked with recently, and he said some really great things that made me feel happy, and excited, and proud. He said some things that explained my value, explained how I helped him…

He said…

Matt will make your presentations pop. Matt will make your presentations come to life. Matt will help you find the words that say what you really wanted to say. Matt will help you express yourself so people listen.

Okay, so in my Executive Summary, I’m going to try this…

“Showing clients how to write and speak so their audience listens”

And, in fact, I’m going to put that first…

So here’s what I’ve got now…

Showing clients how to write and speak so their audience listens
Executive-level business language and presentation training
Extensive international trade experience
Responsibility for annual purchasing budgets of $25,000,000+
Financial analysis and budgeting for national apparel retailer
Ecommerce business and operations development

Now, that’s a big departure for me. You can see, bullet points #3 – #6, they are still very much focused on business operations — finance, inventory, international trade.

But now bullet points #1 and #2, they are much more about training and communication.

So that’s one important thing to note about writing your Executive Summary…

Most of the other things we worked on in this course, like using active verbs, or using parallel grammar, or talking about achievements, not job descriptions, those are all fairly mechanical.

They take patience, and attention to detail, but they don’t take a lot of creativity, or brain power, or redefining yourself.

The Executive Summary, on the other hand, is all about marketing. It’s about positioning.

Imagine that you are a product, like laundry detergent, sitting on the shelf at the supermarket, next to hundreds of other brands of laundry detergent.

You have 3 seconds to explain yourself to the shopper, before he moves on and picks another brand.

In that 3 seconds, you’ve got to tell your best, most interesting, most fascinating story. You’ve got to explain who you are, and why you are valuable.

But you only get 3 seconds to do it.

That’s the Executive Summary.

Executive Summaries also take a lot of regular revision. You might just update other sections of your CV every year or two.

But the Executive Summary, you’re going to update that every three months.

Especially when you are changing your career direction, because you are learning new stuff every day, and what you write today, won’t seem right two weeks from now.

So you’ll adjust it a bit.

And by the way, when I am working with a client, and we are writing their Executive Summary?

It takes a couple hours of very intense conversation.

We sit there, talking, face to face, for a couple hours.

And then I go and I sit at a cafe and I stare at the words, and I think about it for another couple hours, before I finally start to see the picture.

So Executive Summaries take time.

Don’t worry about it, let it happen. Give it time. Take the time.

Because the result is the difference between a boring Executive Summary that sounds just like everyone else’s Executive Summary, and an Executive Summary that rocks.

Okay, that wraps up today’s lesson. Remember, the goal of this lesson was: Make your Executive Summary rock. Grab your reader’s attention.

Also, remember that your CV can ALWAYS be improved. You can ALWAYS apply these lessons. They will never get old. Improve your CV, and then improve it again, and then improve it again, and then improve it again.

Thank you for watching, good luck to you, and remember, I am always here to help. Take care.