Written by: Sophie Warwick.
We have recently experienced some very unpredictable years from an employment and compensation perspective. With many women seeking new roles, we reached out to Kate Wade to learn more about crafting an impactful resume to land that next role. Kate is a Certified Executive Coach, Professional Resume Writer, and Founder of Get Her Hired, a global, virtual resume-writing service exclusively for executive women.
1. When we work with clients on compensation negotiation, we often see discomfort in sharing strengths and self-advocating. Do you notice any similar patterns in resume creation?
Short answer: yes.
We work with people at the director level and up across the globe. They typically have a large team and budget, a broad scope of responsibilities, and have been promoted in the past based on performance and potential. They have a significant range of proven expertise. Yet, when I initially receive a client’s current resume or CV, about 75% of them don’t include any quantifiable results. This is true from St. Paul, Minnesota to Sydney, Australia.
The first step I take to transform their materials is to shift their “responsibility” statements into “impact” statements. When I review the initial resume or CV, I typically look for opportunities to include more data within their experiences to demonstrate the impact their contributions had. Clients from all types of industries and functions are uncomfortable claiming their impact. The biggest fear that comes up is, “I don’t want to brag”. Often this is quickly followed by, “Yes, but I was part of a large team, I didn’t do it all myself”. This leads us to reviewing the facts: If it’s a fact, it’s not bragging. If you were part of the team that accomplished this, you accomplished this. Once we look at it from this angle, my clients tend to get more comfortable claiming their results. It’s a powerful transformation!
2. What tips do you have to overcome that discomfort and to start quantifying your impact?
My tip is simple, look at the data and look at the facts. For many of my clients this shift is enough. This mindset can be used to overcome discomfort around self-promotion. But even with this shift in perspective, some still find themselves uncomfortable. This is understandable and is not a failing in any way. Often, it’s a response to humility- conditioning or fixed-mindset thinking.
When this comes up, it’s important to ask questions like, emotionally how does it feel to read your strengths like this on the page? When you feel that emotion, what actions does this emotion inspire? Based on those actions, what outcomes might you get? And then the biggest one – what is the outcome you want? This usually gets us to a space where we can work from their true strengths as the basis for their materials.
3. How do you translate those strengths into your career marketing materials?
When they first come to me, many of my clients are perplexed as to how to write about their accomplishments in a way that gives context to their true strengths. The first step I take is to shift their “responsibility” statements into “impact” statements. I do this using our Q Formula to quantify and qualify their work, essentially: “I accomplished X by measure of Y by doing Z.”
During our first review together, I interview my clients in order to extract more information about the situations and projects they led. It can be helpful to ask questions like: What was the goal of this initiative? Was there a KPI you were trying to hit? Did you hit it? Why did this project get the green light? What if you hadn’t done this project, what would have been at risk? Why should anyone care about this thing you did?
I do this to challenge them on their impact, to get them to think from a results-based perspective. As they verbally tell me their stories, what usually happens is that they reveal the real reasons behind the initiative as well as why it matters, and what was at stake. Usually, the outcome is the last thing they talk about. What I do then is reverse the order – start with impact then provide context.
4. What biases (if any) do you believe your clients face when they’re seeking job changes or promotions?
Bias is real, conscious and unconscious.
I see this in practice when my clients tell me about current or past efforts for internal promotions. A client aiming for a VP role recently shared with me that her boss told her she wanted to see more development before she could be promoted. I asked my client, how did your boss define development? That’s unclear. What concrete goals did you create together on this? None. How will your boss know you’ve accomplished change? I have no idea. Is your boss willing to invest in you and champion you on these goals? Silence.
While I cannot say with certainty that bias was at play, what I can say is that the company does not seem to make promotion decisions based on performance and potential. This kind of behavior reveals a company culture bias that is approved from the top down.
My clients are typically senior level, and when searching for new opportunities, they often fear ageism is getting in their way. To combat this, you can reduce the chance for ageism bias by updating your resume and CV formats, removing emphasis on roles older than 10-12 years that are no longer relevant, and removing dates from education. Intentional and impactful language can reduce the chances of bias getting in the way of hiring.
5. Did any of these biases lead you to launch Get Her Hired?
The inspiration for Get Her Hired was born out of my own experience and observations in an executive role. I was one of the only women in a senior level position on my team. I knew so many smart, talented, driven women in my company, across the world, who were repeatedly looked over, not given opportunities to improve, provided vague feedback, and who were left on the fringe as senior individual contributors for years. Similarly, I saw men who didn’t fit “traditional leadership styles” underrecognized, regardless of their performance and potential. This inspired Get Her Hired’s mission to get 10,000 women into the executive positions in which they belong.
6. There’s been a lot of employment volatility over the last few years. Have you noticed any recent trends emerging?
Quiet layoffs are still happening, especially to Gen X leaders. These layoffs are not front-page news, and they are heavily impacting senior leaders at the director and VP level who have been with organizations for more than 10 years. This is very painful for these great leaders who have invested some of the best years of their life at a company where they wanted to retire. This happened to me – and it was quite a blow for a while.
Another trend I note is that people believe AI can write resumes and cover letters. Unless you’ve just graduated college, it cannot. Why can’t it? Because it doesn’t know your impact and strengths. Executive resumes have to be based on results, not on responsibilities.
A trend that is not going away? Getting hired through a referral by someone you know. This is proven to be effective for senior level roles. When they first come to me, many clients think they have to doom-scroll job boards, react to every job listing notification, cold-apply for roles. The best way to get a new senior level role is through the non-trendy, tried and tested way of networking into a job. I wish I could tell you something earth shatteringly easy, and many of my clients wish I wouldn’t tell them to network, but networking works.
AI cannot replace those relationships, cannot convey your real strengths, and cannot advocate for you.
7. If you could name one, what do you believe is the most important element of an impactful resume?
Ensure the top third of your resume is all about your impact. I call this area “above the fold” – borrowed from newspaper editorial practice referring to positioning the most important information so it is visible without having to scroll. Include your key results within this section, as well as your functional skills and interpersonal skills. If a company is hiring based on skills and impact (which it should), these will be the most important sections for you to emphasize.
If you want to learn more about Kate Wade and Get Her Hired, you can visit the website here. And if you’d like support with advocating for yourself in terms of compensation, please reach out to The Thoughtful Co at email@example.com or sign up for a one-on-one session here - we would love to support.