We look at Chief of Staff resumes for a living. We thought it would be helpful to share our perspectives on what stands out…and what doesn’t.
Note: This resume advice is through the Chief of Staff lens. That means we are pulling out the skills and strengths you demonstrate for this particular role. You may need a different resume if you’re applying for a different position.
What we look for in a resume
- Diversity of experience. Chiefs of Staff are Swiss Army knives. We choose to go broad instead of deep. Therefore, your resume should reflect your experience doing just that. This doesn’t necessarily need to come from title changes like “Operations Coordinator” to “Marketing Manager” though it may. Instead, it should come from direct work experience and results across different functions of a business. For example, a marketing manager may take on a special initiative with data integrity and work closely with IT. To be clear, job hopping every year does not demonstrate diversity of experience. You still need to explain your transitions from one organization to another.
- Previous experience supporting a senior-level executive. Again, this doesn’t mean you have previous Chief of Staff or Special Assistant experience on your resume. It means you have some experience supporting a senior executive in any capacity. Example: you worked on an operations project led by your COO who you reported to regularly with updates.
- Results and direct impact. Please do not simply list responsibilities on your resume. This is not a position description. This is a document for us to understand your direct work and the impact from it. Listing responsibilities alone does not portray what you accomplished and how you benefit a prospective employer. So make sure you tell us the results of your work clearly.
- Initiative. This may sound difficult to convey in a resume, but we don’t think so. We look for any indication that a person has actively taken on more work than their day-to-day position suggests. Example: “Volunteered to lead a special taskforce for finding inefficiencies and creative solutions in our internal RFP process.” Bingo.
- Outside interests, projects, and/or volunteerism. We like to know you are well-rounded. Although we are huge nerds ourselves and focus intensely around one position, we are also musicians, knitters, wannabe athletes, school board members, Poshers, and charity donors. Telling us more than your professional career highlights—including any “side hustles”—indicates that you are multi-faceted, well-rounded, and, quite frankly, approachable.
Helpful tips when writing your resume
- Focus on results! We explained why above, but we just feel it’s worth mentioning again.
- Target your resume around specific positions for which are you applying. Look to the position description for 3-5 key skills or functions that match your experience and strengths. Make sure those resonate loud and clear on your resume through specific examples that show us, rather than tell us, how great you are.
- Keep in mind key COS skills that accompany any position—organization, project management, strategic and analytical thinking, operational focus, initiative, advisory, etc.—and add any relevant experience that demonstrates them. Consider using functional categories to help define your responsibilities in terms of a Chief of Staff role.
- Use your resume as a way to convey key points concisely. Chiefs of Staff are often charged with helping executives synthesize information into key points; therefore, consider doing so on your resume. For instance, begin with a resume summary that is 3-5 bullet points (not paragraphs) on who you are.
- We do not subscribe to any one style or format for a resume. We do, however, want to understand your background and experience clearly and concisely. Don’t worry if your resume is over a page (we see your 0.25” margins…).