It seems simple: Create a concise document that summarizes your professional experience and education. But as we all know, writing a resume is a challenge—especially for the Chief of Staff. Your background may look less like a ladder and more like a hopscotch court. You also have a breadth of skills to showcase, but at the same time, an exhaustive list may imply lack of focus.
Crafting a Chief of Staff resume is, in itself, an exercise in being an effective Chief of Staff. You must: synthesize your extensive background and experience into a brief, digestible document; connect the dots so reviewers understand how your previous experience is relevant to the job at hand; and know your audience so you can tailor your messaging and language for the greatest impact (or response).
Below are a few steps to help you get started in writing your resume for a Chief of Staff role.
Take inventory of your Chief of Staff skills
You may never have officially been a Chief of Staff, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t performed functions of the role already. Very few Chiefs we place have the Chief of Staff title on their resumes. However, you can still highlight the ways you performed many of the key functions of a Chief of Staff from your previous experience. We suggest starting this process by taking inventory of the skills you offer from your previous experience that relate to a Chief of Staff role. Below are some examples to help you get started. Find additional skills by researching COS position descriptions.
- Strategic planning
- Meeting facilitation
- Leadership team facilitation
- Executive-level advisory
- Project management
- People management
Format by function
Use the COS skills you listed from above to format your resume into functional categories. For many COS candidates, their current and previous titles may not provide the best description of what their roles actually entailed. Functional areas help demonstrate the ways you’ve been a Chief of Staff by function, if not previously by title. Keep in mind: not every role on your resume may directly relate to the Chief of Staff position, and that’s okay. You needn’t format with functional categories for everything.
While some candidates like to include a skills summary atop the resume, we prefer to see the demonstration of your skills in the experience section. Again, select only the top three to five skills per position that best relate to the position for which you are applying. Then add bullet points under each functional category.
Focus on skills and results
We seem to “launch, spearhead, develop, and conduct,” a lot in our resumes. These verbs have become so commonplace in resume writing, but they don’t necessarily emphasize our unique skills and impact. Therefore, instead of obsessing over verbs, obsess over the skills you demonstrate when performing the key duties of each position. Additionally, be sure to include the results from your work rather than merely the action itself. Your resume isn’t a position description; it should demonstrate what you’ve done with specific results to back it up. Check out the examples in the sample resume below.
We recommend having more than one version of your resume—especially for Chief of Staff roles, which vary greatly. Some roles require more operational expertise, project management, and meeting facilitation, while other roles require more communications and strategic counsel. Be sure to tailor your skills for the specific position at hand. Do not list every Chief of Staff skill you have. Like listening to a restaurant server list eight salad dressings, at some point you begin to forget the first four.
We know that writing your own resume feels like a chore, but remember, you already put in the hard work. Now you have to convey it. The exercise of writing a resume is a great way for all of us to take inventory of our key skills and accomplishments. Having a resume that embodies our significant work and impact is helpful in telling our story to potential employers.