Having been in executive search for 8 years, dealing with CEO's of companies, HR Directors and Hiring Managers, I found there is a disconnect between all three of these people that are imperative to the success of a company. They all approach the hiring process differently. Unless, you have a direct referral into one of the above, your resume will be treated the same.
First of all, when you apply for a job through an internet posting, you can be assured that your resume will go through an automated selection process, especially with larger companies, so make sure you have used the proper key words that apply to the open position. If your resume makes it through this process to a HR recruiter, it will be quickly looked at first to see if you meet the basic requirements for the job.
HR people are very busy, so you must make sure to clearly state who you are and what skills you bring to a company; all within the career summary paragraph. Most recruiters will read the career summary first which should tell "you story" in four to five sentences. Then, they will check to see what companies you've worked for, so make sure to add a descriptive on your former and current companies. Make sure to list the sales volume, number of employees and where it was located.
If all of this passes the litmus test they'll set aside your resume as "possibles" and schedule a phone interview with you. If you pass the initial phone interview, they will pass you along to the hiring manager for a phone interview. If you are dealing with a staffing or executive search firm, they basically go through the same process.
Okay, so this sounds pretty routine, right? Well, this is where it gets a bit more complicated for candidate's going "cold" for a job position. Most Hiring Managers are not proficient interviewers. Many get side-tracked talking about items not related to the job. It is up to you the job candidate to make sure that the Hiring Manager gets a concise picture of who you are and what value you can bring to the position.
Don't rely on the Hiring Manager to extract what they need from you in the interview. This applies to everyone you speak with or meet at the firm, whether it's a phone or a face-face interview, of which, there will be many in this highly competitive job market.
Lastly, if you do have an opportunity to meet with the CEO of a company, consider this a real plus to sell yourself. The CEO's at most firms are the visionaries for the company and I find the easiest to talk with. They are more willing to think "out of the box", so use this time with them wisely. Present some compelling ideas for the firm. Be open, be yourself and establish a bond with them. Even if you do not get the job, if you have a great interview with the CEO, you may be able to get a referral from him at another company.