Resume tip #1: Use numbers to tell stories about your accomplishments

Today’s tip is related to this recent post about behavioral interviewing:

Behavioral interviewing tip #1: Use results to demonstrate past successes

1+1=2As recruiters, we read thousands of resumes. Most reveal very little about the candidate or his or her career accomplishments. A fairly small percentage include some numbers but do not effectively tell success stories. A very small percentage use numbers to tell compelling stories.

This is a strange situation, since using numbers is not very difficult. Let’s take the case of a CFO who helped his or her company become more liquid and make an important capital investment by obtaining a line of credit. Which of these resume items tells the best story?

  • Was responsible for managing company debt and preparing financial statements with accounting partners.
  • Successfully obtained line of credit, dramatically improving firm liquidity.
  • Obtained $5 million line of credit (company’s first line over $200k) at 6% APR, saving company $75,000 in interest on secured debt annually and making possible a $1.5 million crucial capital investment.

In the first example, the resume writer has not talked about the accomplishment at all and has even lumped two unrelated responsibilities together. This may seem horrible, but we see it all the time!

In the second example, the candidate has stated the accomplishment but has provided no numbers. We have no idea whether this was a major accomplishment or not. We also have no idea whether the accomplishment had any effect on the company itself. Again, we see this kind of lack of clarity on resumes every day.

In the third example, the writer has told a short but intriguing story that simply begs to be discussed in an interview. The interviewer will likely want to know how the candidate went about searching for financial institutions to provide the line and how he or she handled negotiations. Piquing the interviewer’s interest in this way will really give the candidate a chance to shine.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a C-level exec or an entry-level employee: if you did something successful in your job, you can find a way to express it in numbers. If no one is measuring your performance, start measuring it yourself. For example, if you are a server at a restaurant, you could graph your increase in tips over time, a good proxy for both efficiency (tables turned) and customer satisfaction. Will the initiative you take to quantify your growth in this job make you stand out from the 99.9% who do not? You can count on it!

Telling stories in your resume with concrete numbers says to a prospective employer that you are responsible, disciplined, detail-oriented, and able to grasp the big picture. In other words, all the right things. It is one of the most important things you can do to make your resume one that catches and keeps people’s attention.

The Key Corporate Services Blog Team

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