One of the most common issues I see with client's prior resumes is a lack of accomplishments with measured results and the omission of scope of authority. Without those items, your resume will look like a job description. If you are being recruited by a company without competition and they ask for a resume as a formality, that type of resume may be adequate. In situations where you are competing against other candidates, you need a compelling resume. That means you should scrutinize what to include and what to omit.
Load Your Resume with Accomplishments
This is the cardinal rule for all job candidates. This can be challenging for some situations. In some positions, you feel as though keeping the boat afloat is the biggest accomplishment. Other times, you work on a project and move to a new position before you witness the outcome of your strategies and months of effort.
That may be true, however, you must sell yourself through examples of accomplishments. A job description can only go as far as stating the job functions and employer expectations. It does not show your performance highs and valuable contributions.
Here are a few things to consider when brainstorming for accomplishments:
What is the expected outcome? If the project was not completed, you can describe what you did and the anticipated outcome. For example: “Integrated A system with B system to produce a 21% reduction in expenses.”
How did you improve operations? Can you refer to a decrease in a turnaround time, achievement of quality metrics, improvement in communication, or addition of features to enhance efficiency? “Integrated variety of bioinformatics tools to support analysis of genotype imputation, which will improve accuracy of alignments and variant calling.”
How did you elevate performance? Sometimes things do not improve and the excellence is demonstrated through a steady record of achieving company metrics. This could be speed of service, time to market, timely releases, quality scores, maintaining compliance, or passing audits. “Attained and maintained 98% on-time delivery rate throughout tenure at firm.”
What did you do beyond your job description? This could be training new hires, selection for corporate committees, volunteering for special projects, or going the extra mile to salvage a key client. “Salvaged VIP account by mending previously-strained relationship.”
Proper Function-to-Accomplishment Ratio
A strong resume allocates the appropriate space for an overview of job responsibilities and enough space to feature top achievements. In most cases, this is three to seven lines to show the scope of responsibility. This is not copied from the job description. However, the job description can serve as inspiration. Build upon that foundation with things such as size of budget, span of sites, number of users, and employee headcount. A good ratio is one third for the overview and two thirds for the accomplishments.
Formatting Your Experience
In most cases, include your authority and functions in the paragraph overview. There could be a grey area, such as leading a training program. In the context of your history that may be a function. For another person that might be a top accomplishment. Below that paragraph overview, include your top accomplishments in a bulleted list. Studies have proven that if you have a ten or more lines of information, a mixed format of narrative and bullets is better. A list of bullets only tends to be skimmed. Narrative only formatting works with very little information. A narrative only format with many lines of information will be like a wall of words that may not be read.
Functions to Exclude
Most professional candidates can't include every function of your job. Consider excluding items like these:
There are many functions of a job that are assumed based on the title, so skip those.
Showing every small step of a process may not be needed if it can be summarized by the name of the overall process.
Showing skills required to succeed in a function is a no-no. For example it is not necessary to say "Used my communication skills to sell products."
Stating you were asked to do the task. Unless you were chosen from a large field to lead a high-profile program, you don't need to say you were selected to oversee the corporate audit. Dive right in and say you oversaw the audit.
Present functions as facts and things done rather than charged with writing a new marketing plan. Instead, you wrote the marketing plan. (By the way, what is the scope of that plan and the outcome?)
Accomplishments have more weight when a measured result is attached. Whenever possible, quantify the results of your accomplishments with dollar values, percentages, and counts. Numbers attract attention and make an accomplishment more concrete.
Is a senior manager of a $200 million company the same as a VP of a $10 million company? It is important to put your title into context so the reader can identify where you might fit in their organization. Accomplish this by showing your scope of authority and span of operations. For example, “Direct 356-member Research and Development Division with offices in Santa Clara, Charlotte, Edenborough, and Hamburg. Manage $6.2 million budget and 16 VP-level direct reports.” This is an example of language for a non-managerial candidate: “Manage network operations for real estate corporation with 852 real estate agents spanning 17 corporate offices and as well as numerous remote locations.”
If you would like to see these suggestions in action, check out our resume samples.