Having reviewed hundreds of thousands of resumes, I’ve seen it all–the good, the bad, and the ugly.
One of the most common mistakes job seekers make is having a resume read like a job description: a list of responsibilities. That makes it impossible to stand out from other applicants.
Instead, use your resume to show your results. The best resumes are those that quantify an applicant’s achievements.
Some roles lend themselves easily to quantification: business development, finance, general management, investment banking sales/trading, some marketing & product development. But there are many other positions, such as investment or business intelligence research, human resources, organizational development, consulting, and even some R&D and communications roles, that are trickier. Your results may be hard to quantify, or may be confidential.
And what happens if your numbers don’t look very impressive?
Well, you don’t want to just skip it. Numbers are the single biggest item in resumes that build credibility, there’s no way around it. So you have to find some. No matter what your profession, find some metrics you can apply to your job. For example, you can include the size of the cross-functional team that you developed or managed, or a budget you grew or costs you cut. You can include the fact that you finished a project three weeks ahead of deadline, or 15% under-budget. Have you expanded the reach of a product, added views to a homepage, spoken at more industry events?
Look at every one of the tasks of your job and attach a metric to it. Determine which numbers are most impressive and most in line with the job you are applying for, and add them to your resume.
And while numbers are crucial, you also should show qualitative results as well. Again, don’t just list your tasks, but show the results of you doing that task well.The best way to find those is to explore the details of the problems and opportunities that you’ve faced. If you solved a problem that five other managers had tried over the past three years without success, then that’s something you can explain. If you resolved conflicts among silos or leaders or on a team, managed your way through arcane and bureaucratic government ministries or agencies, coached your direct reports to more effective leadership and improve the results those teams achieved, then you have results to put on your resume. By showing not just what you do, but how you achieved results, you will be communicating far more about who you are as candidate–and land at the top of the resume pile.