Job Search Toolkit: Résumés - Your Story on Paper (Part 5)

Finally, the "Experience' section.  I wanted to go through each section of the resume in detail before this one to give appropriate attention and importance to the entire document.  Most people focus on their experience, filling in the other parts as an afterthought.  I've placed resumes in the "no" pile long before I reach the experience section due to poor formatting or typos.  Each and every square centimeter on a resume is critical; it can make or break your career opportunities.

After making it through the top portion of a resume, I take 2- 3 seconds to skim their experience.  I’m looking for quantifiable accomplishments and results.  In the hiring process, the best indicator of future performance is past behavior, so I want to understand how the person performed in the past.  Did they achieve goals?  Did they save $10,000, increase revenue by 5%, or improve cycle time  by 20%?  Oftentimes, people write down a task list or a job description in their experience section, as if describing their previous job duties qualifies them for a future role.  I throw these resumes out.  I do not care about what you did in your previous job(s), what I care about is if you did your previous jobs(s) well.

The other important thing to remember is that this one piece of paper is serving as your first impression.  The reader might not get the opportunity to meet you first, so your charming personality or great elevator speech cannot help you.  Your resume must be able to stand on its own and represent you as a professional.  

It’s a bit like preparing for a first date.  You both want to make a great impression, so you dress up, go somewhere nice, make sure your car is clean, open the door, etc.  One year later, date night probably looks a little different, right?  If your resume is your best impression and it isn’t the most fantastic description of you, maybe it isn’t even good, what does that say about you and how you would perform after you get a little comfortable?

There is a lot to cover when it comes to experience, so today I’m going to focus on the most important: accomplishment statements.  Here are two examples; one using the job description methodology and one using accomplishment statements.  Which one jumps out to you?

Example #1: Job Description

Marketing Analyst

  • Supported Director, Marketing with all deliverables for Tide laundry detergent and presented findings regularly

  • Created brand campaign based on market research findings

  • Completed market research, including focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and live demonstrations, for Tide laundry detergent

Example #2: Accomplishments

Marketing Analyst

  • Conducted market research for the Tide brand, including six focus groups, 15 consumer shadowing experiences, and purchasing analytics on over 100 million data points

  • Used market research findings to craft a new brand campaign, resulting in a 4% same store sales increase in revenue and a 10% increase in volume compared to a goal of increasing same store sales by 3% and volume by 8%

  • Presented brand campaign deliverables to the Director of Marketing for final approval prior to execution.  Director of Marketing made an exception and invited me to present the brand campaign at the Marketing Executives meeting due to the quality of the materials

 

The example shows two different ways to describe the exact same situation.  Example #1 is the most common, and will typically land you in the “no” pile.  What did this person do that was outstanding?  Example #2 is less common and moves to the top of the “yes” pile.  They get an immediate phone call to see if they are as good over the phone as they are on paper.  Their experience is impressive, and indicates that they will continue to perform this way in the future.

So how do you become a #2?  Take time to brainstorm your accomplishments, whether at work, internships, or campus clubs.  What stands out as exceptional?  Can you quantify it so others understand the magnitude of why it is exceptional?  It takes an investment of time up front to develop meaningful examples, but once you start, coming up with accomplishments is easy.  Take your examples and then try to put them in the order of a story so someone could read through and understand it.  Make sure to have others proofread it.  Put your best food forward, and always be honest.