How do you write a results-generating resume? What are the secrets to writing a resume that outshines the competition?
In a job search, your first introduction to an employer is almost always your resume. As such, it is absolutely essential that your resume immediately capture the attention of your reader. But how do you do that? When your resume is sitting on a desk with 475 other resumes, how do you ensure that your resume rises to the top, making the cut to be placed in the “keeper” file rather than the circular file? More importantly, how do you ensure that your resume compels the recipient to actually pick up the phone and call you for an interview (which is the true measure of an effective resume)?
The solution, of course, is to remember that your resume is a marketing document. It is NOT an autobiography. Your resume is an advertisement—an advertisement that is selling YOU as the ideal solution to an employer’s problems.
To achieve this, your resume must present your key skills, qualifications, experiences, and accomplishments in a way that is both convincing and compelling. Your resume must be written to clearly illustrate to the reader that you can meet their needs and help them to achieve their goals, all the while adding value to their organization and delivering a strong return on their investment in hiring you.
One of the most common resume writing mistakes is the development of a responsibilities-focused resume. Job descriptions simply don’t distinguish you from anyone else that does the same or a similar job as you. A resume focused on responsibilities and job descriptions illustrates to the reader how you are ordinary. Instead, your goal is to show the reader how you are EXTRAordinary. To do that, your resume must be focused on achievements and results. Achievement-focused resumes engage readers, essentially painting a picture of how you have added value in the past and thus, helping the reader to envision how you will add value in the future to their organization. By creating the achievement-focused resume, you illustrate your business savvy, your understanding of the bottom line, and your track record for contributing to it.
But, for many people, writing an achievement-focused resume is easier said than done. Are you like so many other people who have trouble identifying exactly what their achievements in the workplace have been? Maybe you have even worried that you don’t have any accomplishments of note to include in your resume. Let me put your mind at ease right now. This simply isn’t true! Every single person has value to add and unique contributions to make.
In my professional resume writing practice I work with hundreds of people every year – thousands over the course of the past decade-plus. Every single one of my clients has proven to be incredibly accomplished, but when they first came to me, the vast majority of them had trouble identifying their specific achievements and value-add. To help them, we undergo an intensive information-gathering process that includes both intake worksheets and telephone consultation. At the end, they are often amazed at the many ways we have uncovered in which they have added value in the workplace. My clients leave not only with an achievement-focused resume that provides them with extraordinary competitive advantage in the job market, but with a new sense of confidence that comes with the ability to articulate the past results and benefits they have produced for employers, as well as the potential they have to add similar value in the future.
Rewriting your resume to emphasize achievements and results is almost always the single most impactful improvement you can make. If your resume isn’t generating results, rewriting it to emphasize the past challenges you have faced, the actions you have taken to meet those challenges, and the benefits of those actions, will likely have a dramatic positive impact on your job search results.
If you, like so many others, are struggling to identify and communicate your achievements, the following 50 questions — questions used with my own clients in my resume writing practice — will help.
- What is special about the way you do your job?
- What do you do in a different way or better than other people in the same position as you?
- What does your employer like about you and/or praise you for?
- Were there particular areas in which your employer thought you were outstanding?
- Were you given any special honors, recognition, or awards? What did you do to earn it?
- What positive things do your performance appraisals have to say about you?
- When you were hired, was there a lot of competition for the position? Why were you selected?
- In what ways is each of your past employers better off for having had you work for them?
- Does your company set goals or objectives for you and have you met or exceeded them? Explain.
- Have you met any particularly hard-to-accomplish goals? How did you accomplish this?
- Were you hired to meet a particular challenge or solve a particular problem? What was it, what have you done to meet those expectations, and what have been the outcomes?
- What was the biggest problem or challenge you were faced with in each position? Did you solve the problem or meet the challenge? How and what were the results?
- Did you ever have to overcome any adversity or ambiguity to accomplish something important to the company? Explain. How did you do it and what were the results?
- Have you ever made any suggestions that were implemented? What was the result?
- What have you done that was innovative? What was the result?
- Have you helped to influence change in your company? In what way? What was the result?
- Have you been given any special assignments? Why and what were they?
- Have you helped your employer increase sales? By what percentage or amount?
- Have you helped streamline operations in any way? In what way and what was the result?
- Did you generate new business? By what percentage or amount?
- Did you bring in new clients? By what percentage or number?
- Did you build partnerships or affiliations with new organizations? What have been the results?
- Have you led your company into expanded markets? By what percentage and how did this impact sales?
- Have you opened new markets for your company? What was the impact?
- Did you save your company money? How much and under what circumstances?
- Have you ever developed a new system or process? Was it implemented? If so, what were the results?
- Did you improve customer relationships in some way? Under what circumstances and what were the results?
- Have you done anything to increase efficiency? How did you do it and what were the results?
- Did you meet a particularly aggressive or important deadline? If so, what difference did this make to your company?
- Have you ever developed procedures to speed repetitive tasks? What were the results?
- Did you bring a project in under budget? How? How was the money you saved used?
- Have you ever recommended a new product or program that was implemented? What was the result?
- Have you ever helped launch a new product or program? What were the results?
- Have you ever made recommendations to improve a product or program? What were the results?
- Have you taken the lead on any projects or special initiatives? How successful was the effort?
- Have you ever taken on any new responsibilities that weren’t part of your job? Did you ask for the new responsibilities or were they assigned to you? Why were you selected?
- What have you done to increase productivity? By what percentage or amount?
- Have you improved communications in your company? In what way, with whom, and what was the outcome?
- Have you ever done anything to increase profits? How did you do it and by how much?
- Have you helped your employer cut costs in any way? How did you do it and by how much?
- Have you helped your company grow business in any way? How did you do it, by how much, and what was the result?
- Were you involved in any negotiations? What was your role? How did this benefit the company?
- Have you done anything to help control costs? What did you do? What was the impact?
- Did your work or the results you produced stand out in some way as better than your predecessor? Explain.
- Did you do something to correct inconsistencies or errors? What was the problem? What did you do? What was the result?
- Did you accomplish something special for a customer? How was this important for your customer? How was this important for your employer?
- Do you have a strong record of on-time completion of projects? Explain. How has this benefited your employer?
- Have you ever done anything to increase cash flow? What did you do? What was the result?
- Have you led or served on teams whose work had a major impact on the company? Explain. What was the benefit to the company? What was your role on the team?
- Did you foresee any problems and proactively implement solutions to avert the problem? Explain.