October 28, 2010
How to sell yourself on your resume
When teaching my resume writing workshop, I ask participants to review each bullet on their resumes and put a "T" or "R" next to each one. "T," short for Tasks, is for a statement where you merely describe an experience, event or task you performed at your company. An example would be, "Created a marketing plan for the company."
Notice how weak this statement is. It's not clear if it was a good marketing plan that helped the company attain certain results, or if it was just another document that sat around. Also the context is missing. Now, let's make it a little stronger:
"Created a marketing plan that generated 100K in additional revenue for the company."
This time you've turned the "T" into an "R," for Result. Results are much stronger because they demonstrate the return on investment (ROI) of the task that was performed. Now, let's take this statement to the next level:
"Created a marketing plan for a struggling startup that generated 100K in additional revenue, which allowed the company to stay afloat."
Now we're at another level. We've added context to this statement. For a company such as Microsoft, $100,000 in revenue might not be a lot. But for a struggling startup, it could be the difference in keeping the company up and running.
The best statements on your resume should use the following format: PAR (Problem, Action, Result): What was the problem, what action did you take and what result was attained?
So, for the example above:
Problem: Struggling startup was having financial difficulty and the business was at risk.
Action: Created a marketing plan.
Result: Net revenue of $100,000 and the ability for the startup to keep its doors open a little longer.
Take a look at your resume. How can you change the activities on your resume to make your statements sound stronger and show you as results-oriented versus task-oriented? While you don't have to have all "R"s on your resume, you should strive to have an R/T ratio of at least 2-to-1.
If you're having a difficult time figuring out the results you attained, I suggest the following:
Think about core industry metrics. In your industry, what are the key measurements of success? In software testing, it might be number of bugs found. In human resources, it could be improved employee engagement or lowered rates of attrition. In business, it would revolve around sales issues (such as revenue and bottom line) or operations (leanness, efficiency and productivity).
Think about your absence. Sometimes it's easier to think about the impact you made when you think about the consequences of you not performing the role successfully. What would have happened if you didn't pick up the phone call or attend that meeting? What work wouldn't have been done without you? Would another negotiator have achieved similar results?
Do your research. In my classes, I advocate that professionals shouldn't try to reinvent the wheel. If someone else has a better way of describing results similar to those you attained, go with their description. You can easily see a list of resumes and profiles on sites such as LinkedIn.com. Here is how to research ideas similar to yours on LinkedIn:
• Go to Advanced Search
• In the Title section, enter your title or something similar
• In the Keywords section, add in additional words to find people most similar to you
• Review their resumes and profiles
Try out these new techniques and give yourself a professional upgrade. Consider researching titles above you and notice what skills and attributes you might need to raise to the next level. Sometimes you'll find yourself already possessing those skills, and you can see how to position yourself as a new senior-level professional.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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