Resume ROI: Show Them The Money!

In a previous post, I wrote about how to get your resume found in an applicant tracking system (ATS). Once your resume is selected, it will be “physically” read by the hiring management team who will decide if they want to interview you for the position you’ve applied for. If you want your resume to stand out from other candidates, it has to showcase much more than a mere laundry list of qualifying skills.  

Hiring managers want to employ people who can quickly contribute to their company’s growth and deliver a solid return-on-investment (ROI) in exchange for salary and benefits. In spirit of the exclamation shouted by the character Rod Tidwell (played by actor Cuba Gooding Jr.) in the movie Jerry McGuire, “Show me [them] the money!”

The best way to showcase your ROI is to include 3 to 5 accomplishment statements under each job listing on your resume. These accomplishments must appeal to employers’ top 10 buying (hiring) motivators, as outlined in the book Resume Magicby Susan Whitcomb. Specifically, hiring managers want candidates who can help their company:  

  • Make money
  • Save money
  • Save time
  • Make work easier
  • Solve a specific problem
  • Be more competitive
  • Build relationships
  • Expand business
  • Attract new customers
  • Retain existing customers

Accomplishment bullets will vary, depending on your profession and industry. Here are three examples where each candidate explains their value in tangible metrics that speak to one or more of the top 10 motivators listed above:

1) Sales representative: Increased $1-million territory by 25% ($250,000) in 6 months by reactivating 50 dormant accounts.  

2) Restaurant manager: Cut annual food costs (target 31.5%/actual: 30.1%) on $3.8 million in food sales and labor costs (target: 15.5%/actual: 13.9%) on $5+ million in overall sales.  

3) General manager: Managed workflow during $100-million revenue growth period, without hiring additional staff.  

Use the “Context-Challenge-Action-Results” (C-C-A-R) model to write accomplishment statements: 

  • Context: (“While working at…”)
  • Challenge (“I was given the responsibility to…”)
  • Action (“So I…”)
  • Result (“As a result of my efforts…”)
Here’s how the sales representative listed above used the C-C-A-R model to create her accomplishment statement:

* Context: “While working at ACME Products…”

* Challenge: “I was given the responsibility to increase sales in my region, because sales had been flat for three years.”

* Action: “So I contacted all accounts in my region. I learned that many were ordering from a competitor offering a cheaper product, but they weren’t happy with the service and delivery. So, I offered each account a 3-year service agreement with all new orders, which reignited their interest in ordering from ACME.”

* Result: “As a result of my efforts, I increased my $1-million territory by 25% ($250,000) in 6 months, by reactivating 50 dormant accounts.”

In case you don’t have tangible metrics for accomplishments,think of them as before and after scenarios. First, describe what your challenge was like when you took it on; then illustrate how your contribution made a positive impact on your employer. 
A resume’s primary function is to get you an interview. Having significant, accomplishment-related bullets on your resume will only increase the chances of hiring managers calling you, instead of other applicants. 

© Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach 2013

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    Build Your Confidence and Your Career Marketing Content

    You might know that I started my private practice as a resume writer. I expanded into career coaching when I noticed that some clients needed more help to determine their career direction, strongest skill sets, types of jobs they desired, target industries and employers, and what would bring them true career satisfaction. A new resume wouldn’t necessarily fix their situation unless they reached clarity around these issues.

    As a resume writer, I gave my clients detailed questionnaires, to help them produce value-driven content for their resumes. Some clients would get stuck on this exercise, because they were feeling very confused, overwhelmed, powerless and unconfident about their career transition. Some were despondent over a job loss. Others had become so accustomed to doing work they no longer enjoyed that this blocked them from moving forward.

    When I transitioned into career coaching, I had more tools to help clients break out of this funk. The most amazing process I’ve discovered is Success Factor Analysis, an organic method where we analyze 10-15 of their proudest career achievements, then distill them down into 3-8 “Key Success Factors” (as highlighted in my July article: “Know Your Top Transferable Skill Sets, Then Plan Your Career Transition”). Success Factor Analysis has helped many clients get clear about skills they’re naturally good at and passionate about, instead of trying to be all things to all people.

    After clients nail down their Key Success Factors, the next step is to substantiate each one by writing two 40-60-word “Reality Stories” about how they used that specific skill at their highest level of effectiveness, and exactly how these contributions impacted present and past employers. This exercise helps clients gain insights about their unique career success patterns and helps them understand what they can offer future employers.

    These “Reality Stories” become the core content that is used throughout clients’ career transition campaigns in multiple ways: 1) tightened for resume bullets; 2) edited for LinkedIn profiles; 3) expanded for answers for interview questions or 4) woven into networking conversations. The possibilities are endless! Now, my clients no longer feel angst over resume questionnaires. All the career marketing content they’ll ever need comes to them through Success Factor Analysis.

    You may have already discovered what your top transferable skill sets are, perhaps through personal discovery or online assessments. For instance, if you’re in sales, you’re probably good at persuasion, negotiations and client relations. If you’re a number-cruncher, most likely you excel at accounting, bookkeeping and creating complex spreadsheets. Whatever your skills are, consider backing them with your own Reality Stories. Follow this outline:

    * Context (“While working at”):

    * Challenge (“I was given the responsibility to”):

    * Action (“So I”):

    * Result (“As a result of my efforts”):

    <Download this worksheet with a Sample Reality Story and Reality Story Templates here>

    You might be wondering, “Why create Reality Stories before knowing an ideal career direction?” My answer is: people in career transition typically don’t feel at their peak performance, despite how successful they’ve been in the past. I’ve discovered that when clients tap into these stories, it literally explodes their self-confidence and opens them up to new career possibilities. Plus, the stories can be slanted to “speak the language” of a variety of target industries or professions. 

    Reality Stories that showcase your expertise are essential elements of your career marketing campaign, built upon the foundation of your top transferable skill set. Taking the time to do this exercise will help you reclaim your confidence – and build your career marketing content!

    © Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach 2012

    * This post originally appeared in the September 2012 Edition of Career E-News.


    All Rights Reserved

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      OMG, There’s A Mistake on my Resume!

      You’ve worked hard on your resume, from writing, rewriting and editing, through proofreading and a final spell-check. You’ve even had others review it and give the “OK” to send it out. Then – <gasp> -you discover a glaring typo on your resume, which you didn’t catch before sending it to recruiters and posting it several job boards! 

      Your biggest fear is that hiring managers will find this error and discard your resume, based on this common premise: “If you make a mistake on your résumé, you’ll probably make mistakes on the job.” Before you chastise yourself for this oversight, you may be surprised to know that minor typos aren’t always noticed or viewed as disqualifiers by hiring managers.

      “You can’t avoid every mistake and recruiters do make allowances under certain circumstances,” says Kris Maher in the article “Strategies for Avoiding Common Resume Errors.”  Besides this, a survey by Career Directors International revealed that only 50% of the respondents said that typos can ruin your chances [at getting the job] and the other 50% said that one or two small typos typically do not matter. Even so, the survey’s final comments stated: “Because you never know how an employer may take an error as a reflection of the candidate, it’s always best to proofread not once but two or three times!”

      For an error-free resume, follow these proofreading tips: 1) Print out your resume and read it out loud; 2) Read each line backwards (right to left); 3) Scan it diagonally (like an X) from both directions. You’ll be amazed at how many mistakes you don’t catch (including words that are spelled correctly but used in a grammatically incorrect context) by simply reading it silently from left to right. 

      Two more critical proofreading hints: 1) Don’t rely on a spell-checker to proofread for you; 2) Be sure your contact information is 100% correct–including your email address and phone numbers! 

      As for resumes with errors which you’ve already sent out, use these damage control strategies to get corrected copies to hiring managers and boost your candidacy:  

      1) Resend a corrected version to target recipients; but don’t point out the error. If you’ve kept good records about where you’ve sent your resume, it will be easy to recall who to send it to. Include a short note that you can edit for each situation:

      “Dear Recruiter: Earlier this month, I emailed you a copy of my resume in consideration of career opportunities that might be available within your client companies. Attached is an updated copy, so please discard the earlier version. Thank you.”

      2) Refresh your resume on job boards, online applications and social networking sites. Besides providing the corrected resume, you’ll get higher rankings in the search engines, because they will treat the update as fresh content.

      3) Reframe the situation from a “sales” standpoint. Resending or reposting your resume can work to your advantage. Salespeople know that it takes six or more attempts to reach prospects before getting an appointment. Since job searching can be likened to “selling your skills” to employers, another “ping” of your resume presents another opportunity to connect.

      You should always proofread your resume carefully before sending it out. If you implement the strategies above, you’ll avoid embarrassing mistakes and keep your job search on-course.

      © 2012 Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach. All Rights Reserved

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        How To Keep Your Resume Updated

         Keeping your resume updated should be a continual career management practice as you change jobs or promote within your company. You never know when a promising career opportunity will unexpectedly fall into your lap, which will require sending a resume to the hiring manager on a moment’s notice. Besides this, in today’s shaky economy, you can’t predict when you may become suddenly unemployed and back into a job search. 

        If your resume is several years out-of-date, you’ll be ill-equipped to confidently enter the job market. In crisis mode, you might put together a “quickie” resume that probably won’t sell you to your best advantage. Instead, be prepared by updating your resume while you’re employed or in your early days of a severance package; you’ll have one less thing to worry about when you do need it.

        How far back to go? According to most hiring managers, all you need to include is the most recent 10-15 years of work experience. Since it is now October 2011, you need not go back further in your career history than October 1996, give or take a few months. You can either eliminate prior experience or abbreviate it, i.e., describe the positions in short paragraph form at the end of your resume, without listing dates.

         What information to include? List your most recent employer and your current position, including if you’ve been promoted or had a lateral move. Next, put your former employers and positions held in those companies. Include any accomplishments as well as awards, college degrees, certifications, licenses, computer skills and foreign language skills you’ve acquired or industry associations you’ve joined. If you have gaps in your work history, you can incorporate volunteer projects, part-time work, and temp, contract or consulting assignments.  (Download this Resume Update Form, to organize your content.)

        How to describe your work-related tasks? If you have company-prepared job descriptions, use these as a basis for résumé content. Or, think of your typical workday from beginning to end and just write freely about your work tasks; then edit accordingly. Otherwise, go to the O*NET, type your job title into the “Occupational Quick Search” box (in the upper right-hand corner); then see what content appears under “Tasks.”

        What file formats to use? The most acceptable formats to use are MS Word (.doc or .docx) or an unlocked PDF; this means when you are converting the file to PDF, say “no” to any passwords required for saving or printing the document. You will also need text file versions (.txt), for online postings and applications. (Download my primer for creating text resumes.)

        How to store your resume safely? Computers crash and files get lost. I cannot tell you how many clients have emailed me for copies of their resume because of these reasons. Thankfully, I’m a digital pack rat and can usually find their documents stored in my computer or external drives. I strongly advise keeping your documents backed up on a CD or USB drive.

         Having a current resume can be a less daunting process when you keep it updated on a regular basis. Doing so will assure that you’ll be prepared to hit the job market running and be ready for the next career opportunity that comes your way!

        © 2011 Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach. All Rights Reserved

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          Ten Things I Know About Resume Writing

          1. Length is relative: Your resume’s length depends on your experience and profession. If you’re a recent college graduate, one page will do. If you’re a seasoned executive, two or more pages are acceptable. Even though electronic resumes aren’t affected by length, some job boards impose word count limits for online postings. 

          2. Go “chronological”:This format lists your jobs from present to past. Hiring managers like this format, because it’s easier to understand your career progression. Avoid functional formats – skills and achievements at the top, employers at the end – because hiring managers will have trouble matching your achievements and skills with each employer.

          3. Scrap the objective: The overworked objective: “Seeking a challenging position in a progressive organization” is your resume’s ticket to the trash bin. Hiring managers don’t care about what you want. When reviewing a resume, they’re tuning into Channel WIIFM: “What’s in it for me?” All they care about is how you can solve problems for their company.

          4. Brand yourself: Replace the objective with a title, which reflects your professional brand. Examples: Benefits Administrator; Java Software Programmer; Not-For-Profit Executive; Retail Store Manager. Adjust these titles, depending on the position you’re seeking, only if your résumé’s content substantiates your ability to do the job.

          5. Use keywords: Resumes posted online are read by scanning software, targeting specific keywords, to select or reject candidates. Your résumé must contain keywords specific to the job requirements as well as your profession and industry. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Resume, 5th Edition, has a great chapter on keywords.

          6. Flaunt accomplishments: Accomplishments convey how well you did your job, i.e., with sales increases, cost savings, or productivity improvements. Include 4-5 accomplishments under each job. Quantify in tangible metrics, e.g., “Expanded $1 million territory by 25% ($250,000) annually.”

          7. Describe employers: Write a business description under each employer. Doing so will convey clear information about companies which may be unfamiliar to hiring managers. This descriptor, which can be 1-2 sentences, should include the product or service offered, clients served, sales volume, and number of employees.

          8. Customize: Avoid using an all-purpose resume. Customize your résumé for each position you apply for. Use the job description in the ad for clues about how your experience matches the position requirements then write the content accordingly. Include your most relevant experience and minimize other career history.

          9. Deflect age discrimination: List the most recent 10-15 years of your experience (with dates) which is what interests hiring managers the most. Summarize or abbreviate prior experience, without listing the dates. If you received your college degree over 15 years ago, you can omit dates of graduation.

          10. People – not resumes – get jobs: Career CrossXroads’s 9th Annual Sources of Hire Survey revealed that networking is the most effective strategy for landing employment: 51% of US job openings in 2009 were filled by internal transfers and promotions; 26.7% of external hires were filled by referrals. So, don’t just post your résumé and wait. Tap into your network to find an inside contact who can hand deliver your resume to hiring managers in companies where you want to work.   

          © 2010 Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, The Career Success Coach. All Rights Reserved.

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