Including Results in Resumes Produces More Job Interviews
by Tom Washington
Results sell people. Call them results, accomplishments, contributions, whatever, but their inclusion in a resume can be the single most important factor in obtaining interviews. As Lou Adler of CJA Associates, a Tustin, California executive recruiting firm says, “I spend a half hour every day screening over 50 resumes. If I don’t spot some results in the first ten seconds, it’s history.”
Rick Sears, with Management Recruiters of Carlisle (Penn) agrees. “Companies today are so results oriented that those who can demonstrate they are bottom line people can compete so much better than those who are just selling experience. The person who can take achievements and turn them into benefits can overcome deficiencies in experience or education.”
John Lucht, executive recruiter and author of Rites of Passage At One Hundred Thousand Dollars Plus, and The Executive Job Changing Workbook, simply states, “People without results don’t get recruited.” He adds, “Showing results is the number one criterion for determining who will be hired.”
While all resume and job finding guides recommend the use of results, the advice is rarely heeded. Instead, resumes are filled with dates, job titles, and duties. Bob Pepple, recruiter with Fortune of Jacksonville (Fla) estimates that 75% of the resumes that come across his desk contain no results at all.
Every job seeker has results, and big or small, those results need to be presented . It is readily believed by recruiters and managers that those with solid past accomplishments will continue to have equally strong accomplishments in the future. That’s potential. But it’s not enough to have achieved certain accomplishments or to possess potential. You must present them in your resume in ways that bring them to life. Your competitors may in fact have stronger and more impressive accomplishments than your own, but if they fail to present them, it’s as if they did not have them at all. And if they don’t list them in their resumes, they probably won’t describe them in interviews. That gives you a big advantage.
Adler uses a simple method called SMART to help those writing a resume. Results need to be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-based. When a result includes each point, it has impact.
Michael Mottola, an HR executive who has been charting and quantifying his results for over 18 years, applies SMART to his own resumes. “It’s so important in HR,” he says, “because as a field it is very difficult to quantify results. When you can, it really makes a difference.”
His results-filled resume got him an interview with the Frick division of York International, but his portfolio, filled with letters and other documents that verified his results, was a major factor in his selection. As Mottola puts it, “Someone could easily pick up the phone and verify all of my results.”
List one or more accomplishments for each job held. Describe your results concisely and concretely. Every employer seeks people who can increase profits, decrease costs, and solve problems. Specific information such as percentages and dollar figures make accomplishments more tangible and impressive. Compare these two statements: “Implemented new personnel policies which increased morale,” and “Implemented new personnel policies which reduced absenteeism by 27% and turnover by 24%.” The specific figures given in the second statement make the accomplishment more impressive and real.
Arriving at a percentage or a dollar figure when you have no verifying figures requires estimating. It’s great when you’ve got company documents to prove what you are claiming, but people often lack that type of documentation. Jay Stenda, recruiter for Microsoft, says “I don’t mind when results are estimated, but I do want to get a feel for how much glass they had to crawl through. I want a sense of the agony and the ecstasy.” Stenda adds, “People who describe an accomplishment and briefly describe how it was accomplished, will always get my attention.” Later, at the interview, he will probe to learn more about the results.
Fortune’s Pepple has made his living by getting candidates to rework their resumes to include results. “When I’m convinced a person has the right background, I’ll show the person how to include results. For example, one person had merely stated, ‘Oversaw the ISO 9000 process.’ After a little coaching that person was able to state, ‘Completed ISO certification process within nine months with zero discrepancies.’ That’s the kind of detail that gave my client the assurance to interview this person.”
Accomplishments which cannot be translated into dollars, numbers, or percentages can still have impact. Statements such as “Developed an inventory control system which has eliminated duplication of supplies,” “Created engineering procedures that significantly reduced product liability exposure,” or “Brought the product to market ahead of schedule,” can have a strong effect on employers.
Results Sell People
The following examples demonstrate ways that results can be used in a resume.
Developed a new production technique which increased productivity by 7%. (operations manager)
Significantly improved communications with the bank’s service bureau and implemented modifications in the general ledger system which streamlined operations and saved more than $20,000 per year. (bank manager)
Developed new collection procedures which kept collection costs 34% below budget and reduced overdue accounts 27%. (accounting manager)
Since 2009 inventory has been reduced from $5.4 million to $2.9 million, with documented savings of $1.1 million. (facilities purchasing manager)
Negotiated freight rates with a major carrier, cutting the rate by 18% and saving $85,000 per year. (traffic manager)
Established a Total Quality program which has reduced rejects 65%. (production manager)
Which/Which Resulted In
Results are powerful. Everything you’ve done on a job has had a result. When the result is positive and significant, it belongs in the resume. Train yourself to look for them. You don’t need computer printouts to verify them. Your own good faith estimate is sufficient. When asked at an interview, simply describe how you arrived at the figure and then describe how you achieved it.
A simple technique will help you identify your results. Prior to the actual writing of the resume, list your duties, areas of responsibility, and projects for your current or last position, and then for each preceding job. Don’t be concerned about polished writing, just recall what you did. As you list each duty or project, add the words which or which resulted in, and then ask yourself what the duty or project resulted in. For example “Took over a troubled region and set up new customer service procedures and marketing techniques,” becomes “Took over a troubled region and set up new customer service procedures and marketing techniques which increased market share 28% in four years.” Which is the more powerful statement?
The words which and which resulted in compel you to take all of your activities and accomplishments to their logical conclusion. You should continue asking the which question until you’ve identified all of the results. Frequently people stop with just one result, when in fact there were several. Identify all of them first – then decide which to use in the resume.
Projects are particularly rich in results. As you’re thinking about a project, list the objectives or expectations. If you exceeded some of them, those would be points to mention in the resume.
When quantifying results, determine whether the use of raw figures or percentages will create the greatest impact. For example, a regional sales manager might say, “Took sales from $24.8 million to $36.2 million in three years,” or “Increased sales 46% in three years.” Both could be excellent ways of describing a very impressive result. Sometimes it is appropriate to use both a dollar amount and a percentage: “Increased sales 46% from $24.8 million to $36.2 million in three years.”
In describing results, people frequently make mistakes which can seriously misrepresent them. One manufacturing manager, mistakenly stated that he had reduced rejects by 200%, forgetting that nothing can be reduced by more than 99.999% (assuming that the before number and the after number are both positive). In fact he had taken rejects from 6% to 2%, which is actually a 67% reduction, still a major reduction. A sales manager with a fast growing startup claimed he had increased sales 300% because sales had tripled from $450,000 the previous year to $1.3 million. Actually, tripling sales amounted to a 200% increase, not 300%. An HR manager stated his policies had reduced turnover 3%. Actually turnover had been reduced from 8% to 5%, making it a 38% decrease, not 3%. The HR manager’s mistake is a common one.
Percentages can be difficult to calculate. Here are two simple formulas to assist you in arriving at accurate figures. For an increase, the formula is b-a/a where a is the original number before the increase, and b is the number after the increase. It can also be described as b minus a divided by a. For decreases the formula is a-b/a where a is the number before the decrease and b is the number after the decrease. It can be described as a minus b, divided by a.
Percentages can be challenging to calculate, so use an excellent calculator found at: http://www.csgnetwork.com/businesspercentincreasedecrease.html.
To use the calculator, put in the original number where it says previous period amount, and the current number where it says current period amount. So, if you increased the production of shoes from 100,000 per month to 150,000 per month in three years, you increased shoe production 50% as the calculator will indicate. (Once you hit “calculate” scroll down below the ad and you will see the result.)
When you don’t feel comfortable trying to quantify an achievement, or are unsure of the numbers, try the words significantly and substantially. For example, “Developed new manufacturing techniques that significantly reduced rejects.” Another example might read, “Built strong relationships with customers which substantially increased customer loyalty.” For something very impressive, you might write “Dramatically reduced injuries in the production department by holding safety meetings weekly until safety was fully ingrained in the staff.”
While estimating results is a well-accepted practice in resumes and in interviews, it is clearly to your advantage to have “hard” numbers. In your current or next position, identify the areas you hope to improve and then establish benchmarks. If turnover in your department is high and you intend to improve on it, go over past records to determine how many people have come and gone in the past couple years and establish the current turnover rate. Then implement your new procedures and track turnover from that point forward. As things improve you’ll not only be able to show your boss your results, but you’ll have hard numbers on your resume.
Many people have successfully used results to obtain interviews they might otherwise have missed out on. As Jay Stenda of Microsoft puts it, “I love to see results in a resume, with a sense of how the job, the results, and the company all relate.” Results in your resume will not only help you break into a company like Microsoft, but any company that seeks high caliber, accomplishments-oriented people.
For more on results and how to make effective use of them, click on Resume Empower on the home page and then click on Employment. The first section in the Employment chapter explains in a fuller way how to describe and calculate your results. It will also help you achieve Jay Stenda’s statement above of obtaining more interviews through the use of results.