Selling Yourself In Resumes Through Results
by Tom Washington

According to many employment experts, producing a resume that describes past results and contributions, is the top determiner for whether you’ll receive an interview when applying for a job you’re qualified for.

Because results are so critical, and because everyone has results and contributions, it is essential to know how to identify your results and how to effectively describe them.

Ideas For Identifying Accomplishments And Results

To identify results, you should first identify your accomplishments. An accomplishment is defined as any experience where you did something well, you achieved a goal, you received recognition from your boss or a significant person, were complimented, or were thanked by someone. Each accomplishment will have at least one result.  An accomplishment need not be impressive, although they frequently are. Here are some questions to ask yourself and some techniques for identifying accomplishments.

  • What are your accomplishments? Not all accomplishments will end up in the resume, but the first step is to identify them.
  • Did you create, reorganize, or establish any effective procedures or systems?
  • Did you streamline a process or increase productivity?
  • Did you oversee or participate in a special project that had a good outcome?
  • Have you done anything that saved money, simplified a process, or solved a problem?
  • Are you a good supervisor or trainer whose people get promoted faster and farther than your fellow supervisors?
  • Did you win any awards or get special recognition from a boss or the company itself? Did you get recognition from an industry association, from a local organization thanking you for special efforts, or from a national body that recognizes people for extraordinary work or for impressive lifetime accomplishments. Did you receive a lifetime achievement award from an organization you belong to?

Take time to go through each of your jobs or volunteer experiences and pose these questions to yourself. Jot down the thought as soon as it comes into your mind. Do not filter out experiences just because they don’t seem big enough to you. You may eventually not include it in the resume but you should list it because one memory will then trigger another. You need as long a list as possible so you can choose just the right ones to put in your resume.

Almost any award is worth mentioning. It does not have to be a lifetime achievement award.

Using Results To Create Impact

It’s great when you’ve got computer printouts or company documents to prove what you are claiming, but few people have that type of documentation. In such cases it will be necessary to “guesstimate.” This is a very acceptable practice. When estimating it is good to be a little on the conservative side so that in an interview you can state that the actual improvement was probably greater. I have never had a client tell me that his or her claims were not believed. To be accepted you merely need to explain what you did and how you did it.

Accomplishments which cannot be translated into dollars or percentages can still have impact. Statements such as “Selected as employee of the month,” or “Brought the product to market five months ahead of schedule,” can have a powerful effect on employers.

In the following sample job descriptions, notice that accomplishments are described very briefly. Elaborate on your accomplishments during the interview, not in the resume.

Accomplishments are loaded with powerful information. One fifteen-word accomplishment can say more and have more impact than one hundred words of a job description. Look at the following two examples and notice the impact of the accomplishments. Imagine what the impact would be without them. I have italicized key parts of the accomplishments.

Des Moines Trust & Savings, Des Moines, Iowa, 9/06 to Present

Branch Operations Manager ‑ Managed operations at three branches and supervised 20 employees. Overcame serious morale problems by working closely with the branch staffs and providing better training and supervision. Within the branches absenteeism was reduced 42% and turnover 70%. Customer service and marketing of bank services were strengthened. Based on customer surveys, the customer service rating improved from 74% good or excellent to 92%.

Central Mortgage  5/94 to Present

Division Manager, Missoula, Montana, 5/06 to Present. Opened the Missoula office and set up all bookkeeping and office systems. Within ten months became the number‑one home mortgage lender in the Missoula area and obtained 31% of the mortgage market and 44% of all construction loans. During five years have averaged 48% profit on gross income, the highest in the company among 33 offices.

The following example vividly illustrates the need for accomplishments. The first version lacks both accomplishments and impact. The revision ultimately sold the person into a good position.

Before

Sales Representative ‑ 2/09 to Present. Develop and service established accounts as well as new accounts. Set pricing structures after determining the market. Responsible for the district’s western Orange County territory. Sales have increased each year.

After

Sales Representative ‑ 2/09 to Present. In the first three years moved the territory from last in the district to second among ten territories. Aggressively went after new accounts and have significantly increased market share in the territory. By 2011 became the number one sales rep in total profits and have maintained that position. Profits have increased an average of 30% annually.

Is there any question which resume would result in an interview? In the second job description, you get a sense of a salesperson who is successful, works hard, has excellent product knowledge, and knows how to get a sale. It makes an employer want to meet him to learn if he is as good in person as he seems on paper.

Notice that the impression you get of the person is much stronger in the second version, yet it required just one more line than the first. This powerful effect can be created by presenting what you’ve done in jobs, rather than how you’ve done it. Tell what resulted from your efforts, but devote little or no space to describing how it happened. Accomplishments speak for themselves and you rarely need to go into detail regarding all the things you did to get your results. Save the details for an interview.

Sometimes you will want to allude to what was done without providing details. The bank branch operations manager presented earlier provides a perfect example. She said, “Overcame serious morale problems by working closely with the branch staffs and providing better training and supervision. Within the branches absenteeism was reduced 42% and turnover 70%.” How she got her result is merely alluded to with the statement, “Overcame serious morale problems by working closely with the branch staffs and providing better training and super­vision.” She did not go into detail about the morale problem, but simply stated it existed. And, she only alluded to how she solved it—working closely with staff and improving training and supervision. An employer who wants to know more will have to interview her.

In the resume below, a bank controller’s job description does not do him justice. Because this was his most recent and most responsible position, more detail is required to show his potential. Although the second job description is longer, it is well-written and concise. It does not contain any unnecessary words. Everything mentioned is designed to sell him and give an employer a full view of his experience.

Before

Controller ‑ Managed accounting department, seven‑person staff; prepared financial statements and filed various reports with state and federal agencies; assisted and advised senior management concerning regulatory accounting and tax ramifications of decisions and policies; worked with savings and loan divisions on operational and systems design; served as primary liaison with computer service bureau in Los Angeles.

After

Controller ‑ Managed a seven‑person accounting department and significantly increased productivity by simplifying procedures, cross‑training staff, and improving morale. Prepared financial statements and advised senior management on regulatory, accounting, and tax ramifications of new policies and programs under consideration. Heavily involved in the research and planning of an investment “swap” program which resulted in a $5.3 million tax refund. Successfully directed the Association’s response when the refund resulted in an IRS audit.

As financial division representative, worked closely with both the savings and loan divisions to increase interdivision cooperation related to new systems, operations, and customer service. Significantly improved communications with the Association’s service bureau and implemented modifications in the general ledger system which streamlined operations and saved more than $20,000 per year.

The accomplishments he included were his increase in productivity, finding a unique approach for justifying a large tax credit and then defending it before the IRS, increasing cooperation among divisions in the bank, improving relations with the computer service bureau, and saving money on computer services. These accomplishments are likely to pique the interest of a targeted employer.

Results Sell People

Below are additional statements which effectively convey accomplishments. Read them to give you further ideas on how you might present your results.

Quantified:

Developed a new production technique which increased productivity by 7%.

Organized a citizen task force which successfully wrote a statewide initiative, adopted with a 69% favorable vote.

As chairperson for fundraising, developed a strategy which increased funds raised by 26% while reducing promotional costs.

Set a record of 46 days without a system failure.

Nonquantified:

Awarded Medal of Merit for contributions to the community.

Established a voluntary labor-management forum that significantly reduced tension between labor and management.

Developed a self-managed quality program that substantially reduced noncompliant parts.

The advertising tie-in with Star Wars was credited with building strong name recognition for our new toy line.

Received a letter of appreciation from the Chairperson of the Ballard Community Council for bringing together 20 local businesses, which provided seed money for a community center.

Which/Which Resulted In

Accomplishments and 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 results. Remember, you don’t need computer printouts to verify your results. Your own honest estimate is sufficient. If asked about it during an interview, just describe how you arrived at the figure and then go into more detail concerning how you accomplished it. Results sell you.

I’ve developed a simple technique which will help you identify your results as you what you accomplished in each job. As you list a duty or a project, add the words which, or which resulted in, and then ask yourself what the duty or project resulted in. For example, “Wrote an office procedures manual” becomes, “Wrote an office procedures manual, which decreased training time and billing errors.” After you’ve taken time to quantify the results and to explain it more accurately, it will become, “Wrote an office procedures manual, which decreased training time of new employees by 25% and reduced billing errors more than 30%.”

The words which and which resulted in force you to take all of your activities and accomplishments to their logical conclusion. With each duty or function you list, ask yourself whether you did it as well or better than others. If better, ask yourself how you know. This process will lead you to the logical end result. You should keep going back until you have determined what the most basic result is. Once you’ve identified all of the results from a particular experience, you can then determine which ones will have the most impact in your resume.

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