The [ONE] Thing Your Resume Needs to Stand Out in the 21st Century

Look.

The economy is ever-expanding.

Job growth is strong.

Needless to say, it is a good time to be a skilled worker looking for a job.

If you are one of those people, your resume will be one of the most vital tools at your disposal to take advantage of today’s booming market.

The problem?

Every single resume out there is going to tout their author’s credentials as best as it can. Honestly, who is going to write a resume that does not try to make them look good?

There is one thing that you need to stand out in today’s market:

Quantifying Your Resume

You must be asking, “Quantifying… as in… numbers? That’s it?”

Yup.

And here’s why.

Every single resume today screams success. So much so that all this touting and tooting makes every resume look quite…bland. So bland that they are all getting tossed in the recycle bin.

The secret to avoiding your resume getting thrown out?

Instead of just proclaiming yourself as a success, you need to show HOW MUCH of a success you are.

By quantifying your success, you justify the company’s investment in their new employee (YOU). You show them the value that you bring to the table. You show them that you are a true asset that will increase their bottom line.

Let me show you this in action.

What if I told you that my office was big and prominently located? Meh.

I think you would react differently if I told you that I worked in a 400 sq. ft. northeast corner office on the 65th floor of the U.S. Bank Tower in Downtown LA.

See the difference?

Let me show you another example.

I worked as a project manager in a construction company.


As opposed to…

I managed a $2,300,000 construction project, oversaw its day-to-day operations, and completed the job with a 17% profit margin over a span of 11 months.

I know exactly to which example your ears (or brain) perked.

Numbers show that you are more than superlatives, that you bring concrete value to the job.

You get the point.

Let’s get you started.

The Formula

Quantifying your resume is very, very simple.

There are just three parts to it:

  1. Metric
  2. Action Verb
  3. Your Personal Contribution

1. Metric

First, you have to do the homework and find numbers that will impress the Human Resources representative looking through your resume.

This part is super important!

You have to understand that the HR Department is the first wave of defense that you have to overcome in order to get your job.

The metric you choose will have to be easy enough for them to understand, because they will not be able to appreciate overly-obscure facts that only extremely-seasoned veterans of your industry will get.

You can use metrics such as:

  • Sales revenue
  • Cost savings
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Reduction in response time
  • Retention of staff
  • etc.

You get the idea.

There are tons of quantifiable achievements examples everywhere. Find something that is relevant to your targeted position and industry that is also general enough for your HR person to be impressed with.

2. Action Verb

Now that you have your metric, you have to take it and pair it with an action verb that describes how it had been affected.

This is the part that places your job prospects head and shoulders above all others by developing an achievement oriented resume.

Why?

Most resume examples we see are boring, and lack clarity in their responsibilities and duties in their past jobs.

Check out the following, which you are most likely familiar with:

  • Joe has been a part of a team for three years…
  • Joe has been responsible for a project for three years…
  • Joe has assisted the manager during the third quarter…
  • Joe has held meetings for the company…
  • Joe oversaw the sales group for two years…

Uh. No one is hiring Joe.

Where is the strength in those examples? Where is the clarity?

HR has seen those types of sentences way too many times.

Using an action verb takes your resume and wrings out all the meaningless jargon that would have you associated with the rest of the losers. Actions verbs will make you stand out so much that HR will have no choice but to have their eyes glued to your resume from beginning to start, and to immediately hand it off to the hiring manager.

Let’s take the examples we used in the metrics section and tack on some action verbs:

  • Increased sales revenue
  • Amplified cost savings
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction
  • Furthered reduction in response time
  • Maximized retention of staff

See how much better that sounds? It has now been shown what exactly happened to those metrics.

Take your metrics, sit down with a dictionary, and start flipping through that baby.

Now for the final part…

3. Your Personal Contribution

This is the most important part of the formula.

Now that you have attached an action verb to a metric, you have to tell them what you did to achieve it.

Yea you’re probably asking yourself, “But if I increased sales revenue, isn’t that enough for the resume?”

Of course!

It’s definitely enough to get your resume tossed out just like the others. Anybody in the world can claim that they increased sales revenue. A janitor (no offense to janitors, I promise) can claim that they increased sales revenue by emptying the trash cans every night, alleviating the salesmen of that responsibility, thus granting them more time to sell.

So no.

Having just a metric and action verb is not quite enough.

You have to tell them how the metric was affected, and your direct contribution to achieve it.

Let’s use the sales revenue example.

Instead of just:

Increased sales revenue.


Try this:

Increased sales revenue in the fall quarter by 35% compared to the last fiscal year by raising the prices of targeted products found through market research.

Wow.

That sentence is powerful.

But before we get too ahead of ourselves in self congratulations, first let me point out that this part of the formula can actually be broken out in two parts.

You have the …by 35%… part and the …by raising the prices of targeted products found through market research… part.

The first part is the number that your metric changed by due to your contribution, and the second part is what you did personally to achieve that change.

You want to figure out that first part because you don’t want to look silly and try to claim ALL the credit from a company’s improvement. Just because your company increased profits by 200% in the last fiscal year does not mean that you were responsible for all of it.

As for the second part, you want to detail out your exact contribution that led to the change in the metric. There is now no mystery as to why you listed this item in your resume. Not only does it complete the story, it shows your ownership of what you are listing in the resume.

It should be noted that these two parts do not always have to go hand-in-hand. There might be resume items where the metric is simply a number. It can demonstrate the pure volume that you handled, which is sometimes more than enough, rendering the second part redundant. And visa versa (second part rendering first part redundant).

With that said, this item now tells a clear story of what you did, how it affected the company, and by how much.

The Walk-Through

Now that you know the formula for supercharging your resume with the magic of quantification, here is how you apply it.

At first, it can be a challenge to find responsibilities and duties that you can apply the formula to.

You might even work in a job that makes it especially difficult. I mean no offense, but your tasks might even be dull or menial. (THERE IS NO SHAME IN ANY HONEST JOB!!)

So how do you approach quantifying your resume?

Step 1: Scour Your Resume to Put Numbers to ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. Get creative!

We’ll start in broad strokes.

Wrack your brain and think of every single task you have been responsible for. Seriously!

I know you can come up with something. Anything.

Let’s say you work in a billing department and your job is to hound clients to pay for the work that your company has performed.

On your current resume, you have:

Worked in billing department, handled incoming phone calls, sent invoices, contacted clients to obtain payments.

That is actually a goldmine of things you can quantify.


Try this:

Performed billing operations in 35-person office including handling 30+ external calls daily, sending invoices for 140+ projects in the last fiscal year, and tracking accounts payable worth $12,500,000+.

There are seriously tons of nuggets that you can quantify in your resume.

Step 2: Find Dollar Amounts That You Have CHANGED

One of the most common and surefire things to quantify is money.

It pops out at every HR person looking over a resume.

Why?

First, it shows that you were high enough up the food chain to be privy to the information. Not every employee gets to peek inside the books.

Second, it shows that you have a mind for the bottom line. You are here trying to get a job at a business. And for a business, the bottom line is everything. They now know that you have your priorities in the right place.

Now, if you have saved money or earned more money in any way, it belongs in your resume.

Quantify it.

You might have had:

Reduced cost by outsourcing reprographics services.


It should be:

Performed cost analysis of owning a plotter and compiled research in report, resulting in hiring a local reprographics company to save $12,000 annually.

Metric? Check.

Action Verbs? Check. Check. Check.

Personal Contribution? CHECK.

Easy, right?

Find your effect on money. Quantify it.

Step 3: Find Time That You Have SAVED

Time is money.

Companies will want to know if you can help them reduce costs in labor and/or overhead.

If you have changed any processes or come up with cost-saving tools to benefit the company by making it more efficient, you need to add it and quantify it in your resume.

Similarly to money as explained in Step 1, showing the time you have saved shows that you are not just some schmuck in a production line. You either had the privilege of knowing this information, or you have the organizational skills to come up with a useful estimate.

Stick it in your resume.

If an item you had was more like this:

Created a program to make load calculations more efficient.


Try something like this:

Learned Visual Basic to develop new macro-based spreadsheet for load calculations, reducing average performance time from 8 hours to 2 hours.

Bam.

Check, check, check on the formula.

Step 4: For Unknown Quantities, ESTIMATE

Let’s say that there are things you know are worth mentioning, but have trouble putting numbers to.

For example, you know that cost was reduced, but are not completely sure of how much. OR, there are numbers that you KNOW belong in your resume, but is information that you cannot share due to company policy.

You can give an estimated range.

(BUT DOUBLE CHECK YOUR COMPANY POLICY! MAKE SURE YOU HAVE READ THE FINE PRINT AND EVERYTHING IN THIS REGARD!!)

For example:

Increased warehouse efficiency by rearranging shelves.


Instead, it could be:

Warehouse shipping and loading time reduced by an estimated 3-5 minutes per order by reorganizing racks for company that typically processes about 20 orders a day.

Another one:

Produced engineering drawings for commercial project.


Try this instead:

Performed engineering design and produced drawings for projects combining to a estimate of up to $500,000 in the 2017 fiscal year.

Just be aware that when you land that interview, you might get questioned on these estimates (as well as every other item in your resume!).

Here’s a simple fix:

Write down how you came up with these estimates on a separate document, so that you will be ready to explain your methodology to your potential new employee at your interview!

Step 5: For Unknown Units, COMPARE.

Sometimes you just do not have enough information, but are dying to list something you are proud of, and are sure that HR will love it. There are always ways to quantify something.

You just have to get creative because not everything has to be in terms of time or money.

Your accomplishments can be conveyed in other units of measure.

For example, you know that as a customer service representative, you have done well with everybody you have served. You have always received positive feedback, but are not sure how to put a number to it.

Dig deep. Get creative.

Ask around for performance data. See if your company keeps track of feedback and reviews. Check if there are rankings kept for employees. Anything!

There is surely data in terms of percentages or rankings.

I know you can find that data.

Now you can change this existing item:

Worked as a customer service representative with generally positive feedback.


To this:

Answered an average of 100 calls a day, answering product and service questions, and received a personal feedback positive rating of 90%.

Or this:

Answered an average of 100 calls a day, answering product and service questions, and ranked in the 90th percentile in the company-wide customer feedback survey responses.

It doesn’t have to be percentages or rankings.

I do not know your industry, so you will have to be the one to do the leg work.

Get creative!

Step 6: It is an ART. USE COMBOS! VARIATIONS!!

This is the part where it all comes together.

It’s time for you to make me proud.

We have gone over the formula to quantify your tasks. We have talked about money and time, and ways to put numbers and units to things you are not 100% sure about.

Guess what?

You can combine all of the above to create extremely impressive items on your resume.

Mix and match.

Shuffle things around.

Use weird units of measure.

There are no rules!

Let’s say you had this:

Led the engineering department for 4 years as Principal Electrical Engineer.


Let’s get serious here! It should be more like this:

Revamped the engineering design process to streamline day-to-day tasks using Excel, saving an estimated minimum of 8 hours per project. Increased revenue from $750,000 to $2,000,000 over a period of 4 years by obtaining 12 new clients through extensive online marketing and performing well, leading to positive references through word-of-mouth.

Yup.

That’s juicy.

There is one last thing.

Step 7: Watch Out For These Pitfalls

Now that you have gone through Steps 1-6, it is time to calibrate and to make sure that your resume is bulletproof.

I have compiled a list of mistakes that you can make as you go through the task of quantifying your resume.

A. Using False, Unrealistic, or Exaggerated Information

Yes, the person reading your resume might not know exactly everything about your targeted position, but they have read enough resumes and have been exposed to the industry enough to know when something on it is obviously fake or unrealistic.

But let’s say you trick this person and your resume gets passed along to your potential manager. These managers know the industry inside out, so any numbers that do not make sense will be a giant red flag to them.

The same goes for exaggerating information.

Everyone has embellished their resume at some point in their career. It is such a tempting and easy thing to do. However, it is dangerous because it is even easier to take too far.

HR representatives have developed good eyes for this after going over thousands and thousands of resumes.

What I am saying is that there is absolutely no point in trying to fool anybody with information that is not grounded in reality.

Be realistic.

B. Overly Obscure or Unflattering Information

This one should be a no-brainer, but it is a common mistake made by many.

When you go through the quantification of your resume, be mindful of weeding out information that is either too obscure for anyone to understand, or information that does not help you get hired.

As I have repeatedly stated, people who initially go over your resume most likely will not be extremely tuned in with the exact position you are pursuing. Yes, they will have good general knowledge of it, but they will not understand the nuances that someone who has been working in your position for years might know.

Another issue that deserves attention is that your resume might have information that is not flattering! It might have been at some point in your career, but you need to refocus and understand that you are trying to move up!

Do not mindlessly attach everything just to fluff up your resume. You need to go through it and make sure that every bit plays up your strengths.

You are trying to get a job here!

Cater to your audience. Make sure that what you include is relevant and will make you look good.

C. Including Information that is Too Broad or Unrelated

Your resume needs to be tailored for the very position you are trying to obtain.

Similarly to the last section, it is easy to leave in information that is way too general or is even unrelated to said position.

For example, you might have been a vital part of a large project in your last job. Instead of just listing the project as experience, you need to detail out your exact role in relation to the project. Explain what your contributions were.

Skimming your resume for unrelated information can be a challenge. There are obvious ones like where a fast food job will not need to be anywhere when you are pursuing a position in architectural design. On the other hand, there might be tasks you have performed in totally unrelated jobs that paint a good picture of your character or skills.

It will be up to you to make that call.

Just be aware of this pitfall.

Conclusion

You now have the most essential tool at your disposal when tweaking your resume.

Quantification is awesome because it attaches an exact value to your success. This tells (more like screams) to your future employer that you will be an asset!

It is so powerful due to its simplicity, yet it can be as elastic as you want it to be to serve your every purpose.

Now that you have been shown the variety of ways in which you can attach numbers to your past career, you can show your true value through quantification so that your resume will stand out clearly from among the rest.

There is no doubt that this guide will land you your next job!

Share how your resume has been improved!

Once you have followed these steps and have gotten good results, I would love to hear how this guide has affected you!

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4 Replies to “The [ONE] Thing Your Resume Needs to Stand Out in the 21st Century

  1. I love this post. You have great examples and tips that make this really easy for someone to use if they need it; I especially liked the piece about quantifying your achievements, rather than listing what you’ve done. I think that sets a person away from the rest, and really shows a deeper level of understanding toward what you can offer as an asset.

    Great read!

  2. The thing I love about the FIRE community is the huge world of advice that you can get. I think that you are spot on in terms of what anyone can to to punch up their CV. What I love it how specifically actionable it is.

    I am at that stage in my career where most jobs that I would apply for involve people that I already know professionally. It means that I haven’t spent too much time thinking about my CV, but I think I will look at mine again to see how I can apply this.

    It is far to easy to be complacent about these things.

    1. Dear Mr. Caveman,

      I am glad that you have made it to the point in your career where who you know is most important. That must come hand in hand with having a stellar reputation in your industry. I am envious and want to get to your level!! Keep up the great work!!

      Best,
      Sam

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