Let’s say you saw a job opening last week that appealed to you and you submitted your resume. It’s safe to assume that you’re not the only person who applied. Perhaps 10 — or 500 — other people also applied. Therefore, it is critical that your resume stands out.
To do so, it’s important to demonstrate the contributions that made you stand out in your previous and current jobs. What you accomplished in the past can help the employer assess what you can contribute in the future.
Here are two ways to think about defining your those contributions. First, in every job, there is a way to distinguish the top performers from the rest. How can you demonstrate that you were a top performer? Second, if an employer is interviewing you and other people with similar resumes, how would you convince that employer to hire you over the other candidates?
In some cases, your contributions are easy to define and quantify; for example, increasing sales or reduced costs. In other cases, your contributions may be harder to define, much less quantify; for example, strengthening a company’s brand or improving relations with a key client.
Defining Your Accomplishments
Ira Ziff and Robyn Barsky’s web site (see below for the URL) recommends putting the accomplishments in your resume through two filters: a results filter (What did you accomplish?) and an importance filter (Who cares?).
For the results filter, ask yourself whether you accomplished any of the following or similar results. Did you:
Contribute to decreasing costs?
Contribute to increasing sales or profits?
Contribute to an increase in market share?
Contribute to an improvement in customer/client satisfaction?
Enhance a company’s brand’s image or reputation?
Strengthen the operational capacity of a team or an organization?
Help transform a system/process, team, or project?
Support management and/or better decision making?
Change expectations and/or perceptions about something?
Mitigate any risks for a department, employer, or client?
Uncover or reveal vulnerabilities in a process, product, or service?
Help resolve a problem?
Then, ask yourself why this result was important and who benefited from it (for example, your team, division, or company). This is the importance filter.
An excellent way to explain your contributions is through “CAR statements.” CAR stands for Challenge (what challenge were you facing?), Action (what action did you take?), and Result (what result did you achieve?).
(Such statements may also be called CCAR statements — Context, Challenge, Action, and Result — or STAR statements — Situation, Task, Action, and Result).
Here are examples from three fields:
Nursing: Improved HCAPS scores from 6 percent to 14 percent over six months by piloting hourly nursing protocols and establishing new patient pain management standards.
In this example, the Challenge was low HCAPS scores (6 percent). The Actions were (a) piloting hourly nursing protocols and (b) establishing new patient pain- management standards. The Result was a notable improvement (to 14 percent) in HCAPS scores over a short period of time.
Marketing: Developed reading program and marketing partnership with Fortune 50 retailer, enabling the firm to gain significant goodwill and resulting in sales of 16,000 tickets.
In this example, the implicit Challenge was developing ways to (a) generate goodwill for the firm and (b) sell tickets. The Action was developing a reading program and marketing partnership. The Results were (a) goodwill for the firm and (b) the sale of 16,000 tickets.
Finance: Reduced proportion of overdue balances from 20 percent to 12 percent over nine months by using Excel to analyze characteristics of late payers and develop new approaches for such firms.
In this example, the Challenge was a high proportion (20 percent) of overdue balances. The Actions were (a) analyzing the characteristics of late payers and (b) developing new approaches for them. The Result was a significant reduction (to 12 percent) in the proportion of overdue balances.
CAR statements are not only the backbone of a strong resume. They can also be powerful selling points in an interview.
For further reading:
Material on defining your “so what?” may be found at Ira Ziff and Robyn Barsky’s web site. Go to www.GetWhatYouSetcom, then click on “resume + pitch.”
Sample resumes for various professions may be found at http://chameleonresumes.com/executive-resume-samples/
Dan Butcher, “8 Tricks for Showcasing Accomplishments on Your Resume,” June 1, 2016, www.news.efinancialcareers.com
David Marwick is KempMillJobAssist’s workshop coordinator. He studied economics at George Washington University and worked as an economist for George Washington University and the U.S. Government Accountability Office.