A Critical Component of Your Resume Is Probably Missing

Walker Brown

If you’re like most people, your resume is probably missing a critical component that it requires in order to stand out… proof of what you’re good at.

How do you know it’s missing that crucial piece of proof?

Well, if your resume is merely a biography of your work experience that focuses solely on your tasks, activities, and projects without including the outcomes of those tasks, activities, and projects, then it lacks the critical element of proof.

To be fair, as technology has advanced, so have resumes and the process of screening resumes. The biographical, task-focused resume is how we used to do resumes back when cover letters were more important than they are now. You used to be able to rely on your cover letter to demonstrate why you were a good fit for a particular job. You would personalize it to highlight your specific accomplishments that corresponded to what the prospective employer was looking for in a candidate.

Most people today are untrained in the art of writing a good, personalized cover letter. Most people write a generic letter and only change the part that says what job opening they are responding to – and sometimes they forget to change that part at all. As a result, most recruiters do not read cover letters if they are sent, or they may read a cover letter after reviewing the resume. They simply do not expect the cover letter to be of any use.

Furthermore, with the advent of universal access to word processing programs that allow you to change your resumes to specifically target job openings, you are expected to tweak your resume to make it easy for prospective employers to see how you fit.

All of this means that, while you still need a well-written, personalized cover letter in case someone reads it, your resume must stand alone and deliver the proof.

Displaying the Evidence

What distinguishes a great resume from a mediocre resume is one that, in addition to specific tasks/activities, shows the results. It’s almost as if you’re saying, “I completed this task/took this action, which resulted in these outcomes. Anyone who filled this role would have had these responsibilities, but because it was me, and because I brought my own uniqueness to it, this is what happened. Here’s how I made a name for myself while working at this company.”

This is accomplished by including Accomplishment Statements on your resume, which are specific examples of what you have done along with quantifiable results. These statements also demonstrate your personal brand because they show how you do what you do… and they PROVE it by the results you show in each statement.

The most effective accomplishment statements demonstrate how you have made or saved money; made something more efficient or saved time; and/or achieved something for which you may or may not have been recognized, such as patents, publications, awards, and so on.

Examples of Accomplishment Statements

  • Streamlined the financial reporting process, which resulted in a 32% increase in productivity.
  • In liability defense, we reduced a $100K lawsuit to a $1.5K settlement for our client.
  • Negotiating a new vendor contract saved me $15,000.
  • Consumption of a specific product was monitored after a vendor switch, and a comparison report was generated that clearly demonstrated money was saved.

You’ll notice that the examples above show tasks or actions as well as results. Also, keep in mind that the most powerful ones begin with the results and include numbers. Even if you don’t show numbers, it’s fine as long as the goal is stated to have been met or exceeded. For example, “monitored consumption of a specific product following a vendor switch and generated a comparison report that clearly demonstrated money was saved.” Perhaps you prefer not to include the exact monetary savings because you don’t remember the exact amount or it is proprietary information, but you still claim the impact: “that clearly demonstrated money was saved.”

Where Should The Proof Be Placed?

The simplest way to incorporate accomplishment statements is to create a Career Highlights section with three to five bullets, but many people also do so by including them in the experience section. Again, the rule of thumb is no more than three to five bullets for each role/job.

Placing accomplishment statements in a career highlights section near the top of the resume is beneficial if you are open to both a job in your current profession and doing something new. This is because you can highlight whatever you want rather than being limited to displaying your brand through the employers in your current profession (and, therefore, bringing attention to work you might not necessarily want to emphasize).

However, if you are still on the same career path and want a similar job, a career highlights section is a good option. That’s because it’s much easier to come up with a few accomplishment statements than it is to develop accomplishment statements for each role/job under your experience section. When you’re tweaking your resume for a specific job opening, it’s also useful to be able to add and remove specific highlights or rearrange their order to suit your needs.

LinkedIn and Accomplishment Statements

Look around on the internet, particularly on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is responsible for allowing us to develop our professional brand online. Some argue that online profiles will eventually replace resumes as a natural progression in the evolution of resumes. Of course, we’ll see how that plays out over time. For the time being, resumes are still advantageous because an online profile allows you to tweak how you portray your overall brand but not for a specific job opening.

Because of the emphasis on LinkedIn on demonstrating subject matter expertise and your personal brand, the trend is similar to what we’ve seen in resumes. Accomplishment statements are becoming increasingly common on LinkedIn profiles. As with your resume, you can include accomplishment statements in your LinkedIn summary section and/or under each role/job in your experience section. LinkedIn also has a section called Honors and Awards that you can show or hide on your profile, which may be relevant to you.

It’s not bragging.

To have a resume that stands out, you must understand that it is about more than just your previous and current job responsibilities. It’s not just about your credentials. There’s a good chance that your profession is full of people who can make that claim. Add accomplishment statements to your resume (and online profile) to demonstrate your worth and how you differ from the other candidates.

One last piece of advice… always be truthful and don’t exaggerate your achievements. When you include these statements on your resume, interviewers will be more likely to ask you about them. Prepare to speak openly about your accomplishments.