A Better Resume: Evidence of Your Work Performance

Mark's picture

Employers value results and getting things done, and it’s important that your resume speaks to your experience and provides evidence that you are a results-oriented producer in the workplace.  So use the questions and guidance below to brainstorm for some accomplishments and performance examples to include on your resume and then make those additions.  Then send it to us.

Step 1: The brainstorm.  Try to come up with 2-3 tangible, and ideally measurable, examples for each question below.  For each question we’re looking for a specific example or two and recommend you structure your answer in 3 parts, but we’ll get to that in a moment.  Do not worry about formatting, relevance for a resume as you know it, or any other concern, just answer the questions—and try not to read ahead!
 
1. What have you done in your previous positions to improve your own efficiency or the efficiency of the team? 
 
2. What have you done to demonstrate that you excel at what you do?  (That you’re better than your job description)
 
3. What have you done to decrease costs for your employer?
 
4. What have you done to increase revenue?
 
5. What have you done to demonstrate leadership?  Teamwork?  Initiative?   Resourcefulness?  (Examples!  What did you DO or ACCOMPLISH that proves you have this skill?  Feel free to add a soft skill here that you have demonstrated in the past or that you believe is a strength for you personally, but make sure to come up with evidence of that skill.)
 
6. What are you most proud of from your career?
 
7. What would your previous boss say you did well?  Why?
 
8. What have you done in your previous positions that outlasted you or is still used today?
 
Step 2: Flesh out the examples.  Go back through your examples above and for each of them, write down:  1. What the Problem or Challenge was that you were facing,  2. What was your specific Action to remedy the problem or address the challenge, and 3. The Results of your actions.  If possible, the Results should be quantified in a way that accounts for the time or money saved, deadline hit, goal made, etc.  For some examples the Results may have been softer or a feeling that things were better like improved morale or something less tangible, but good managers manage by the metrics, so make sure to include a few that speak to the numbers, and be prepared to address soft results in an interview.  These examples will be a value-add for you because not only are they are great examples for a resume, but also fantastic examples to have at your fingertips for an interview, so keep them handy!
 
Step 3: Quantify them.  If you haven’t already, go back and quantify the 3 parts for each example of performance.  If the Challenge was a deadline, how much time was left, if the Problem was an inefficiency resolving items within the department, how many problems or what percentage of items were being handled poorly or how much time was being lost?  If your Action was to implement a training program, how many people did you train, over how long a period, and what was the nature of the training materials produced?  Was it 3 people trained for an hour a week for one month on an ad hoc basis or was it 45 people from across the nation trained in a week-long training session, including presentation decks of 100 pages per day, and 20+ practical examples, which is now the standard for inter-office training?  The details make all the difference.  The most important value of all to quantify is the Results.  If the Results were time saved, how much and what does that time translate to in $$$ to the company bottom line?  If the Results were a met deadline for a demanding client, how much more business came from that client?
 
If you have access to the data and can get exact numbers because you’re still employed there or can ask your previous employer, then do it!  If not, estimate the number, but remember your calculation, write it down, and be prepared to defend it in an interview.   (i.e. “Well unfortunately, Mr. Hiring Manager, I didn’t have access to the data, but I estimate X hours for this task and we did it x times a week, so over the course of the year that amounts to $XX,XXX in lost productivity I eliminated.”) 
 
Step 4: Create the bullets for your resume.  A resume is a marketing piece for you, so consider it your advertisement.  If you were driving down the road and saw a billboard for laundry detergent, it wouldn’t say “Cleans clothes.”  No crap it cleans clothes, you don’t need to know that, so instead advertisers tell you their detergent is “Whiter!  Better!  Faster!  Saves you time!  Makes you more beautiful!  Less lonely Friday nights!”  Too many resumes have bullets on their resume that tell us nothing about how well they did their work and amount to “cleans clothes.”
 
Bad Examples  (mostly from actual resumes)
 
  • Created a training program to improve office processes
  • Managed daily quality issues while examiners in the field
  • Tracked software bugs and entered into the tracking system
  • Cleaned clothes so they weren’t dirty any more
 
Really Bad Examples  (mostly from actual resumes)
 
  • Database management
  • Financial reporting
  • Audio transcription
  • Clothes
 
Although sometimes it can be important to throw in a couple bullets that are task-related to help someone understand the responsibilities of the position, a few good accomplishment bullets like the ones below will paint a clear enough picture of the work that those other bullets won’t be necessary.  Remember to try to include all 3 parts of the example: Problem, Action, and Results.  This may make the bullets seem a little long, but if it keeps the reader’s attention—and it will—then long is no problem.
 
Strong Examples
 
Replace
  • Created a training program to improve office processes
 
With
  • Identified a need for consistency across inter-office processes creating 300 hours of lost productivity annually.  Initiated a training program for all 45 employees, which included presentation decks detailing work procedures, 20+ practical examples, and a repurposing of the material into Adobe Captivate interactive trainings for new hire training moving forward.  This training model is now the standard for corporate training and reduced lost productivity by 240 hours.
 
Didn’t feel that long since it was interesting, did it?  I’m guessing that person gets called for an interview if they are even close to qualified for the job!  Notice that all 3 parts of the example, Problem, Action, and Result are clearly quantified.
 
Replace
  • Managed daily quality issues while examiners in the field
 
With
  • Identified a lapse in accuracy on credit analyses of over 3% while managing examiners on a client project and collaborated with the entire team of examiners and the client to investigate the discrepancy through detailed SQL querying of 3 different financial systems.  This error could have meant a missed deadline of nearly a week had it not been caught early; instead it required an additional 2 late nights, but the deadline was met and the client referred additional business the following year.
 
It won’t matter that this is just one example of managing daily quality issues, that responsibility is assumed from the language in the bullet, so we don’t need the task bullet at all.  It also won’t matter that the bullet is too long (though admittedly this one stretches the boundary of acceptable) because if a hiring manager is looking for a hard worker, problem solver, or team player, then this person has demonstrated that they are clearly all of those with evidence and they didn’t have to use any of those over-used words to do it.  If possible, I would recommend keeping your bullets to 3-4 lines on a regular page as with the example below, just don’t leave out any of the 3 parts!
 
Replace
  • Tracked software bugs and entered into the bug tracking system
 
With
  • Reduced the average time to resolve Level 1 bugs on the web-based application from 3 days to 36 hours by selecting and implementing a collaborative bug-tracking tool that allowed for quicker communication and collaboration between developer and tester.
 
Make sure to have someone else read them when you’re finished who is unfamiliar with the work.  If they can grasp what you did without a lot of questions, then it’s clear for a hiring manager as well.
 
Step 5: The formatting.  You can choose to format how you like of course, but this is my preference.
 
Company  (dates at company)
Location
Title (dates in title)
General description of the primary responsibilities of the work.
 
Accomplishments:
  • Problem, Action, Result (times 3-4)
  • Task bullet (times 2-3 and only if necessary to clarify the responsibilities not described above)
 
Title (dates in title)
General description of the primary responsibilities of the work.
 
Accomplishments:
  • Problem, Action, Result (times 3-4)
  • Task bullet (times 2-3)
 
Since it’s possible you may be applying to several different types of jobs or that some accomplishments and tasks are more relevant to certain types of work, I recommend coming up with 5-6 examples for each position or company you worked for.  Prior to sending your resume, pull out the 2 or 3 that aren’t as relevant and re-order the bullets to put the most relevant accomplishments first.  The key is to catch the reader’s attention and get them reading more.  They’ll call you for an interview soon enough! 
 
 
...because who you work with matters.