Somewhere in the midst of discussions about things like “tailoring your resume to the position,” one of the best pieces of resume advice gets lost: Your resume needs to be accomplishment-oriented.
Many resumes that I see do precisely the opposite. They offer bullets like:
- Contributed to design documents on ________ feature and helped coordinate international expansion.
- Implemented various features for new Office layout tool.
Yawn. I want to know what you accomplished. I don’t really care much about your team’s accomplishments. And, in many cases, I already know what your responsibilities were because I know your job title. If you were a developer, you probably wrote some code, did a little testing and maybe helped out with a few design docs. How does a good resume read? Here are the first words of each bullet from a strong programmer resume I saw recently: “reduced,” “implemented,” “redesigned,” “promoted,” “created,” “promoted,” “implemented,” “created,” “optimized,” “built,” “created,” “designed.” Each of these words was followed with concrete description of what this developer did. Her impact on her company was clear. Now read the first line of each bullet on yours. Does it have words like “contributed to,” “helped with,” etc.? If so, you might want to toss it out and start from scratch. This time, use this approach:
- Step 1: Make a list of all your jobs and titles. (You probably already have this.)
- Step 2: For each job, list your 3 – 5 biggest accomplishments. Don't try to give a comprehensive look at everything you did. You're not giving a description of your job. You’re highlighting a few of your most serious accomplishments.
- Step 3: If some of your bullets were more than two lines long, reduce them to one to two lines each. Ideally, no more than half of your bullets are two lines. Short bullets are more likely to be read.
- Step 4: Re-read each bullet. Is your impact clear? Is each bullet something that, ideally, you personally accomplished? (If you were a team lead or manager, your team’s accomplishments are relevant if you drove those accomplishments.) Is each bullet specific? “Designed and implemented new facial recognition algorithm on video clips that out-performed prior tools by 15 percent” sounds more impressive than “Developed various features for facial recognition.”
- Step 5: Quantify your impact as much as possible. This is often difficult, but you should aim to have at least a few quantified accomplishments. If you optimized something, by how much did you optimize it? If you saved the company time, how much time did you save them? You won’t always have an exact number, but do your best to estimate it.
Going through these steps may require re-doing your resume from scratch, but trust me — it’s worth it.