Understanding the Metrics Behind a Résumé

Woman pondering with hand on chin

When it comes to résumés, just about everyone has an opinion as to what makes for a good one. I tell my clients who ask for help in writing a résumé that each person whom they ask for an opinion on it will give them a different one. It’s just the law of probabilities because no one person will interpret your background, experiences or accomplishments in the same way.

Of course, I’m not suggesting as a job hunter, or someone looking to switch careers, that you simply stop seeking others’ advice when putting together a résumé, just be prepared to deal with a wide range of opinions on what makes for a good one. In the final analysis, you as the owner of the resume need to make a decision on which version works best for you.

One way to deal with conflicting opinions is to create a résumé that you can support through stories it tells the reader. Everyone loves a good story, especially hiring managers. Although people may differ in opinion on the format of your resume; whether it should be in reverse chronological order or not; or whether you simply need a different font size, if you have a compelling story to tell their opinions should matter less.

Here’s an opinion I have on résumés: you should state your professional experience in reverse chronological order. But again, my opinion matters less if your professional experience reads like a good story, regardless of the order. The predominance of resumes I see are simply a listing of people’s job responsibilities which tells me little or nothing about what they are capable of doing on the job. And I can assure you that hiring managers’ view resumes the same way.

In today’s recruiting environment, hiring managers are looking for the predictive value of a résumé. Simply put, they’re looking for information that predicts a certain outcome based on a candidate’s previous experience relative to the job they’re looking to fill. For example, candidate A lists a project he/she worked on as the team leader which resulted in significant revenue growth for the company. Stated as an accomplishment on the resume it can be a good predictor of how well this candidate will do on a future project based on past performance.

Have the laws of probability work in your favor

But is this enough to convince a hiring manager that you’re the best person for the job? On this one accomplishment alone it could have been pure luck on the part of candidate A to contribute to the company’s growth for this particular year. He or she could be a total flop the next year working on a similar project. Working on projects, like most other tasks in life, have their successes and failures over time – again, it’s the law of probability.

You may be asking yourself, what’s to stop a hiring manager from seeing a particular accomplishment on your résumé as a stroke of luck, and not as a predictor of how well you will perform in the future? Well, probably nothing. The best way to increase your probability, however, of a hiring manager seeing you as a viable candidate is to show several accomplishments over a period of time, and across different companies for whom you’ve worked. Now you have the laws of probability working in your favor!

We know job search is a numbers game, whether it’s the number of networking contacts you make, the number of first degree connections you have on LinkedIn, or the number of interviews you can generate. Résumés are no different. By increasing the number of accomplishments you have over the course of your career (e.g., if you’ve worked in financial services for 15 years, 5 years each at 3 different companies) you should strive for 5 specific accomplishments for each job. That comes to 15 different accomplishments (projects lead; budgets managed; businesses built, etc.) that in all likelihood could not all have been the result of luck.

In conclusion, you could say that, well, I’ve given you my opinion on what makes for a strong résumé. Now all I need to do is convince you that it’s my opinion that counts! BTW, building in accomplishments applies to LinkedIn as well. Good luck with your Résumé.

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