"Wow" Resume Part 2: Do you have a Hitler or Churchill résumé?

22 April, 2013

Do you have a Hitler or Churchill résumé? Of the many résumés I have seen in my years as a Career Transition specialist, I will always remember Henry’s, a graphic designer who worked in Singapore.

To my immense pleasure, the only way I was able to add any value to his document was to tighten up some of his English expressions. He clearly understood the purpose of this most important document and I can still visualise it ten years later.

Following on from Part One of this blog on résumé content, I’m going to focus on Achievement Statements.  And, firstly, I am going to compare them to Responsibilities, which is where Hitler and Churchill come in.

Responsibilities have their place in a résumé.  They help the reader position you in the organisation and they tell the world what you were supposed to do. 

However, they don’t tell the world whether you actually did it or how well you performed the role.  So the résumés of both Hitler and Churchill would share roughly the same list of responsibilities e.g. both leaders were supposed to look after the wellbeing of their people.

Just looking at their responsibilities would not help you distinguish between the two of them as candidates.  If we looked at their specific Achievements by the end on World War II, however, the tale would be very different.  

So, as a general rule of thumb, I believe that at least 50% of the content of Page One, this most important page of your résumé, should feature Achievement Statements.  And these Achievement Statements should clearly and specifically outline how you added value to your organisation, and why you deserved to get paid.  


So how do you write a compelling Achievement Statement?

It doesn’t matter how junior or senior your role is – we are all capable of analysing our role and painting a picture of the value we bring. 

There are some conventions attached to Achievement Statements. 

1.  They are always written in the past tense, even if you are talking about your current role

2.  They begin with a verb e.g. designed, created, delivered, participated… (By the way, “successfully” is not a verb, so don’t begin your Achievements with this word as it breaks the pattern)

3.  They should not contain the words “I” or “my”

4.  They are generally one to two lines long – such is our short attention span these days


What are you most proud of?

This is a useful starting point.  Just start a list of specific areas where you think you added value to your organisation.

I recommend three alternatives when it comes to the content of an Achievement Statement:

1. What did you do and what was the result? (quantified where possible – $,%, etc)

2. What did you do and what was your methodology?

3. What did you do, what was your methodology and what was the result?


Not a Fun Task!

I’ve never met anyone yet who enjoyed writing their résumé!  So, I also recommend that you just get your thoughts down on paper.  Don’t worry about how clumsy the wording is or whether there’s a bit of slang there.  When you come back to look at your draft the next time, you’ll find the magic phrase, the elegant line.

One final recommendation.  Once you have written your wonderful new résumé, drag it out once a year and review it.  Update it to take in account your achievements of the previous year.  That way, it becomes a bit of fun.  And, it’s ready to go whenever you need it. 

Of course, this does not mean that your résumé grows in length – it is likely that you’ll have to cull some of the earlier content.

It can be so difficult to let go of content that may be very well written and which may describe achievements that you are very proud of.  If it makes it easier, just think of North American résumés where the standard length is 1-2 pages.  That may help put your challenge into perspective!

At a minimum, producing a strong, persuasive résumé adds to your confidence, as you navigate through the modern world of work.  And, in my experience, it makes you stand out from the crowd in the visible job market.

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Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert.  She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's CareerOne, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au

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