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. Henry clearly understood the purpose of this most important document and I can still visualise it fifteen years later.
What is the purpose of a résumé?
It’s to evoke the following response in the reader…
‘Wow, can’t wait to meet this one!’
Beyond that, however, your résumé should start to swing the balance of power to you, so that the reader is worried…’She looks great. I wonder what we’ll have to do to get her to come on board with us.’
It can be done and the way to do so is to concentrate on Page 1. Specifically, to concentrate on Achievement Statements on Page 1.
Yes, it’s also important that your résumé looks attractive with well-spaced content and logical headings. But once you have completed that task, Achievement Statements should be your focus.
Sadly, most people do not even have Achievement Statements at all in their résumé. They focus on Responsibilities.
Responsibilities have their place in a résumé. They help the reader to 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.
If both Hitler and Churchill were to submit their résumés for a role, they would presumably present roughly the same list of responsibilities e.g. both leaders were supposed to look after the well being of their people. Simply looking at their responsibilities would not help you distinguish between the two of them as candidates.
However, if we looked at their specific Achievements by the end on World War II, the tale would be very different. There is no doubt that Churchill’s Page 1 would be more compelling.
So, as a general rule of thumb, at least fifty percent of the content of Page One, this oh-so-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.
How do you write a compelling Achievement Statement?
It doesn’t matter how junior or senior your role is – you are capable of analysing your role and painting a picture of the value you bring. Here are some conventions attached to Achievement Statements that will guide you.
- They are always written in the past tense, even if you are talking about your current role
- 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)
- They should not contain the words “I” or “my”
- 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 write a list of specific activities where you think you added value to your organisation. Use one of these 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 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 likely 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 editing 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.