The number one fatal flaw in nearly every resume I review is that they are written in what I refer to as the “80s” style. By this I mean that every job and every “given” responsibility is listed in a bulleted format. Are you telling your career story in this way?
If you are nodding your head yes, then stay with me because I promise to provide solid information to help clarify how to tell your readers (the hiring folks) about your achievements. Following are the components of a simplistic strategy for getting those achievements right once and for all. First and foremost, let’s consider the following logic to support the reasons we use accomplishment statements:
1. What does an accomplishment statement do? The accomplishment statement enables a potential employer to understand what kind of performer you were in the previous positions you’ve held. It demonstrates your past ability to provide substantive productivity and/or profitability results to your prior company by citing specific illustrations and tangible examples.
In fact, I see it as your legacy. Research shows that your past performance will predict your future performance. If you don’t showcase your achievements in a way that truly differentiates you from other candidates, you are – as we said back in the 80s – S.O.L.
2. What are the main components of a well-crafted accomplishment statement? Many resume writers, including myself, refer to this as the CAR story. Let me explain by isolating each word from this acronym.
CHALLENGE: In the role you held, what was happening at the time you were hired? What uphill challenges were you facing? Were there several nightmare assignments waiting for you when you started the job? (Do you see where I am going?) Identify the greatest challenges you faced and record them on separate blank word documents.
ACTIONS: Using action verbs, describe the actions you took to correct the problems you faced. This does not need to be a lengthy explanation or a thesis. But, be specific about how you planned and executed your achievements. Include as much information as you need to, so that you can recycle this information when preparing for your upcoming interview.
RESULT: What were the specific results of your actions? Look at your impact on the business or company you were working for. Include every possible metric and anything that has made you look like a star including exceeding national or corporate standards plus your awards.
Most resumes will include #1 (challenge) and #2 (actions) but often drop the ball on #3 (results/implication/outcome) of their achievements. What you may not realize is that the impact of your actions really does matter on the resume. Show the hiring managers that you are a performer by leading them to the finale or conclusion of your achievement statement.
In fact, no hiring manager or employer will consider that you are a top performer if you don’t lead him or her to the finale. Most importantly, make sure the achievements or CAR stories are relevant to your job objective. Many times candidates will list achievements that have no relevancy to the role they are seeking.
Finally, isolate each challenge you faced and address the actions you took and the result or impact on the department, division, or company. A representative sample of a CAR story could look like this. But, let me remind you that you will need to boil this entire CAR story down to a one or two liner for your resume.
Example of a CAR story from a Director of a Crisis Response Team–
Challenge: When I took over this program, all manner of referrals, authorizations, treatment plans, client binders, staff HR folders, budget information and paperwork were not well organized. The challenge was to organize and streamline the system as there were many redundancies and things falling through the cracks, like staff training, staff clearances, and budget shortfalls.
Action/Story: I first had to determine what was required by the state for authorizations, so I conducted numerous phone conversations with the funding sources to find out what needed to be included on our treatment plans, what was needed to be most efficient in getting authorizations, etc. Next, I created charts and checklists for our internal processes including trainings and FBI clearances for our staff, as well as ensuring our staff were regularly supervised. None of this had been recorded and tracked previously – hence, it had not been getting done. I made clear and easy systems to make the lives of my staff easier, not harder. I also made systems to make my job easier, not harder.
Result: The result was that our program was assigned more clients, our paperwork was approved at almost 100%, and our staff was no longer confused about where to be and what to do. Another result was that our funding source was confident in our paperwork and treatment plans, and would send us authorizations before receiving the paperwork at times. Another outcome was that our program was more profitable, budgets were met, and our staff more confident and our clients better served. Our program also gained a stellar reputation in the agency and with our funding source.
In other words, when you shrink the CAR statements down to one or two compelling lines without disparaging the company you work for, it looks like this:
Orchestrated, planned and executed new internal monitoring system generating increased cash flow, elimination of budget shortfalls and a reduction of staff. These internal controls allowed program to deepen relationships, earning a formidable reputation with funding sources, clients, and the local community.
There are many fatal flaws in the world of resume writing; however, if you can transition your old resume to a more modern version that drives home your accomplishments (and focuses on keywords) and connects them to the job you are targeting, you will be well on your way to landing more interviews.
Ultimately, what distinguishes you from other candidates when they possess similar education, years of industry experience, and skill sets are your most defining achievements.