Justin Sullivan/Getty Google HR boss Laszlo Bock says specificity is the key to a standout resume. You’ve checked (and double- and triple-checked) your résumé for typos. You made sure it’s clearly organized, provides a relevant job history, and highlights your soft skills. And yet you’re still not hearing back from the dozens of job postings to which you’ve applied.
The likely problem: Your accomplishments fail to stand out because you haven’t provided a concrete measure of your previous work, writes Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, in a recent LinkedIn post.
“You might feel like it’s hard to measure your work, but there is almost always something you can point to that differentiates you from others,” he says.
In fact, Bock has a simple formula for quantifying any experience that will transform your résumé from a list of duties into a clear picture of your achievements and skills: Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z].
Getty / Neilson Barnard Google’s Laszlo Bock. “Start with an active verb, numerically measure what you accomplished, provide a baseline for comparison, and detail what you did to achieve your goal,” Bock suggests.
For example, take this sentence from a sample résumé: ” Studied financial performance of companies and made investment recommendations.”
Bock rewrote it to say this: “Improved portfolio performance by 12% ($1.2M) over one year by refining cost of capital calculations for information-poor markets and re-weighting portfolio based on resulting valuations.”
The second option clearly stands out because it gives exact numbers, clarifies how significant 12% is, and provides details about how the applicant achieved this, therefore boosting his or her credibility.
The more details you can provide, the better, because it proves that your skills live up to expectations.
Several examples inspired by actual resumes will show you what I mean. The first bullet is typical: not bad, but certain not to stand out. The second is a much better version of a similar accomplishment from a different resume. My own suggestions are in italics.
College student who is a leader in her sorority
Managed sorority budget
Managed $31,000 Spring 2014 budget and invested idle funds in appropriate high-yielding capital notes
Managed $31,000 Spring 2014 budget and invested $10,000 in idle funds in appropriate high-yielding capital notes returning 5% over the year
College student participating in a leadership program
Member of Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT)
Selected as one of 230 for this 18-month professional development program for high-achieving diverse talent
Selected as one of 230 participants nationwide for this 18-month professional development program for high-achieving diverse talent based on leadership potential, ability to contribute to this MLT cohort, and academic success
Finance or consulting professional
Responsible for negotiating service contracts with XYZ
Negotiated 30% ($500k) reduction in costs with XYZ to perform post-delivery support
Negotiated 30% ($500k) reduction in costs with XYZ to perform post-delivery support by designing and using results from an online auction of multiple vendors
Sales support associate
Achieved annual business plan commitments for volumes, model mix, wholesale revenue, selling expenses and brand
As a team member, contributed to 21% increase in advertiser spend by achieving 158% of target number of customer contacts (80 contacts per week) and 192% of target interaction depth (20 minutes per customer)
Candidate with skill-based resume
Skills: Excellent customer service skills.
Skills: Excellent customer service skills and positive attitude as demonstrated by receiving employee of the month in four consecutive months in 2014
Reduce cost of goods sold strategy: Five years of line and supply chain management experience at XYZ distribution centers and managing outsourced third-party logistics providers
Achieved 30% logistics cost savings by reducing returns, use of overtime, excess and obsolete inventory and targeted outsourcing
Achieved 30% logistics cost savings ($900k) over five years by reducing returns (-8%), use of overtime (-7%), and excess and obsolete inventory (-5%), and through targeted outsourcing (-10%)
Studied the branding and marketing strategies of XYZ. Analyzed the pricing strategies of XYZ in comparison to competitors
Led cross-functional 10-member team to develop and implement global advertising strategy for $X million XYZ brand
Led cross-functional 10-member team to develop and implement global advertising strategy for $X million XYZ brand resulting in 25-point increase in brand recall, 12% improvement in net promoter score, and contributing to 18% year-over-year sales improvement ($XM)
Veteran transitioning to the civilian sector
Worked as a trainer with deploying units to ready their medical personnel for combat action and trauma medicine
One of three officers selected to lead comprehensive redesign of the XYZ training program for X,000 Marines and sailors, increasing measured unit proficiency by 20% [This one is great — I wouldn’t change a thing!]
You might feel like it’s hard to measure your work, but there is almost always something you can point to that differentiates you from others. Back when I was a waiting tables at the Olive Garden, I would have written, “Exhibited the spirit of Hospitaliano by achieving 120% of dessert sales targets (compared to an average of 98%) and averaging 26% in tips per night.”
Well, maybe I wouldn’t have mentioned the Hospitaliano….
And even if your accomplishments don’t seem that impressive to you, recruiters will nevertheless love the specificity. “Served 85 customers per day with 100% accuracy” sounds good, even if the customers are people you rang up at a grocery store. It’s even more impressive if you can add, “…compared to an average of 70 customers at 90% accuracy for my peers.” Providing data helps. Making it meaningful with a comparison helps even more.
Niebuhr said to change the things you can control. I agree. You can’t control the biases and attention span of whomever reviews your resume. You do control what’s on the page in front of him or her. Use the formula “accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z]” and recruiters will take notice.