How context provides your resume a competitive advantage

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Dec 05

If job skills are the currency of work, business results seal the deal.

Business results show potential employers, including those in your current company but in a different department, that your work can help them meet their business goals. Your work produces results. Having you on the team means more will get done.

But the business result alone isn’t enough. The 24-13 final football score is the result, but it doesn’t tell the tale of the game. The ebbs and flows. The mistakes overcome. The dramatic finish. Make no mistake: getting interviews — and jobs — is about the tale you tell. A story backed by the business result fact, but a story nonetheless.

So how do you tell the tale in the very small space provided on a resume? You provide context around the result.

Why context around a result is important

Context is under appreciated, but it is important for the following reasons:

  • Context gets you into the right discussion faster with fewer qualifying questions
  • While scary, context gets you OUT of positions that are not a good fit for you (a person working for a small company landing in a Fortune 100 one is usually not a good fit)
  • Context provides excellent openings for questions by the hiring manager — that are directly related to what you want to talk about

How do you build context?

Think of context in a number of different ways on the resume.

The CAR context.

This is Context, Actions, Result.

Here, the purpose is to provide a one-sentence story about your business result. The idea for this is that it gets the person reading your resume to see linkages to their company and their needs.

The person will see a similar situation in their own company, see it on your resume and then know that you have worked on this before. That breeds confidence in your ability. And opens up avenues of conversations about the result — all with a common subject and need being discussed.

Numbers

Numbers are useful to provide context because they provide scale. Whole numbers are awesome; or, percentages work.

Putting the fact that you moved 1,000 servers from office sites to one of four global data centers is an impressive number. So is saying that you cut expenses by 4%.

The numbers beg the person interviewing you to answer the question of “how did you do it?”. And that allows you to tell your hero’s journey of how you solved this particular problem for the benefit of the business.

Difficulties overcome

You may have noticed — nothing is easy. Nothing is as simple as it looks. Making things simple is hard.

We all have these difficulties that we have overcome to achieve any business result.

Sure, I can say we migrated 1,000 system mailboxes from here to there. But it doesn’t tell the difficulties in finding owners for 500 of them. Or how we turned off the mailboxes to see who would call so we could get the first hint as to who were the owners.

Both of those show not only a great ability to have questions asked about how that was done, it also shows how you — the hero — overcame obstacles to still achieve the business goal.

Context is an important component of a resume. If you go through your resume, are you seeing business results? Most people don’t show results, only responsibilities — the quickest way into a trash can.

If you have business results, great. Now do the Cubicle Warrior part and build context around that business result.

It will help you get the interview.

 

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.