Resume Tip: Show it to prove it

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Aug 26

When building resumes, it is easy to simply list our job titles, dates of employment and provide happy talk about our soft skills. Whenever I got one of these types of resumes as a hiring manager — if it ever got to me in the first place — my first thought was “prove it.”

If your resume said “works well on a team,” it was “prove it.” If your resume said “technical manager,” my thought was “prove it.” If your LinkedIn profile says “thought leader,” my thought was you were thoughtless. If I got too many of those kinds of statements in a resume, I casually tossed it aside and went on to the next possible candidate.

In this economy, you can’t get casually tossed aside

So how do you turn a flat statement into one that makes the hiring manager want to interview you? For that, we turn to the first rule of novel writing: you can’t tell it, you must show it.

Showing it means you have to write about actions the character (you) takes to prove what they are doing for believability. You can’t say “John was a tender person.” You have to write about when John showed tenderness to other people as part of his actions.

The “show it” process

If you want to show it to prove it, there is a simple, 3-step process to write the proof:

  • write an action verb
  • write a result
  • write the benefit to the business

Action verbs are those that show movement. Completed, delivered, provided and managed are all examples of action verbs.

Results are statements that use numbers (preferable) or conclusions (like an award) about the action you delivered. Increased ROI by 3% is a result. Reduced cycle time by one day is a result. Received the “the world is a bowl of strawberries award” for working on the team is a result.

And the benefit to the business, which most people miss, is what importance your work was to the overall goals of the business. Most benefits to the business include additional revenue, reduced cost, or increased efficiency with some goal for the business.

Write it to show it

The effect of writing it to show it transforms traditional resumes into a portfolio of important results you’ve delivered to the business. “Worked on the Snow Leopard project” does nothing for you getting an interview.

“Managed the $3-million Snow Leopard project and delivered it on time and on budget. Provided the integration of 64-bit computing into the base operating system for Apple, positioning it for all foreseeable future applications.” That gets attention.

The entire purpose of a resume is to get an interview. So your resume needs to show you are worth interviewing. All of us have our accomplishments, results and impacts to the business. It takes some time, however, to write them in a way that uses the “show it” process. But your end result is a resume that gets interviews.

Are you showing it to prove it on your resume?

Photo by flazingo_photos

  • Rick Saia says:

    Nice topic Scot!

    Writing a resume is like writing an essay: Don’t just “tell” the reader your point of view, “show” it with facts. In the case of the resume, tangible accomplishments in the bullet lists that detail your work experience should support any and all assertions that you write in your Professional Summary or Summary of Qualifications.

    So, in some respects, you need to work some of the details in your resume *backward* from your experience and into your summary so that the reader can review it *forward* from the summary on down into your experience.

  • Todd says:

    I see this sort of advice all the time, and it’s awesome, but what about for us recent grads who really haven’t made any accomplishments at all? I can talk about high GPAs and scholarships and such, but very little else.

  • Scot says:

    @Todd — if you had any internships during college, then use accomplishments from that time. Volunteer work is another fruitful area. Even if you are a member of a club in a leadership position or not, you can use what you accomplished in the club.

    When the “business” accomplishments are weak, you can still “show” how you work well in teams. How to do the soft skill stuff.

    Remember, there are only three answers to any interview question: I can do the job, I’m motivated to do the job, and I’ll fit in with the manager and team. So what you want to show from the college experience is how you can do those three things. Or two of those three things if you don’t have the job skill experience results just yet.

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