Resume Tip: Why saying a proven track record of success is worthless

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Writing a resume is tough. You are supposed to compress your life into one page or two, or three or five — depending on which resume pundit you listen to — and provide those pithy statements about your work. For help, you search the Google to find out great examples of phrases to use on resumes. One of the phrases that’s sure to come up is “a proven track record of success.”

That describes you, right? All through your life, you’ve had one success after another. It is proven, to you at least. Everyone else? Not so much.

Resumes need specificity

Remember the purpose of your resume: demonstrate your job skills so that you get an initial interview. You don’t get a job from the resume, you get the interview. You can’t do that with general statements about your work. You don’t have a “proven track record of success” unless you show the track record on the resume through results.

The “results” piece is important. It does you no good to simply list all of your previous positions on your resume and the mind-numbing formatting requirements that go along with them and not include your results. Think of it from your customer’s perspective — the one making the decision to interview you or not. What’s more impressive: a grocery list of job skills or stating a job skill and then showing a result from using the job skill?

How to demonstrate a proven track record of success on a resume

The way you prove your success is stating your job skill — project management, for example — and then tie that skill to a result — delivered ten projects on time, under budget with superior customer satisfaction through consistent management of tasks.

In sales, it is called a feature with a benefit. The feature is your job skill. The benefit is the result you achieved using the job skill. People buy things because of the benefit they think they will get from the purchase. What you want purchased is an interview from your resume. So you need to have the person reading your resume see the benefits of possibly hiring you.

Results, of course, can’t simply be stated without proof either. You can’t say “decreased cycle time.”

Proof is shown through using numbers that show the result and stating the reason the numbers came into being.

Anyone can throw out statistics to show whatever point they want showing. Besides, people relate to stories, not dry statistics alone. Well, some people do, but not most.

Your reason for achieving the number is part of your success story. And the reason for the number coming into being provides the logic between the result and your job skill. By “consistently managing tasks” in our project manager example, it shows how you went about getting (the number) ten projects delivered.

Or, if your number is increasing inventory turn by 5%, you could have done that many different ways. By saying that you increased inventory turns by 5% through increasing best selling items in stock and reducing poor selling inventory, you now have a good reason for hitting your number.

Include results in your summary at the top of the resume

Besides focusing on your results throughout the body of the resume, include results in your summary at the top of your resume as well. It’s hard to break down what you represent to a prospective employer in a small paragraph, for sure. Consequently, it is easier to say something like “a project manager with a proven record of success” instead of doing the hard work of drilling down to what you represent to a a hiring manager.

Since recruiters take so little time to read your resume, that top paragraph can get you thrown into the electronic trash can if all you include is general statements without results. Instead of proven record, say something like “consistently exceeded sales targets for ten years.” Or, “I deliver results focused on reducing expenses through cost controls.”

The point is to show the type of results you deliver in your work and briefly show what you do to get the results.

Then the body of your resume can go into the specifics in each of your positions.

Your next action on your resume

Pull out that resume. Take a look at what you think are your critical job skills that are important to potential employers. Do you have concrete results represented by a number in the result? Do you have a reason for each number on the resume?

If not, get your proof and get it in the resume. A “proven track record of success” is worthless without it.

See more resume tips and my approach to building resumes. Check out my resume tips page.

  • I like to say “proven success” because it’s more succinct and emphasizes a stronger feeling. When creating resumes, it’s important to be as concise and straight to the point as possible.

  • I read the article entitled, “Why saying a proven track record of success is worthless.” This article gives good information. I agree with section about resumes needing specificity. And that’s a great tip about not just listing but also showing results.

  • Spot on, Barbara. I think it is tough for people to tie the competencies to the accomplishments — there is a ton of conflicting information on the best way to do a resume, for example. Then company reporting systems don’t get down to an individual level to report the actual accomplishments with valuable numbers. And people don’t track the accomplishments — until they need to write a resume!

    As we take over responsibility for our own career, though, this type of work — job skill to accomplishment, competency to accomplishment — will become more prevalent. Or, the ones that do this will get the jobs.

  • Scot,

    Many people also feel compelled to describe themselves as dynamic, energetic, hard working, loyal, a good communicator. or a team player. This type of “resume fluff” means nothing until you can prove that you possess those qualities. People need to stop copying the same tired words off of other people’s resume and instead craft a document that links their competencies to tangible accomplishments.

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