This week, a job seeker asked me why he is getting few interviews and no job offers in a good job market. A former co-worker, he said, has had many interviews for similar jobs, and has received multiple offers of employment.
Most resumes I receive from job seekers have something in common—they are a compilation of the candidate’s job descriptions. The gentleman I was speaking to was no exception, so I was pleasantly surprised he was getting interviewed.
My next question was “what is your best achievement at a recent job?” His response reiterated one of the job descriptions on the resume I had just read.
While we do not know whether our job seeker is getting disappointing results because his narrative is task-base, there is a much more powerful approach. And it works for all job search communications, including your resume, job search letters, LinkedIn profile, networking meetings, and job interviews. Think about each of your work assignments and ask yourself:
- What were you asked to do?
- What did you do?
- What results did you achieve?
You will find that this approach will work for you whether you are a recent graduate in a customer service role, a middle-manager at a cost center or profit center, or a senior executive with profit-and-loss responsibility. It will also work whether you are in a not-for-profit social service role, at a public agency charged with carrying out certain administrative processes, or at an entrepreneurial company.
What were you asked to do?
We are hired to address specific needs in our organizations. Often, our leadership team or immediate supervisor gives us goals for certain periods of time. Even better, you probably got this information in some document you have access to and had to sign.
Use the goals your team leaders gave you as a starting point. For example, at one job I was tasked with making certain that every job seeker we considered work-ready had a resume. The resume had to meet the requirements of our government contract to assist job seekers, and it had to meet the needs of our job development team—the staff that did job placement.
There were, of course, many nuances to this goal. The important thing for our discussion is that it gave me a starting point when I had to explain my accomplishments to prospective employers and others in the career services industry.
What did you do?
Many of us are modest when potential employers and others ask us what we did to meet our expectations at the job. It’s tempting to say “the job was to ensure every job-ready client had a marketable resume, so I critiqued, edited, and wrote resumes every day.”
Job search is the process of marketing our skills to prospective employers, so say more than “I did the job.” For example, I would explain that “I critiqued, edited, or prepared more than 2400 client resumes. Additionally, I led resume writing classes and interview prep classes.”
Let the facts speak for themselves. We do not need to describe what we did by saying we did it “effectively” or “successfully.” When you did the assignment and met or exceeded your assigned goal, the reader knows you did it effectively or successfully.
What results did you achieve?
The most important thing you can communicate to prospective employers is the result you achieved on your assignments or projects. Ideally, I’d like job seekers to describe their achievements in terms of the amount of money they earned or the amount of money they saved for their previous and current employers.
Frequently, the job seekers I have worked with can document revenue increases or cost-savings their work has generated. It’s just a matter of writing an accomplishment statement that does not include confidential information. For example, one client was expected to keep insurance costs under 30 percent of total cost for a certain line-of-business. The actual percentage was confidential, so we agreed on writing that she “exceeded corporate insurance cost goals…”
Job seekers sometimes feel reluctant to describe results instead of reciting part of their job description because their employer has not shared the quantitative connection between their work and company cost or revenue goals. This was the case when I worked with clients to develop resumes at an employment program. Managers did not share information on the amount of revenue I generated by meeting company goals. Instead, they evaluated me on whether or not 100% of job-ready clients had marketable resumes. Additionally, I was able to document 200 competitive job placements among clients I worked with. So, part of my job was to address a specific problem—ensuring that all my clients had resumes. Although, I could not address revenue growth or cost reduction, I was still able to address actions I took that had measurable outcomes.
Those readers that have read my posts in the past probably recognize the process I am describing. It is the problem, action result model for resume writing I have explained in the past. We feel that explaining the model in a different way will empower more job seekers to describe their accomplishments instead of reciting job descriptions.