Posts Tagged ‘Tip’

Best Single Tip on Writing Resume for Top Jobs

May 9, 2008

The Tip: Write your achievements,  not your whereabouts.   

Reading thousands of resumes in the last eight years, I get very frustrated from the candidates inability to market themselves. While there are hundreds of on-line sites that give great tips, people seem to be ignoring them completely.

When I read a CV I expect it to answer the following questions:

  • How can I know the candidate would succeed in his role?
  • Why should I hire this specific candidate?
  • What is his past record?

The simplest way for a resume to answer these questions is by describing previous achievements. Think about it as what you want to write on your professional gravestone, if the worst  thing happens.

Bad example:

2000-2004: Software developer in Lucid Multimedia, part of the tools team, wrote in ASP.NET(C#) ,SQL Server, NHibernate.

Average example:

2000-2004: Software developer in Lucid Multimedia ,owned the development of an ORM module between SQL Server and C# business logic.

Good example:

2000-2004: Software developer in Lucid Multimedia, I lead the development of an ORM engine that reduced development time for new forms by 40%.

Excellent example:

2000-2004: As a developer in Lucid Multimedia, I lead the development of an object relational mapping engine that reduced new forms development time by 40%. I developed the engine in 3 months, and I improved the performance of top queries from 5 minutes to 20 seconds.

Can you see the difference?

For top jobs, I do not care too much about the candidates’ set of skills. These should be mentioned, but can be described in a short paragraph in the end of the CV. It does not mean much that a candidate was a C++ programmer for five  years. I know plenty of poor C++ programmers. Maybe he is just one of them?

Maybe during these five years he was reading TechCrunch and browsing Jdate in the search of a more promising future. Facts on achievements are much better. The candidate needs to briefly explain major achievements, show all signs of excellence and why his previous employer would miss him after he quits.

For some reason, I get a lot of objections when I try to help people improve their resumes. The most common ones is:

“My work cannot be measured in quantitative manner since I’m Psychologist\Software Team Leader\Business analyst \Milkman”

My belief is that in any subject matter there are ways to explain the achievements in a clear factual way, at least to readers who come from the same domain. The trick is to find the right angle.


  • 2000-2003 I supervised the treatment of five children aged 3-4 with severe social skills difficulties. I managed and mentored a team of assistants, speech therapists, and art therapists in a highly demanding and intensive environment. All five kids are now studying in regular schools to their parent’s satisfaction.

Business Analyst:

  • I coordinated $100,000,000 budgeting process in a multinational consumer company. Initialed a new process for budget preparation, across departments. As a result the budget was ready in November instead of December, allowing the management to have proper preparations.
  • Internal Guru and the Go-To-Girl in building highly complex Excel planning modules. In 2 weeks I prepared a sales compensation plan which is used in 30 countries across the company.

Team Leader:   

  • Three members of my team have become team leaders within two years.
  • Improved the relationship with QA peers by conducting open weekly meeting. Product quality and atmosphere have greatly improved.

Remember – the facts don’t have to be numeric or printed on paper. Fact checking will be done later during the interviews and reference checking. At the resume stage, the reader trusts what he reads.

If it is hard to find measurable indexes of success, at least try to give more details on what you have been doing.

What was the size of the project? How many people did you manage? How much money was involved? How many customers were served? How does it compare to the situation before you started?

The best thing is if you can show samples of your work. I love it when people add a a link to web site they built or an open source project they lead. It makes it very easy to check their professionalism.

To summarize, don’t be shy about your achievements, you need to market yourself. The best way to do it in an honest fashion is to give the facts which highlight your contribution to your last employer.