Controversy has been swirling recently regarding achievements on resumes. Bryan Person of the Monster Blog queried "Are Achievements All that Matter on a Resume?" in response to Penelope Trunk's blog post "How to edit your resume like a professional resume writer". Seth Godin's post "Why Bother Having a Resume?" advocated having no resume at all.
Having read all of these blog postings (and comments), I felt compelled to add my two cents in a comment to Bryan's post:
Achievements are like gold on a resume and I agree with you that they are
only part of the story. Writing about your achievements really is in how you
tell the story. For a full-bodied and clear rendition include:
1. Context - What role and level of authority? Were you part of a team? If so,
how big a team? What role did you play on the team?
2. Challenge - What was the mess you walked into? What were the over-riding
problems you had to overcome?
3. Actions - What did you do to overcome the problems and get results? (this
is the "how" mentioned in the post)
4. Results - These are the actual end-point achievements. Quantify them for added clarity and impact.
BTW, these four steps do not necessarily have to be laid out in this sequence.
You should start with the achievement first to grab attention and then pull in
the other three points to flesh it out and add a layer of understanding and depth.
As a professional resume writer and career counselor/coach, I would estimate that 98% of the resumes I see lack all four of the above. So, make your resume really pack some punch by "telling" an impressive story. And keep it concise!
There were many comments pro and con on all the issues these bloggers cited, such as why someone should or should not have a resume at all to what exactly to include on a resume. The one comment that really struck me dealt with the concept of having a professional write your resume for you. Some people, like Penelope Trunk, felt that hiring a qualified professional was not an outrageous idea and others felt that your resume should always be written by you.
Having started out as a career counselor/coach only, I have done my share of coaching clients about writing their own resumes and certainly, in many cases, there were improvements to their documents. But for many others who lacked objectivity about themselves or the ability to create persuasive self-marketing documents, writing a resume was a daunting task. It was for those clients that I took up the profession of resume writing and became certified.
As in many other professions, there is a vast range of quality among resume writers - some who are certified, experienced, and very good to others who are uncertified, inexperienced, and just plain awful. The art of telling a story - your story - on a resume isn't easy. First, there's the super-structure of the "big picture' story, followed by the individual, supporting achievement mini-stories. Each story needs to be:
- relevant to the position and skills sought, industry, and intended reader,
- clear in context, challenge, actions, and results for each achievement "story",
- compelling in terms of value offered to prompt the reader to action, and
- consistent with your personal brand.
So, should you tell your resume story by writing your resume yourself? By all means, if you can be relevant, clear, compelling, and brand-consistent. If not, you may need some assistance so you can learn and get better at it. Remember, a resume can position you to land interviews. From that point on, the "story" has to come from your own lips!