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Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Blue Sky Resumes is a small team of professional writers and job search experts. We offer one-of-a-kind resumes, smart career advice and fantastic customer service. This is our blog.


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So Much Bad Resume Advice, So Little Time


Every now and then, one of my clients sends their resume in to another service for a critique. When they send it to some places, they get an honest response – usually saying ‘this is great and you don’t need any more help.’ But when they send it to one of the big resume mills (you know, Career Builder, The Ladders, Monster etc), they invariably get back a long critique telling them the resume needs a complete rewrite and offering to do it for ‘only $695’ or whatever their fee is.

My clients and I usually discuss this feedback, address the one or two nuggets that are relevant and brush off the rest. But today I got one back that really annoyed me. Not because it was critical of me (I sometimes have to face the fact that I’m not actually perfect!) but because it was just plain wrong.

Success is not always Quantifiable

My client worked for a web development agency and had gained some very valuable knowledge about a number of web analytics programs. He became so competent that everyone in the company came to him for help when analyzing one of their web sites. But because of the nature of his work and the way his company ran, he couldn’t quantify exactly how this knowledge had helped anyone – he just didn’t have access to the numbers.

But given his target positions, this skill was likely to make him very valuable so I included it in a list called ‘areas of expertise.’ But I wanted to go further. I wanted to show that he didn’t just know about analytics – he knew enough to be the one person everyone relied on. So I added a bullet point to his resume saying exactly that. I’m paraphrasing now because I don’t want to publish his exact resume text here, but my bullet read along the lines of:

‘Became the ‘go-to guy’ among 25+ employees for all things related to web analytics, providing guidance on set-up, analysis and reporting to developers and designers on over 30 sites to date.’

Now it’s a basic tenet of resume writing that your bullet points should always contain quantifiable accomplishments (you should say you increased sales by 13% or you boosted customer satisfaction by 25%), so when the resume mill got hold of my client’s resume, they told him this bullet point had to go – that he was under-selling himself by not quantifying his accomplishment.

Nonsense.

If we had numbers, then including them would have been better. We could have said that by using his knowledge of Google Analytics, he revamped some landing pages for a client and thereby increased their conversion by 60%. That would have been great! But he didn’t do that – or at least, if he did, we don’t know about it.

So we worked with what we had – the fact that his co-workers seek him out for help indicates a level of expertise that will be valuable to come potential employers, and we shouldn’t have left that off the resume just because we couldn’t quantify the impact.

How does this impact you?

Which brings me to your resume and the reason for writing this post. You’ve read lots of stuff (some of it even written by me!) that tells you to quantify, quantify, quantify. Results are everything we say. Make sure employers know how you have made an impact. But what we sometimes forget to say is that not all successes are quantifiable and that in those cases, you need to look for other ways to prove your worth. And one of those ways is to demonstrate that other people value your knowledge.

I think the key is to remember that when you write your resume, you’re telling a story. And that in storytelling, there are lots of ways to make your point. If the most obvious one isn’t available to you, that doesn’t mean you have to give up – it just means you have to be a little more creative in getting your point across.

Read more about Resume Writing.

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Blue Sky Resumes

About the Author

Louise Fletcher

Louise co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive. Her industry experience includes music, video games, fashion and advertising. She lived and worked in the US for many years, but moved back to her native UK in 2012, where she now lives in the Yorkshire countryside. In addition to her full-time role with Blue Sky, she's a professional artist, so you can imagine why she couldn't answer the 'what do you do with your free time' question! Contact Louise by email.

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13 comments on “So Much Bad Resume Advice, So Little Time”

  1. Kerry says:

    You are 100% correct, both on this guy’s resume and on the bad advice out there. It makes me crazy.

    That’s a great bullet. Hiring people know that. Resume mill people may not…but that only matters if you’re trying to get a job at a resume mill.

  2. Louise says:

    Thanks Kerry. I just followed the link to your blog and I love it – you write so well! (I know we are connected on Twitter already but I don’t think I had seen your blog before). People, go there now! Great advice.

  3. Mic says:

    You are absolutely correct.

    The thing I find hilarious is that some people believe that their way is the only way, as if everyone views a resume exactly the same way. What one person might view as a “creative spin” on a resume, another person might see as unnecessary fluff. And no resume mill or “expert” knows what each and every person you send your resume to will think.

    There are some “common practices” or approaches with resumes, but there is no one size fits all.

    And I totally agree about the “quantifiable” piece and some people’s over-desire to see “quantifiable results”. The reality is that many people are hired because they know someone or know someone that knows someone….networking…that’s how most jobs are obtained…not from what appears on a resume (though you obviously need a resume to share your history so the employer has a picture of your accomplishments)…but a resume is a piece of paper…you aren’t hiring a piece of paper…you are hiring the person…and if you make hiring decisions solely based on a piece of paper, then you are missing out on a lot of people that can do great things for your or your business.

  4. Jackie Rafferty says:

    I am so glad you wrote this article. I have been writing content for clients for 20 years yet find myself frustrated with my own story (resume). I have fallen victim to the advice of many (too many) advising me to “quantify” everything! In many cases, I can’t! I’ve re-written my resume often and landed interviews NOT! I’m done, listening to “all” and ready to follow my instincts!

  5. Clare says:

    Absolutely spot on! Although I think it’s more than helpful to quantify where you can (numbers tend to focus attention) it’s not always possible.

    Without the commercial figures that were available only to higher management, how could I quantify the impact of my management of elearning projects, for example? Being able to tell the story is a great way around this problem. Not focussing on figures also gives me a bit more leeway in describing how what I did brought value. Sometimes where you bring value is not in dollars / customer retention, whatever, but in how your clients feel after their training (I worked in language training provision) or how more confident they feel when doing their job.

    Not all jobs have “quantifiable” results. In fact, I can’t think of any role where unquantifiable, personal skills don’t contribute in some way to the effectiveness or otherwise of the job holder.

  6. Bravo! Thank you for saying this. Also, I would add: If someone tells you that you “have to” do something involving your resume and it doesn’t seem intuitively right, and it conflicts with advice some other competent person has given you, ignore them.

  7. Yes! Yes! Yes! So right. So true. I have written for loads of clients that came to me all upset after The Ladders gave them their resume re-write quote. Needless to say, they were not happy, confused and bewildered really…

    I know I always try to work one-on-one with my resume writing clients, and it is great to see that you do too! A little goes a long way in this industry and I think helping one another (instead of sucking their bank account dry) to get a resume written is the way to go.

  8. SoloFlyer says:

    Who are all these resume experts anyway? I REALLY look forward to the day that these lot are sitting on the other side of MY desk as they tell me about all their “quantifiable achievements.” It’s all a big scam with a lot of flannel going on. Great Blog, by the way!

  9. wilson says:

    A good post Success is not always Quantifiable .An important point is a resume and cover letter should be the marketing tools that help candidate to land the position that is perfect for him.

    Thanks,
    Wilson-Resume for teachers

    Canadian resume writing service

    Resumes for recession

  10. Sandy says:

    Louise,
    I’ve just discovered your blog and I say “Kudos! to you for the great advice you share with your readers.”

    I teach online communications courses and find that most people need plenty of good advice when it comes to cover letters and resumes.

    I totally agree with you on the bullet point. I think any prospective employer would find the information interesting and just might inspire the question that would help your client nail the job!

  11. Jim Edwards says:

    Resumes only became customary after World War II, as a means for employers to eliminate unqualified candidates among scores of GIs looking for new jobs. Not much has changed. Nowadays, nearly every individual, starting a job search, begins by developing a resume, but decision makers only spend and average of ten seconds scanning them. A resume cannot do the heavy lifting in a job search. Its purpose is strictly to function, in conjunction with a follow-up call, as a marketing tool to initiate a conversation with the decision maker. Your goal should be to present your background and accomplishments in a visually appealing, reverse chronological order, with dates, succinctly and honestly. Stay away from functional resumes, extensive formatting and leaving dates off to hide age.

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