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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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Real World Resume Tips: But How Do I Quantify the Unquantifiable?


In my last post on writing a strong resume summary, Chaz left this comment:

What if you are in a situation where you can’t quantify your results? I volunteer for a nonprofit. Right now I am in the works to develop a database for them to keep track of the students and the mentors who mentor them. They need one because it is a “cardinal-sin” in database to have MS Excel as a database and would make their work a heck of a lot easier. What metrics would you use to quantify something if your not sure of how much it would improve their efficiency. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

It’s a great question and of course it applies to more than the summary. You constantly hear about how you should quantify your accomplishments in your resume, but what do you do when that’s not possible?

The answer depends on why it’s not possible. In Chaz’s situation, his accomplishment will be quantifiable because it will save his colleagues some specific amount of time – he just doesn’t know the exact details yet. In that case, I recommend guesstimating (and being clear that it’s a guesstimate). If others could help you decide the impact, ask them but otherwise just think about the improvements you’re making and what impact you personally would expect them to have. Will this database eliminate 20% of the unnecessary work they’re doing now? 40%? 60%? Once you’ve decided on a reasonable number, you might word the bullet point something like this:

  • Currently developing database projected to streamline workload by 25% – replacing unwieldy Excel spreadsheet with fully functional relational database that will allow employees to quickly access information and run a variety of accurate reports.

By using the word ‘projected’ you are making clear that you don’t yet know the exact impact, but you’re still taking credit for the inevitable results that will occur from your work.

But my work isn’t quantifiable

OK, but what if it’s just not possible to describe your impact in numbers, either because you don’t know them or because the work you do doesn’t lend itself to measurement? In that case, focus on the overall impact of your work. For example, if you are a graphic designer in an agency and no one ever tells you how many sales your work generated, talk instead about the creative impact. Perhaps you redesigned a logo because the company’s image was stale and they wanted to attract a younger market. In that case, your impact was modernizing the brand.

Or maybe you worked on a project for a notoriously hard-to-please client who never liked the designs he was shown, but who loved the ones you created. In that case, your impact was pleasing a difficult client (although I probably wouldn’t use the word ‘difficult’ just in case the client sees your resume!)

If you are one of the mentors who works in Chaz’s organization, your impact is probably almost impossible to quantify too – but you do have an impact. So tell us what it is! Have you turned around a particularly difficult student? Have parents praised your efforts? Have you engaged your students more with a redesigned curriculum? Whatever it is, just write about it.

Remember, if your work is hard to quantify, everyone who reads your resume will understand that because they work in the same world. But you do make an impact every day and if your resume explains how, you will stand out just as much in your world as the top-performing sales guy does in his.

For more on how to write an effective resume, check out my free resume writing course where I walk you through tips and strategies that will transform your resume.

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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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7 comments on “Real World Resume Tips: But How Do I Quantify the Unquantifiable?”

  1. Christie says:

    Thank you for reminding me that no matter what – the hard work I do makes an impact. I see now I have tended to focus on specific things – the obviously quantifiable skills. I’m going to go back and re-examine things

  2. Liz Marx says:

    Thanks for emphasizing the need to clarify the impact of your work on a resume – even when a dollar amount or percentage isn’t available. While many people who read your resume work in your world, you’ll want to make sure the results of your work are clear to HR or others on the periphery.

    Liz Marx
    Snelling Staffing

  3. Tracy says:

    I am a grant writer for a nonprofit, among many others who write grants. The money that we receive from grants isn’t tagged to anyone specific when we receive funds. How do I use non-quantifiable results as a grant writer in my resume?

  4. Hi Tracy,
    If you’re a member of the team, you can claim credit for those grants by saying:

    – key member of team that secured # grants worth $$ by (explain how you did it).

    Any time you are a member of a team that generates results, all those results can go on your resume as long as you don’t pretend you were the only one involved.

    Hope that helps!

  5. chaz says:

    Louis,

    I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. I tend to over analyze my situations. I’ve been trying to promote your invaluable resource to my colleagues. I hope they will see the value in the DIY resume maker as much as I did. Thanks again.

  6. Chaz says:

    Louise,

    I also felt the need to post comments about your company and their passion to help people develop effective resumes on some of my Linkedin Groups. I am unsure that this will generate revenues but at least it will give your organization more attention, website traffic, and or contacts. 🙂

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