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.


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.

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