January 26, 2015
Just about two years ago, I started my job search. Armed with a bachelors of science degree and unbridled youthful optimism, I was ready to take on the world. I didn’t have a job yet, but how hard could it be to find one? My subsequent job search surely but swiftly taught me a hard lesson. I began to realize a positive attitude is great, but you need a little more than that in your job hunt arsenal.
So, I took to rewriting my resume. This rewrite opened my eyes to the importance of action statements. If you think about it, most resume bullets start the same way. You’re trying to convince a hiring manager you are THE outstanding applicant. So why would you use the same overused phrases as all your competitors?
Stay away from the tired, stale set of resume phrases and be outstanding. Your resume is the first test. Grab your readers’ attention and make them linger on your resume for at least a few more seconds.
Action statements largely follow the same formula: Verb + Context + Impact. When you’re drafting or editing your resume, ask yourself what actions you took to accomplish your achievement. Support your verb with context and wrap your statement up with results:
1) Did I lead a project?
Poor: Led a group of four people.
Better: Led a group of four people in customer acquisition initiatives.
Great: Led a specialized task force of four people in planning & executing several customer acquisition initiatives, ultimately increasing user base by 12%.
The “better” statement ends on an anticlimax. It gives minimal context, and it doesn’t elaborate on the results of the action. Explain how your role in the achievement advanced your company’s goals; strengthen the action phrase with a positive result.
2) Did I provide a service?
Poor: Served customers in a large insurance company.
Better: Provided customer service for insurance products.
Great: Provided customer service through quick resolution of problems and explanation of insurance services and policies, resulting in greater customer satisfaction.
Sometimes results aren’t quantitative, and that’s okay! Refer to a qualitative accomplishment resulting from your action, like this individual citing increased customer satisfaction.
3) Did I create something?
Poor: Made a brochure.
Better: Designed a brochure for the school play.
Great: Designed a four page, full color brochure for the school play, implementing elements from a self-made style guide and icon set.
If there isn’t a tangible result, you can leave it off, provided you focus on the strong contextual components of your achievement. This sentence here highlights this designer’s initiative in creating both a style guide and icon set, and subsequently using them to create a brochure.
4) Did I save my employer time or money?
Poor: Responsible for administrative duties.
Better: Assisted HR Director with administrative procedures to save time.
Great: Successfully created and implemented office wide administrative protocols, streamlining procedures, increasing productivity, and decreasing HR costs in time and money.
Here, the “better“ statement touches on a great result- saving time. However, results need proper elaboration. Be mindful, however of the difference between results and duties. As a general definition, results are how you exceeded expectations and duties are the expectations.
5) Did I research something?
Poor: Counseled homeless adults.
Better: Counseled homeless adults on career preparation, alcohol abuse, and mental illness.
Great: Acquired 200+ hours of one-on-one counseling experience with homeless adults in San Francisco, focused on the areas of career advancement, alcohol/drug abuse, and mental illness.
In research heavy careers, such as counseling or laboratory research, results are not always immediately recognizable. In such situations, focus on skills and specializations as this individual has done. She emphasizes her acquisition of experience (action) and her focused interest in certain fields of counseling (specialization).
These are but five examples of dialing up on the action in your resume. The next time you sit down to edit your resume follow the action statement formula. Choose a strong verb, support with context and if possible follow with the impact of said action. This sets up your phrasing to come off as an “achiever” as opposed to a “doer.”
Happy Editing, folks!