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How an Active Resume Earns Job Offers

Hiring managers want to know right away how a candidate will affect the employer's bottom line. When they review resumes, they look for the answer to the question, "What can you do for me?"

"In reviewing the resumes of senior-level managers, we look for people who drive the process through the end," says John Sands, executive director of human resources for operations at Estee Lauder in Melville, N.Y. Like many hiring managers, Mr. Sands wants to see candidates' results on their resumes. The results should be quantified and the activities that produced them, such as building strategic partnerships with other parts of the organization, should be described. "Results of the latter type are extremely important to our company, particularly as we strive to operate as a fully integrated organization," he says.

Showing Your Impact

When job seekers prepare resumes and self-marketing materials, they usually can answer the "Who are you?" and "What do you do?" questions well enough in their documents. But they falter when answering a third, key question, "What can you do for me?"

Career development professionals say it can be hard to get job hunters to appraise their achievements. "Very often it seems as though I'm pulling teeth when I interview some of my clients to get their hard-earned results clarified for their resumes," says Pat Kendall, principal of Advanced Resume Concepts in Aloha, Ore.

The task became an overwhelming effort for a bank manager in Ridgewood, N.J., who needed to prepare a resume for her job search after 10 years with one employer. She had started as a customer service representative at a community bank and had progressed to a senior management position as a consumer lending manager. Her job performance had been rewarded with three promotions. But like many successful professionals, when she wrote the first draft of her resume, she produced a document that read like a dry job description mainly because she'd drawn heavily on the description to create the draft.

With 10 years experience to review, the bank manager had to do some digging to uncover the results that showed her true capabilities. After assessing her achievements with a professional resume writer, she was able to match her responsibilities with her accomplishments and produce a resume that answered the question: "What can you do for me?" This before and after table shows how she transformed her document:



Monitor automated loan-processing system to ensure efficient usage.

Led task force to select and implement fully automated loan-processing system using customized software. Reduced turnaround for loan approval from 24 hours to approximately a half-hour.

Review all loans and advise on credit worthiness.

Designed a tiered credit-scoring program to assess credit worthiness. Gained substantial revenue through improved interest rating, particularly of high-risk loans.

A finance/accounting executive in Washington Township, N.J., also was unable to identify his results when preparing his resume. His most recent job had been a two-year stint as director of financial planning at an international firm, but previously he'd worked for 15 years at a Fortune 500 company where he'd been promoted seven times. He also needed to assess his achievements before he could convey results in his resume. By using measurable examples, his resume's career experience section conveyed a far more powerful message. The following shows how he was able to get results into his resume:



Prepared financial reporting analysis for the consolidated electronics group for both internal and external users. Responsible for the financial management, control and reporting needs of each location for senior management.

Implemented new approach to evaluating financial data based on the principles of "cost drivers" and "benchmarking." Reduced operating and staffing costs by 20% in the first year of use.

Reviewed business plans for development activities into new businesses and/or markets from a financial perspective.

Monitored and adjusted business plans of 15 fledgling enterprises, formulating new approaches and identifying new markets with general managers. Brought combined operations of two entities into profitability.

Note how words such as "reduced," "gained" and "brought" help convey results, not merely describe actions. The National Resume Writers Association in New York recommends candidates use strategically-selected key words and active verbs which focus on what is relevant to readers as the best way to create a dynamic message and hold interest.


Human-resources managers review hundreds of resumes for each open position, searching for proof that a candidate is worthy of interview time. Richard Gross, human-resources director for Innovation Luggage in Secaucus, N.J., reviews resumes for career progression and stable work histories. In addition, he looks for candidates who convey their accomplishments, as opposed to providing "just job descriptions." He says statements that tell how much or what should be supported by those that say how a result was accomplished or what effect it had on the organization. For example, Mr. Gross says, "in addition to a percentage of sales increase, I like to see what the candidate specifically has done to contribute to the increase."

Answering the question, "What can you do for me?" requires assessment and thoughtful analysis. Helpful ways to jog your memory to dig for those results in your past work experience include:

  • Reviewing result words, such as augmented, advanced, expanded, saved, reduced and improved, and connecting them to actions or responsibilities.

  • Brainstorming lead questions such as: How much was produced, sold, generated or saved? Was it done in record time? How were clients satisfied? Sales saved? How were operations, workflow, quality or marketing improved or changed?

When your resume answers these questions, it becomes a self-marketing document that produces results because it conveys results.

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