Nothing says "Hire Me!" like success stories on a resume

“An ounce of demonstration is worth a pound of explanation.” - Emil Liebling

Pay attention to the advertising you see all around you. Oprah's doing weight loss commercials these days, it's all about the numbers: "I lost 77 pounds!" Here are some others I have heard this week:

  • "O to 60 in 12.1 seconds."
  • "Geico will save you 15% on your car insurance."
  • "Shop at Aldi, save 42% on your groceries."

You get the idea. Advertisers know that in order to get people to want to pick something up and try it, they need to hear about results. Resumes work the same way. Doing this is easy for people who are in sales, or leadership positions ... because they live and die by the numbers. But for most folks, this is really hard to do at first. Like Andrew, who came to me with this question recently:

"People keep telling me I need to put numbers in my resume (like "increased sales by 23%), but nobody can tell me how to do it. Can you? For someone who is unemployed right now, past metrics are hard to come by. Plus, I’m not in sales, so I have never had concrete numbers in any of my jobs. Is it really that important for my resume? If so, please tell me how because I have no idea how to do this.” - Andrew

Your resume is usually your ticket to an interview. You can get an interview without metrics on your resume, but you’ll have to work a lot harder. Candidates with numbers on their resume get more interviews … which of course leads to more job offers. Part of the reason is obvious: more interviews = more opportunities = more job offers. But there’s actually more to it than that: candidates who have taken the time to quantify their past achievements perform better during job interviews.

Why numbers on a resume matter so much 

Imagine that your shower is leaking through the roof of your dining room. You need a plumber fast. You head online and find two local plumbers: Jack’s Plumbing and Leesburg Area Plumbers.

You click on Jacks’ Plumbing website first. There is a picture of a friendly plumber, but other than that it is packed with a bunch of text that is small and hard to read. You give up and click on Leesburg Area Plumbing. Smiling out at you is a picture of a very happy woman (not a plumber), with a quote next to her that says:

“I LOVE Leesburg Area Plumbing! 3 times, they have come out in the middle of the night with a smile on their face and saved me from disaster. Plus, they found and fixed a pinhole leak I did not know about that would have cost me thousands of $$$ in water damage if left unfixed. They are always on time, fast, courteous, and leave my house even cleaner than it was when they arrived. I recommend them to ALL my friends and neighbors.” – Janie Johnson

Things get better from there. Below Janie’s smiling face is a list of things you did not even know were important to you … until you saw them:

• Since 1993

• 98% on-time record

• 79% repeat customers (the other 21% just haven’t needed us again yet!)

• 2016 Better Business Bureau Pinnacle Award of Excellent

• Five-Star Rated by Home Services Review

• 2015 Best Pick by EBSCO Research

Which plumber are you going to call first? You would, of course, call Leesburg Area Plumbing first … even though Jack’s Plumbing might have an equally impressive track record of success. If Leesburg Area Plumbing handles the phone screen well, chances are great you will hire them and never even call Jack’s Plumbing.

Managers live & die by the numbers.

“Management without metrics is like cheerleading.” - Mark Gronning

I’ll never forget the day my boss said that to me. I was a rookie manager, and I was pushing back hard on his directive to rank my recruiters by their numbers … then make those numbers public. It felt like public flogging to me, but to boss said it was simply good management. It didn't take me long to understand the lesson he was trying to share. Just as a baseball coach needs to know his players’ numbers (AVG, G, R, H, HR, 2B, 3B), managers need to know their team’s performance.

Metrics on a resume are a breath of fresh air

When a resume has metrics and/or success stories, it delivers 2 strong messages to the person reading it:

1. “This guy is good at what he does.”

2. “He understands my job, and what my business needs are. He understands that no matter what activity he is doing during the day, what ultimately matters is that he is driving company success.”

Every single position can add value to a business

Bonnie's story: From "just a receptionist" to a $12,000 savings

Bonnie was (in her own words) “just a receptionist.” Convinced there was nothing she could boast about on her resume, she resisted doing it. Then she spent some time thinking about some of her proudest moments at work and remembered this: she solved a major problem for the sales team at her last company and saved them over $12,000 in printing costs! She watched all the salespeople running out to OfficeMax at the last minute to print marketing materials for their client meetings. It was chaotic and expensive. She figures out what the ten most popular marketing sheets were, and stocked them ahead of time for the sales team. She also offered to print things in the office for them if they gave her one hour’s notice. She saved the company over $12,000 in printing costs in just three months. She also made the sales team more productive because there were no longer wasting time driving to the printer.

Vince's story: From "I'm nothing special" to "I reduced turnover from 9 people to 1 person in just three months!"

Vince worked in production at a medical device manufacturer. Turnover was really high, and the thought it was because they weren’t getting any training. He offered to create a one-week training program for them. Before he did that, 9 new hires were quitting every three months. After he implemented his training program, only one person was quitting every three months. That meant they were spending a lot less time and money on recruiting. Morale was up on the whole team, too.

How to show past accomplishments

There are so many ways to be a stand out employee, and to demonstrate that on your resume. Here are some of the most common:

• Revenue and other growth

• Cost Savings

• Time savings

• Productivity increases

• Accuracy

• Quality

• Rankings

• Process improvements

How to find your own numbers & accomplishments

Good leaders share numbers (both goals and achievements) with their team. I’m sorry to hear that your former bosses have not taken the time to do that. Moving forward in your career, ask for them. Tell your manager you’d like to understand how he or she is measured, so you can help them hit those numbers. Good managers will be thrilled to share and pleased that you care about more than just your paycheck.

Once you have left a company (as Andrew had), it’s harder to get this kind of information … but it can be done. There are several ways to do it.

First, try to understand how your next manager will be measured (what’s important to them).

Here are 6 ways to figure out what’s important to your next boss:

1. Review job postings. See what they are asking for.

2. Look at LinkedIn profiles of other people in your line of work (peers and managers). Some of them will list some of their key achievements.

3. Do some online research. Admittedly, there are a lot of job postings that do not ask for metrics. If this is the case for you, get creative. I just did an internet search for “measuring receptionist performance” and one of the articles was about how to set and measure the performance of medical front office staff. The article recommended measuring these things:

• Customer service (phone and in-person)

• Compliance with HIPAA and other federal regulations

• Communication with staff

• Process improvement

4. Talk to a former boss: If you had a good working relationship with a former boss, it is absolutely appropriate to call that person and say “Jane, how are you? Do you have time for a quick phone conversation, or a cup of coffee (my treat)? I am putting my resume together, and I’m struggling to quantify my past accomplishments. It would be really helpful to understand how you measured my success.”

5. Talk to a former coworker who was plugged into the numbers. People in sales, and managers, usually have a good handle on the numbers.

6. Talk to people in the industry (ideally, managers in your area of expertise)

Next, look at your own past accomplishments.

For example … let’s say you won an award for excellence. Do you remember why you were selected? Ask a friend to help you sort through this. The more questions you and your friend ask about one of your accomplishments, the easier it will be to get to the key achievements.

If you can’t remember any past achievements … don’t give up. Find people who can help you remember (former coworkers and even family members). For instance, there may have been a tough customer everyone hated working with, but you managed to turn that unhappy customer into a really happy one.

I am not going to lie to you: this will take some time ... and you’ll have moments when you just want to say “Forget about it.” When that happens, remember my example of Leesburg Area Plumbers and remember this: it’s worth it! You will get way more interviews AND you’ll be able to knock their socks off during every interview because, unlike many candidates (your competition), you will have some GREAT examples to share about what you can do for them.