Resume Reflection to Communicate Your Contributions
When we think about the thousands upon thousands of resumes we have evaluated over the years, there is one thing in common; upon talking to the person and asking open-ended questions about their background and jobs, we learn that the majority of them are missing major accomplishments and responsibilities. When you put on your resume writing hat, it’s important to think about the responsibilities you’ve had and the contributions you’ve made that will set you apart from other candidates applying and interviewing.
Here are some great questions to ask yourself before crafting your resume or making updates. As you think about each of these questions and identify answers, don’t forget to write down your thoughts as this exercise will help ensure all of your valuable accomplishments are then represented in your resume!
1 - Who are my customers? Who did my work benefit?
- Many resumes communicate the "what" of their job description, but not enough detail around the "why." The individuals and other organizations/vendors you support is a big piece of the "why" of your role! Did you successfully support a large initiative introducing new tools to the entire organization that the CIO was directly involved in? Did you work with numerous vendors across the world on a highly-complex project? Did you work on a project that revolutionized the way a company, and thus their customers, do business? Did you help modernize the technology stacks of a hospital that improved patient care? These are all great things to note! Think through the key stakeholders you supported and ensure your resume reflects accordingly. Many hiring managers also want to see that you have successfully worked, and communicated, with folks up and down the chain of command.
2 - On a weekly basis, what did I spend my time doing?
- This question may seem silly, but we’ve seen a lot of resumes that focus on area of responsibilities that weren’t integral to what the candidate was actually doing on a daily basis. Or we’ll find a line at the bottom of a particular role that mentions something really amazing, but little detail is provided! Ensure you are highlighting key achievements, but also take the time to explain what you do on a daily basis. We understand this can be complicated when you’ve been at a company for numerous years and potentially held multiple roles, but ensure each role (within last 5-7 years) has 3-5 bullet points of day-to-day responsibilities.
3 - What responsibilities did I take on which were not part of my original job description?
- We know hiring managers that ask this during their interview process. They will say "tell me something you do/did that wasn’t in your job description." They are looking for initiative and leadership! If you helped deliver and put together training on a tool or technology because you enjoy doing that, make sure you are noting it. Managers love seeing candidates going above and beyond and getting outside their comfort zone.
4 - How was success of my work measured? What were my KPIs (key performance indicators)? What quantifiable value did I provide in my role?
- This is such an important one, and one of the most common details we see missing from resumes. For example, when I scan Project Manager resumes, I’m looking for numbers to help understand context and contributions – i.e. what was the budget size? How large was the team? How many end users were impacted? How complex was it? What were the results? Be specific about the value you specifically added! Did you uncover coding errors that saved the company thousands? Did you help implement an application that provided new features? Did you launch a new workflow that saved employees time? Did you introduce a new technology or tool that resulted in a new revenue stream? Step one is to understand the value you provided, and then step two is to understand the level of value (i.e. numbers). For example, "introduced a new tool to the business development team that resulted in $10.5 million in new revenue over the last year."
5 - What did I deliver/create? Products, documentation, processes, new teams/roles?
- Always think through any key deliverables you were responsible for. This could be key documentation, processes, or training, or it could be a new application or product or a major upgrade.
6 - What were all of the tools, technologies, platforms, systems, etc. that I used?
- This is a big one! You are likely a technologist, so include the key tools and technologies that you worked with, especially anything that you know is hot/trending (i.e. in demand by companies and hiring Managers of your target group/role) in the marketplace. Important note here though, do not include anything on your resume that you are unwilling/unable to answer interview questions about. A lot of managers have the mentality that if it’s on your resume, it is fair game and you don’t want to be caught in an awkward situation. If you misrepresent or exaggerate a skill on your resume, that usually results in immediate disqualification.
7 - What accomplishments am I most proud of?
- If someone were to ask you, "What are you most proud of professionally?" w what would you say? Maybe you won a company award. Maybe you helped multiple team members get promoted. Maybe you introduced a new program or team. Maybe you got a really difficult certification. Maybe you lead a training program and were able to train coworkers and improve as a group. Or perhaps it is a personal achievement, but is still relevant. For example, launching or organizing a local Meetup Group or being in a key role for a major technology event like a SQL Saturday or Code Camp.
8 - Did I win any awards? What other recognition have I received?
- Always include awards and any type of recognition you’ve formally received. If you’re proud of it, it should be added! Pro tip: ensure this is added on your LinkedIn profile too.
9 - What did I do to develop the people around me? Was I a mentor? Did I train new employees?
- This is especially important if you’re someone looking to move up the ladder and/or take on more leadership responsibilities in your current role. Some of the best leaders I’ve known didn’t have formal leader titles. They were exceptional mentors and coaches and cared about the team rising as one. They gladly took on training new employees even though it wasn’t a part of their job description. When the team is elevated, the work and product is often elevated, so great Managers recognize the importance of hiring people who invest their time in helping develop others.
10 - Was I a part of any special projects? Steering committees?
- Again, don’t forget about groups, projects, and/or committees that you were involved in. Are you a part of a Women’s Leadership group, are you the team leader for philanthropic events, do you host a user group at work, etc.? These are great items to add to your resume, as well as your LinkedIn profile! Never underestimate the important of things like this because they show initiative and your interest in delivering value outside your role. They also give you a little something extra that other candidates might not have, and may even help establish a stronger connection between you and a hiring Manager.
Spend time really thinking through the above 10 areas and questions, and then organize your bullet points within your job description following the PAR (problem, action, result) format, where you are answering these four questions around your responsibilities and contributions for each of your jobs.
- What did you do and with what technology stacks?
- How did you do it?
- Who did you do it with, and who did you do it for (customer it benefited)?
- What was the outcome/result (ROI & why)?
Ensure all of the thoughts you identified from the above reflection questions are encompassed within your resume!
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