By Lily Whiteman, author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job”; trainer on career issues; twitter: @Lilymwhiteman
Most comprehensive job-hunting instructs job-seekers to quantify achievements described in their resumes and cover letters—but fails to explain the “why” or “how” of doing so. So here is some quick, easy guidance on the topic that will help you ace your job application.
Why Numbers Impress
The first principle of quantification is that, with a little thought and creativity, you can probably quantify your achievements no matter what field you’re in–even if you’re not in a math-oriented field.
Quantifying is a powerful strategy because descriptions of achievements that are supported by statistics, measurements, counts and other metrics sound scientific, indisputable and objective (whether or not they really are). Therefore, they sound credible. In addition, hard numbers and other specifics give your achievements weight and heft, and so underscore their massiveness and impact.
By contrast, vague claims of achievements that are unsupported by statistics, measurements, counts and other metrics or other hard evidence of success are more likely to sound like baseless (and boring), self-serving exaggerations.
How to Quantify Your Achievements
When you consider how to quantify your achievements, start by thinking in terms of:
- MONEY: How big is the budget you manage, and did you help increase it? How much money have you saved your organization, generated or fundraised for it? What is the total dollar value of the contracts, grants, or accounts you manage or approve, or the products you procure or protect? Did you increase sales or production for your organization? How have you contributed to resource allocation? What efficiency-boosting measures have you suggested or implemented?
- TIME: How many years of experience do you have? What tight or ever-changing deadlines did you meet or beat. How many work products (such as publications, reports, press releases, events or audits) do you regularly produce in a particular time period (such as per week, month or year) or have you produced during your career? Have you streamlined or automated procedures, cut red tape, or otherwise made it easier or faster for internal or external groups to access information or other important resources?
- PEOPLE: How many people do you manage or support? How many managers or staffers, associations, members of the public or another group use, benefit or are impacted by your work, such as a regulation or another resource you helped produce? How many people have you recruited, or can you cite a statistic that shows you have reduced turnover? How big is the reach of materials (including online materials) that you produce, or how much have you increased their reach? How many people have you trained? How many people attended a cyber or in-person event, conference, training or other event that you organized or led, and were any attendees particularly important? What positive feedback did you receive from attendees in evaluations, oral comments, emails or other formats?
- PRECEDENT: Do any of your achievements rank as precedent-setting, the first, the fastest, the biggest, the most, the best, the strongest, nearly so, or in the top tier? Remember: You don’t have to be the first climber to top a Himalayan mountain to have rightfully bagged a braggable “first”, record or superlative. You should, for example, brandish your role in creating a new website, developing new trainings, creating a trailblazing employee reward system, or completing an audit or report in record time—or even creating a new online filing system.
- GEOGRAPHY: How many (and which) countries or how much geographic territory or how many offices does your jurisdiction cover? How many facilities or how much office space do you manage?
When in Doubt: Estimate
- When you can’t cite an exact number, estimate figures, and use phrases, such as “dozens of…” “a significant increase in”…” or “more than 100…”
- Use creative (but honest) accounting. For example, a federal attorney was recently asked about her supervisory experience in her application for a managerial position. But because she had only been supervising three professionals at the time, she did not cite that relatively small figure. Instead, she stated that during her 15 years as a supervisor, she had supervised dozens of professionals. Plus, she also quoted some of the praise she had received from her staffers in their good-bye cards to her when she left one of her supervisory jobs.
- Even if you supervised, led or trained employees in informal contexts, describe such experience in your resume (but don’t volunteer that your interaction was informal).
EXAMPLES OF QUANTIFICATION:
ACHIEVEMENTS GO FROM FIZZLE TO SIZZLE
|1||Was accepted into a fellowship program.||Was one of 50 students out of 1,500 applicants awarded the prestigious X Fellowship.|
|2||Staff IT help desk.||Solve hundreds of technical support calls per month on network used by 3,000 agency staffers. Specialize in troubleshooting particularly vexing problems.|
|3||Reorganized office.||Saved agency $20 million annually by managing the transfer of hundreds of jobs to a shared service provider.|
|4||Run trainings.||Designed and deliver communications trainings to 500 employees per year. Over 95 percent of attendees rated my trainings as excellent last year.|
|5||Implemented online hiring system.||Selected and managed the purchase and implementation of agency’s $15 million online hiring system, which tripled the number of applications to agency openings; increased the quality of the applicant pool; and helped the agency meet its diversity goals.|
|6||Created information security program.||Developed from scratch the agency’s information security program, which protects the integrity of shipping and financial data in the production of 11 billion widgets per year, and personnel data on 3,000 employees.|
|7||Manage property.||Manage 100,000 square feet of commercial space in five buildings.|
|8||Implemented training regulation.||Implemented regulation mandating safety training for 20,000 miners at 2,000 surface mines throughout the U.S. This regulation reduced accident rates by x percent.|
|9||Manage important accounts.||Manage five bulk corporate accounts that are cumulatively worth more than $25 million annually.|
|10||Worked on organizing a conference.||Identified U.S.’s top 10 experts on H1N1 research and recruited them to speak at international conference on H1N1 research sponsored by NIH. Conference was attended by 200 researchers and 10 NIH office directors, and received excellent evaluations by attendees.|
|11||Served as technical advisor to EPA water quality group.||Served as top technical advisor on urban water quality to the Deputy Assistant Director of EPA’s Office of Water Quality. My recommendations were incorporated into technical advisories on water quality that were distributed to 10 cities.|
|12||Wrote agency’s annual reports.||Designed and implemented procedural changes in the transfer of budget information to the Chief Financial Officer that enabled me to produce the agency’s annual reports in six months—faster than my agency has ever produced them before.|
|13||Helped with office moves.||Co-led office consolidation involving 700 employees and their office equipment that was completed in three months, which was two weeks ahead of schedule.|
|14||Contributed to the production of a video on X.||Wrote the script for a video on X, and led a team of three video and web experts to produce and distribute the video on the Internet. The video received 10,000 hits on YouTube during the first month it was posted.|
|15||Created agency’s Alternative Dispute Resolution program.||Created agency’s first Alternative Dispute Resolution program, which now saves the agency $2 million annually in legal costs.|
This is a challenge I have always faced in resume-writing. Thanks for the excellent tips!
Thanks for the tips. I do question #9. Is there a word missing? Did the bulk accounts only bring in $25?
Thank you for the great ideas! Your article prompted me to think of several ways I could enhance my future applications.
#9 on the list may have an error at the end where it reads $25: “Manage important accounts. = Manage five bulk corporate accounts that are cumulatively worth more than $25 annually.”
Thanks, Linda, for the catch! We’ve fixed it.
Thank you for writing such an article on boosting one’s resume. The example table used in the article was visually helpful.
Thanks, Lily –
Great examples, especially hard for those without direct financial responsibilities. Time, Costs, Quality and Quantity are the starting points. I encourage people to add the customer service aspects in terms of kudos (email/phone), and relationships saved/maintained or built.
How do you present that you trained an individual in a non-job related skill? I have trained a senior person in a needle art. She sings my praises as being such a good, patient teacher who not only shows and explains the how, but the why.