Quantifying your resume

Heather Krasna is the author of Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service, and the Director of Career Services at the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington.


I work with many job seekers who conduct research or do counseling, jobs which are quite hard to quantify–but there’s almost always a way to quantify their work.


It’s vital to quantify accomplishments because it allows a potential employer to get a clearer visual image of you doing a good job. Adding numbers and percentages also breaks up the text in a resume and is attention-getting. Adding numbers also adds legitimacy to your career story and impresses people with the amount of work you do. Leaving quantified accomplishments out makes the resume vague and less believable.


Here are 5 ways to quantify a job:
1. Ask yourself what would have happened if you had done a bad job. How much money would have been lost; how many clients would have been disappointed; how many files misplaced? This helps you see your impact.


2. Ask yourself how the place you worked was improved by your contribution. Are things more efficient than they were before you came along? If so, by how many days was the turnaround time improved? How much staff time was saved, in hours per week? Are things being done in a higher quality way? If so, how many errors per month were reduced? Did you win an award or recognition for the improvement? Do your best to add numbers or percentages.


3. If you can’t think of how you did something better than average, at least think about how much work you did to maintain things at the level that was expected. For instance, how many clients did you see within a certain timeframe? Can you add an adverb, like “courteously,” “accurately,” or “effectively” to show that you did a good job?


4. For every bullet point in your resume, look for the nouns in the statement and ask if a number or percentage can be added. For instance, how many phone calls did you answer? How many records were in the database you managed? Make sure to include context–list the timeframe within which you did the work.


5. If you don’t know how to find out numbers to add, start keeping track of them ASAP. Go back to your job and start a tally of how many clients you see per day, then make a guesstimate from there of how many you see
per month. Look at your client notes, or go through your calendar and compile your appointments. Track your accomplishments will help you in performance reviews, even if you aren’t job seeking. Even if you left a job, you can often call your former boss or co-workers and ask whether a project you worked on led to a certain result. Did your recommendations get considered, or better yet, implemented? If so, have they led to the desired result?


An example of a job most people have trouble quantifying is writing or editorial work–but even this kind of work can be quantified. If you are an editor, your job is to improve another person’s writing. To quantify this, ask how the writing was improved. Did you make it clearer, more concise, or in accordance with standards and style guidelines? Did you improve grammar and organization of thoughts? Did you ensure facts were accurate? You can make a general claim about your work like “measureably improved writing style and content and ensured it met style standards” but to go another step, add how much work you did within a certain timeframe: “measureably improved writing style and content for 25 articles per week under strict deadlines, and ensured style standards were met.”


Even in some of the most hard-to-measure fields, you can add results. For instance, if you do social work or counseling, you can say “Sensitively counseled up to 20 at-risk clients, ensuring their compliance with
treatment protocols and reducing relapse rates by 15%.” If you work in the arts, you can say “Produced three theater pieces each year with up to 3,000 audience members, receiving top reviews from 15 regional news
outlets.”

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Bill Brantley

Great advice! Numbers impress more than the usual vague terms like “innovator” or “dynamic.” Plus numbers tell me that you were involved enough in the project to at least help set the goals and measures.

R. Anne Hull

Good Advice – too many people get stuck on the $$ aspects. Accomplishments are quantified by time saved, errors reduced, cost reduction as well as ‘customer’ satisfaction – which all convert to postive $$ in the end.