Developing Resume Success Stories


We are really liking the articles by our friend Mary Jeanne Vincent, who is posting them as notes on her Facebook page. The most recent is about developing success stories for resume use. It’s common for job-seekers to craft success stories in preparation for job interviews, but less so for them to think about them for resumes. (but, bonus, once you develop them for your resume, you can also use them for interviews.) Let me just highlight a few of Mary Jeanne’s thoughts on this process that may not be well-known: She suggests reviewing old performance appraisals “with a highlighter in hand. Mark the successes you’ve forgotten about and jot down additional details about those projects.” She provides a nice list of questions for brainstorming accomplishments:
  • What has your manager complimented you on or recognized you for in your work?
  • When have you solved a problem or successfully handled an emergency?
  • What have you built, made, or created?
  • When did your idea or suggestion result in an award?
  • How have you streamlined operations, increased productivity, or cut costs?
  • How have you influenced individual or team productivity?
  • What do you do better than your colleagues and why is this helpful to the organization?
Mary Jeanne suggests that 10 accomplishments is a good number for starters. She then advises crafting success stories about these accomplishments using a Problem –> Action –> Result format. For a resume, you need to edit each of these stories down to an “accomplishment statement: two sentences that describe the action you took and the results of that action.” Here, we would add that it’s best to tell the story backwards on the resume — Result –> Action –> Problem — because employers read resumes so quickly that you want the result to catch the reader’s eye first. In fact, Mary Jeanne says, “Results are what employers are looking for! Other features contribute to a successful résumé, but solid accomplishment statements are the most important because they demonstrate what you can do for a potential employer.” Another great piece of advice is to “always, always, always write more success stories than you think you need. Then you can pick and choose the best for a particular situation and hold the rest in your ‘back pocket,’ ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice during an interview.”