3 steps to compelling resume content


Compelling Resume ContentFast forward to the future.

You have to update your resume.

Your reaction: “Uh oh. How am I possibly going to remember all the things I’ve accomplished since I last updated my resume? It’s been years. Even if I can piece them together, I’ll never be able to remember the specifics necessary to write compelling resume content.”

Back to present day.

You have the opportunity to do your future self a huge favor — saving yourself hours of frustration and increasing the probability of landing that job you want.

Oh . . . and it’s really simple. Here are the 3 steps.

Step 1: Create an Accomplishments document

Create a document using whatever tool will be easiest for you to use to jot down your accomplishments. Be a minimalist. This doesn’t have to be fancy.  Evernote, Notepad, Keep, OneNote, Word, your favorite task-tracking tool — almost anything will work.

Step 2: Establish a monthly reminder

Set up a monthly reminder to revist your Accomplishments document. Putting a monthly recurring appointment onto your calendar is an easy way to handle this. Monthly too annoying? Make the duration a little longer, but I wouldn’t go longer than every six weeks.

Step 3: Document your accomplishments using the Action-Result approach

When your monthly reminder comes up, open your Accomplishments document and review the existing content first. Chances are you will decide to remove some items as they may no longer seem as exciting or important as they once did.

After this review, think back over the past month (since you last updated your Accomplishments document). What did you do? Did you see results from a project you led? Achieve any certifications? Publish something? Receive any awards? You get the idea.

Once you compile your list, add the items into your Accomplishments document using the Action-Result approach to produce compelling resume content.

What’s the Action-Result approach?

A. Begin with an action verb and describe what you did.

B. End with the result that the action delivered using measurable, business-value terms.

Here’s an example.

What you did: You led a project for your finance department. The project involved establishing a new set of policies related to financial controls. The outside auditors just shared the results of their latest investigation. The number of audit findings related to the areas your new policies covered fell by 90% from their prior audit.

Typical resume content: “Lead [sic] a project to establish new financial controls for the finance department.”

Compelling resume content using the action-result approach: “Led a project team of senior analysts, which established eight new financial control policies resulting in a 90% reduction of audit findings by an external auditing firm.”

For more examples of compelling resume content using the action-result approach, check out my LinkedIn profile.

Feeling really ambitious?

Open up LinkedIn and add your best, new accomplishment to your profile. I just timed myself. It took me 48 seconds to add mine. See if you can beat my time.

Here are a few things to remember:

Every single item in your resume does not have to follow this format. For example, some content may be focused on simply defining the role you performed.

To give your resume variety, you can switch thing around a little by giving the result first and then defining the action you took to achieve it. For example, you might say: “Reduced packaging error rates by 36% — saving $100,000 annually — by implenting a quality control training program for pickers and packers.”

Why does action-result resume content help you, and is it easy to write?

Hiring managers love action-result resume content because it highlights the business value you brought to your organization and suggests that you may be able to bring similar value to theirs. It also demonstrates that you understand and can think and “speak” in busines-value terms.

The three-step process is easy follow, but even when a specific accomplishment is still fresh in your mind, writing action-result resume content can be challenging because you have to have the result part.  Getting/remembering/finding the result is not always easy. For that reason, too many of us  stop with the action part — leaving out the imporant result part all together.

This stresses the importance of building the definition and tracking of result-focused metrics into your projects. When you start a new project, initiative, or anything that you think may look good on your resume, remember to incorporate some mechanism to track the results.

Your future self

If you follow these 3 steps, your future self will have a list of already-written, compelling resume content. All you’ll have to do is open up your Accomplishments document and copy/paste the best items into your resume . . . oh, and take a few seconds to give yourself a congratulatory fist bump for all the time and frustration you’ve saved yourself.

Does your resume have compelling content? Don’t worry if it doesn’t. Create your Accomplishments document right now, get those reminder appointments onto your calendar, and get on the path toward that congratulatory fist bump (or whatever the future equivalent is).


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  1. Patrick Steele says:

    Good stuff John. I am going to start an accomplishments list now and also agree strongly with the action-result/value approach.

  2. Pamela Stuart says:

    You brought me back to focusing on my resume, John. This finally hit me. It didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor I knew it could be. The 3 step method is a great help to recall, record and write results-focused accomplishments on my resume.