UPDATED ON 3/1/2022
People keep telling us to make our resumes more quantitative and measurable. Here are five methods that show us how.
How many of us have been advised to add more numbers into the documents we write, particularly on our resumes? Quite a few of us?
Yet, somehow we find it excruciatingly painful to put roman numerals into a two-page marketing document about ourselves.
And we are rarely — if ever — given advice on how to implement these crucial figures.
Well, I am here to tell you how, no matter the occupation.
Questions that Numbers Answer
If we reminisce our earliest math classes, numbers tend to answer these questions:
- How much?
- How many?
- How big/small?
- How accurate?
- How long?
- How fast?
- How often?
These questions appear everyday in our workplace, even in the most seemingly non-quantitative jobs out there. For instance, a babysitter may not be helping the kids with math homework, but she may be caring for three kids for three hours. This just answered the how-many question, twice.
So where can we find our numbers?
Sources of Numbers
When it comes to numbers, a lot of people think one has to be involved in engineering, science, or finance to find them.
That is no not true.
The fact is…numbers are everywhere.
Numbers automatically generate themselves in our email accounts (i.e. How many emails do I go through in a day?), in the distance we travel (i.e. How far do I usually travel to meet my clients?), or even as I write this post (i.e. How many characters will be in this article?).
So in short, sources where you can find numbers to use include:
- Our individual results
- Company/department/team results
- Numerical characteristics of our project/task
- Numerical characteristics of our company/department/team
- Any firsts that have significance or value for the company/industry/community/country
Each of these deserves space in our resumes, but first, let’s figure out where we can put them on our resumes.
“Ok. Numbers are everywhere. Check. But I’m looking at my resume and I have no idea where to put them!”
Sure, you do. In a sea of words, however, it can be lost in the mix.
Here’s how you can find the spots on your resume:
- Print out your resume (you can leave it on the computer screen, I suppose, but I tend to work better when I can handwrite freely).
- Take a pen and circle ALL the nouns on the paper.
- For each noun, ask whether any of the questions mentioned earlier can be answered.
For example, if one of the accomplishments include, “Led a team of engineers to design a game console”. The words “team”, “engineers”, and “game console” would be circled. Then, I might ask, “How many engineers were in the team I led?”, or “How large was the game console?”
The same can be done with verbs. In this case, the most appropriate questions to ask are likely to be “How accurate?”, “How fast/slow?”, and “How often?”
Now, let’s find out the five (5) ways we can sprinkle numbers into our resumes.
1. Significant Firsts
Just like a baby’s first words and first steps, significant firsts are any firsts that are important to something bigger than yourself.
If the accomplishment was a first for you, then that just means you learned something to you and grew.
But if something you were involved with was a first for your company and beyond, then now we have something to talk about!
Identifying an accomplishment as a first for your industry, community, or country signifies the enormity of its impact on the people around us.
Here is an example from a recent client of mine. This is what she originally wrote:
Set up a microarray facility in the department for the characterization of mechanisms involved in HCV pathogenesis
She put little weight in this accomplishment. However, during my probing, she informed me of a fact that made my eyes open wide, so I changed it:
Established the country’s first cDNA microarray facility in HCV pathogenesis
Do you notice how the words “country’s first” made you feel more excited for her?
Her accomplishment may not have been the world’s first, but just by being the “country’s first” showed that she was a crucial component in developing a major stepping stone in improving the health of her countrymen.
On a more mindful note, if it’s your company’s first, make sure that you had a substantial role in it such as initiating the project for it or leading the way for an important part of it. Otherwise, it would sound like an accomplishment for your company, not you.
2. Individual Results
This is the one that comes to mind first when we say numbers. It’s referring to results.
- How much sales did you get last quarter?
- How much web traffic did you increase?
- How much waste did you reduce?
Individual results put more emphasis on how you explicitly perform and affect your company.
And that’s what you want your resume to do. To focus on you and your performance metrics, allowing the readers to paint a picture in their minds about what you can do for them.
Therefore, when it comes to hiring a new person, it’s no wonder our individual results weigh so much.
Now, results are easiest to obtain when the task you did contributes to a project. By definition, projects have a beginning and an end. Determining your results mean understanding the status or condition of your project at the end of its lifecycle. In some cases, results appear immediately. In other cases, results can take a few months to manifest. Whatever the situation may be, scheduling a future date beyond the end of the project to check on the aftermath is a really good idea.
Another thing to keep in mind is sometimes when we are one member of a team, it can be difficult to separate or distinguish our individual results from the results of the team or department or company as a whole. Under these circumstances, include those results, but remember your individual work and contribution to the bigger picture. It’s about what you did, NOT what the team or company did.
One of my first clients was a pastry chef.
And when I was going through her resume at the time, I noticed she neglected to include one of her most prominent positions.
On LinkedIn, she described it as:
Assisted with AM morning bake; including viennoiserie, pastry, and a few bread items
What do you gather from that? Perhaps she’s a morning-shift baker?
However, based on my knowledge of the place she worked, I knew there had to be more to the story, so I did a little research.
And I discovered two numerical facts that I just had to incorporate:
Baked and served all breakfast pastry items for the 1,500 banquet and room guests at a 396-room luxurious oceanfront resort
The role of a pastry chef may seem very routine day-in, day-out. Nevertheless, she could have been more aware of the all the numerical characteristics of her surroundings and used them to scale her everyday activities, thus amplifying her significance.
As mentioned before, these numerical characteristics can be found in:
- Your company
- Your facility/location
- Your department
- Your team
- Your project
And these characteristics can answer questions like:
- How large of a warehouse do you manage?
- How many people report to you?
- What is the budget or duration of your project?
Answering these types of questions tell people how much you can handle.
Some of you may think that by amplifying your work, you would be bragging. Let me tell you. If your accomplishment does involve those numbers, those are facts. Facts are true. If it’s fact, it’s NOT bragging.
4. The Ticking Time Bomb
In screenwriting — fictional writing in general — there’s a writing device called the ticking time bomb that intensifies suspense.
I’m sure we have all seen it.
A terrorist plants a bomb under the police precinct. By the time our heroic bounty hunter finds it, he has five minutes to defuse it or it will go BOOM!
That’s the ticking time bomb.
We see it all the time in movies, but what most people do not realize is that we can use it in our resumes too.
Compare these two bullets:
Process 5 types of checks on a daily basis
Process 5 types of checks within 24 hours
Which one strikes you more?
Most of us, if not all, must deal with deadlines. No other writing technique points that out more than the ticking time bomb because it creates a sense of urgency. And if you can express that sense of urgency, then you can illustrate that you can handle yourself under the pressure of a time-crunch.
What about those tasks that need to be done on a regular basis so that the business can run? Those that don’t necessarily have deadlines?
then set one! Set a time frame that you believe is most appropriate for the task.
This technique answers these questions:
- What is the average number of homes you sell within a month?
- How many customers do you interact within a typical day?
- How many checks do you process during a normal week?
By setting a duration, you essentially create a self-imposed deadline on a routine task, making it feel like a project with an ending.
It also makes it personal, as though you have set a goal for yourself.
Pretend you are a professional runner who currently runs a 9-minute mile. Being the ambitious person that you are, you might say, “Next time, I’m going to shoot for an 8-minute mile.”
Frequency and rates promote your speed and capacity. Readers like people who not only keep track of their capabilities, but also set their own goals.
Bonus: Fractions vs. Percentages
I would like to say a few words about fractions and percentages.
It’s a visual and auditory thing. It also mostly pertains to quantifying measurable changes.
When the change is a decrease, use fractions because the visual image of a fraction looks small than a whole number. Think a slice of pizza.
When the change is an increase, use percentages because it is usually represented by a whole number before the percentage symbol (%). When it’s a whole number, people often perceive it as being larger.
For instance, let’s us an easy number: 50% and 1/2. Those of us who are more math-oriented know that those two figures are the same thing. Yet, do you see that the 1/2 (like half a pizza) somehow elusively feels smaller than 50%? Or which is easier to comprehend: 50% increase or increased by 1/2?
However, percentages are more versatile than fractions. Fractions work best when the amount are multiples of a half (1/2), a third (1/3), a quarter (1/4), or a fifth (1/5). For any other amount, go ahead and use percentages.
Whatever your occupation may be, numbers are always in front of you.
The five techniques above will turn even the most non-technical position into a classic math problem that anyone can solve. Just be open about where to look and how to use them.
Do be mindful, however, about whether the numbers you put forth feel impressive. Numbers allow readers to compare you against your competition and the average person. If you were in need to hire a contractor to build your house, wouldn’t you be more swayed by the contractor who says he is able to get it done properly in two months versus the other who says a year?
So make certain that your numbers flatter you. If you are unsure or critical of yourself, ask for your friends’ opinion.
That said, one person’s perception of a number may be different from another, so simply have them anyway. Including some numbers is better than having none.
And that will get you on the path to the job you couldn’t even dream of.
Are you having trouble finding numbers in your accomplishments? Book your free consultation so I can help you find them.