The Costly Mistake You Are Making on Your Resume
September 25, 2017

The Costly Mistake You Are Making on Your Resume

by Brian de Haaff

“Increased social media followers by 4,000 percent. Boosted website traffic by 3,500 percent.” I see puffed up metrics like this all the time. Especially on resumes submitted by people applying for marketing roles. While I appreciate the instinct to show results, what do these eye-popping numbers really mean?

I have written before about the importance of a results-driven resume. But in an effort to quantify worth, it can be tempting to lean hard into funny math — believing that big numbers show big achievement.

Those empty numbers are a mistake that could cost you. Because informed hiring managers are allergic to overinflated vanity metrics.

Now, do not get me wrong. Looking for a new job is not easy and boiling down your work history to a few bullets is even harder. So if you are attempting to quantify your results — this is good news. It shows that you are thinking about how your work has helped your previous organization(s) reach their objectives.

I recently asked folks on LinkedIn what they think is essential to a strong resume. Some people made the valid point that it is difficult to create a one-size-fits-all resume. It is true that different employers respond to different messages. But there was one thing that most people agreed on.

The strongest resumes highlight tangible results. In order to do this, you need to focus on data that can be easily understood — not funny math.

So keep adding those key metrics. But do not focus on big numbers. Focus on highlighting how you have contributed to building value and how you can make a measurable impact in ways that hiring managers can understand.

Where do you start? If you worked in private companies, it can be tougher to share specifics, so choose the information that you want to present with both hiring managers and your confidentiality obligations in mind.

Here are three areas to consider with your next data-driven resume update:

Financial All companies try to provide a product or service, bring in more money than it cost to produce it, and build a sustainable business. So did you contribute to how your previous company earned or saved money? The answer is probably yes. Even if you were not in a sales position, you may find that it is possible to demonstrate how your efforts translated into financial gain for the company.

Here are some examples:

  • Saved X amount of money over X quarters

  • Lead projects that generated X in new annual revenue

  • Drove X in sales over X [years, months, quarters]

  • Helped grow existing customer accounts by $X

Growth No matter the size of the organization, every company needs to grow to succeed. So did you play a significant role in growing your company? Whether you were a leader in title or simply by your actions, consider the ways that you boosted your team and customers.

Here are some examples:

  • Grew team to X people

  • Developed new workflow that increased output by X

  • Nurtured business leads, growing from X to Y

  • Increased new customer trials from X to Y

  • Increased conversion rates from X to Y

Impact Forward-thinking companies are interested in ambitious and engaged candidates. Which achievements are you most proud of? Show your track record of making a positive impact. Consider how you grew in your own career and left your mark on your previous team and company, as well as your industry.

Here are some examples:

  • Earned X promotions/awards during my X years at the company

  • Managed a team of X people

  • Produced X percent decrease of staff allocation time

  • Led X new projects over X years

With each claim, ask yourself, “Is this proving that I made a positive and tangible difference? What role did I play in achieving those results? Am I telling the truth?”

Touting a “2,000 percent increase in visitors” might seem like it would be impressive, but I would argue that those kinds of numbers are not showcasing what you really did (or can do in the future). Ultimately, you are saying a lot without really saying anything at all.

The truth is always more compelling than anything you can fake. So if you cannot think of how the data point moved the company or the people around you forward, then consider deleting it. You want that hiring manager to see the truth — your real impact and potential.

What data do you think is most useful to present on a resume?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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