The No. 1 Resume Mistake and How to Fix It

Frequently, AOL readers ask me to review their resumes. Nine times out of 10, their resume suffers from the same problem.

The No. 1 mistake made on resumes is writing only about job tasks and never writing about what was achieved in each position.

When your resume lands on a hiring manager's desk, he may not be swayed by the fact that you possess certain competencies required to do a particular job effectively. Most hiring managers believe that past success is a strong indicator of future success.

Unless you can prove that you have had an impact on the organizations you have supported, your phone may never ring. Hiring managers want resumes that convey strong stories of success and tangible examples of how you have helped the companies you've worked for make money, save time, improve efficiency, reduce redundancies, and grow the business. But usually what hiring managers get are resumes with:

  • a long list of job tasks
  • information that is irrelevant to their open position
  • job responsibilities that are outdated in today's market
  • a list of personal attributes that are not quantifiable and can't be proven

It can be hard to reflect on your accomplishments and articulate them clearly on just one or two pieces of paper. But being introspective about your past and thinking about what you have achieved is critical to putting together a strong resume. Here are some questions to ask yourself to generate more powerful content for your resume.

  1. Do you manage a staff? How large is it? Do you manage a budget? What is the size of the budget?
  2. What specific professional challenges did you face when you took this job. Do you have specific performance goals? How well did you do against these goals?
  3. What was the most difficult project you managed or biggest hurdle you overcame at this job? What were the results and benefits for you and the organization?
  4. Have you decreased costs or streamlined operations in some way? How was this accomplished? Wherever possible, state your accomplishments in terms of a numerical value, ideally in terms of either a dollar value or percentage.
  5. What is your greatest achievement in this position? How did you do it? What were results and benefits to you and the organization?
  6. Did you receive any special awards or recognitions? If so, for what?
  7. What have your supervisors said about your performance, either in evaluations or verbally?

resume review

Another exercise for thinking about your accomplishments is to create CAR stories.

C -- Challenge: What challenges did you face in your job?
A -- Action: What actions did you take to address those challenges?
R -- Results: What results were achieved because of your actions?

Here are a few examples of strong accomplishment statements that were created by asking achievement-focused questions and creating CAR stories.

For a claims administrator ...
  • Recouped $33K in benefits payments and worker's compensation claims by auditing benefits status and meticulously managing paperwork to verify employee eligibility. (demonstrates how the applicant saved money)

For a customer service manager ...
  • In just six months, propelled customer satisfaction scores by 16 points from 78% to 94% (highest scores in account history) and reversed failing account performing from 15% below target to exceeding target. (shows how the applicant retained business and clients)

For a sales professional ...
  • Increased renewal rate by 23%, with a 4% year-over-year order growth rate, despite a downturn in the pharmaceutical industry. Attained record sales results in 2010. (shows how the candidate improved retention)

For an HR manager ...
  • Saved company tens of thousands of dollars in recruiting fees and close to a quarter of a million dollars in benefits costs by renegotiating terms of service with outsourced providers. (shows how money was saved)

For a service administrator ...
  • In less than two months reduced warranty expenses from 25% to 1% by streamlining reporting process and using an online warranty application to expedite the claims process. (shows how a process was improved)

Take the time to craft a resume that focuses on accomplishments over job tasks. You will improve the quality of your resume and your overall job search.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

These tips are great for people who are looking for jobs with career potential and who have the types of jobs in the past, which give them relevant experience for the type of job they are seeking now. But what if you have to change career fields? You have no experience in the field in which you are seeking a job? You have no accomplishments that are relevant. Example; former auto assembly line worker seeking a position as a part time child care helper in a nursery school to supplement their income. They went to work everyday for 30 years and installed parts on cars. There were no spectacular career results. No leadership positions. Nothing to brag about. Nothing done in an auto assembly plant would would be relevant or impress a day care director other than the fact that the assembly line worker had a good work record by showing up on time every day for 30 years. Back years ago, showing up everyday on time was something that would impress an interviewer. Now days, not so much. They are looking for a great story teller. The one who gets the job is the one who has the best story. I guess it doesn't matter if it is true or not. The joke would be on the day care director who hires the best story teller only to find out they don't show up or are late once or twice a week. When that happens, what is more important? The wonderful story told in the interview or coming to work every day on time? Interviewers need to rethink their priorities. Those wonderful stories will be of no value later.

March 15 2011 at 12:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

As a former HR and having worked for government for 52 years, I learned that resumes do not completely tell all about an applicant. That is why follow up interviews are so important. We can tell when a resume has been "doctored", and recognize efforts to blow smoke!
Just be honest, and you will get further in your efforts. Hopefully you will succeed.

March 10 2011 at 8:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@ icdou007: I always worked in hospitals and people in HR checked the facts on resumes. If one were caught lying it was grounds for termination.

@ Victoria L Logan: The business types used to harp on that one page thing, but not so much anymore. They do say now not to list jobs more than 7-10 years past.

January 29 2011 at 8:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
16 Pink

Resume are a joke, so many people lie on them.

January 28 2011 at 9:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Victoria L Logan

Is it true that your resume should not be more than one page? What size font is acceptable?

January 27 2011 at 10:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You know how I deal with all the 'resume tips'? Become self employed. The heck with working to make "someone else" money. Aren't you tired of all the manipulative games that employers play with employees? They take all your 'passion' away by beating you down. I say "keep your passion", and be smart and "work for yourself" If you can..and I hope you all can be successful. Follow your passion, follow YOUR dreams, not theirs.

January 27 2011 at 3:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jules's comment

I agree.Most people I know had crappy resume's and got the best jobs..I never put what I did for a company and my phone always rung. I always put a list of task vs how much money I saved them. These HR people are dumb as hell.Its a never ending cycle with this "fake job advice" crap.You get the best jobs by applying thru your University job board or a referral , anything in between is out of your reach no matter how good your resume is.

March 10 2011 at 5:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great advice because it is so specific. Everyone has heard this before but not given "how to" detail that some of us needed - thank you!

January 27 2011 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Picks From the Web