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  • job responsibilities that are outdated in today's market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.

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