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What Every Resume Needs

Helping Your Life Work

Volume 9, Issue 10

October 2013

Dear Reader,

This month’s guest columnist is Sharon Graham, Canada’s Career Strategist, executive director of Career Professionals of Canada, and author of the top-selling Best Canadian Resumes Series. A leading authority on resume, interview, employment, and career strategy, Sharon is committed to setting the standard for excellence in the industry. The following is an abriged version of a recent blog that appeared on Sharon’s website. You can reach Sharon at

Job seekers who write their own resumes often make the mistake of simply listing their job duties and responsibilities. However, a compilation of job descriptions is meaningless to most employers. When seeking to select the best candidate, employers need to understand the differences between applicants. The best way to do that is by learning about accomplishments previously attained by each applicant.

Resume strategists help clients identify and articulate meaningful accomplishments, most commonly, through a SAR/CAR Strategy. They identify Situations (or Challenges), Actions, and Results, then bring meaning and structure to the statements, by applying a SMART formula that empowers individuals to convert accomplishments into high-impact statements that are Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Results-Oriented, and Time-Bound.

Employers prefer SMART statements because they provide a clear idea of what an individual is capable of accomplishing. Compare this task-based statement: “Accountable to oversee an HRIS implementation project.” with a SMART statement: “Led a six-month HR Information System (HRIS) implementation merging legacy systems from three divisions covering an overall staff complement of 1500; improved data accuracy 10%, enhanced management reporting detail, and reduced payroll processing time by three days.”

When it comes to accomplishments, numbers talk. Validate accomplishments with dollars, percentages, and other values to show measurable results. Recruiters who are scanning resumes typically notice and hone in on those digits. When an individual is unsure of an exact number, a good technique is to lead in with “more than” or “less than.” For example, a warranty adjudicator might expand on “processed claims” by indicating “processed more than 100 claims per day.” Adverbs such as “significantly,” “greatly” and “extensively” are helpful when the scope needs to be strengthened. “Significantly increased the number of claims processed per day.” Candidates must use these techniques judiciously and ethically to ensure that they never misrepresent their results.

While SMART statements tend to be most effective, there are many different kinds of accomplishment statements that one can choose from:

Most people who read through a lengthy list of accomplishment statements will not remember them all. To create consistency within sections, group accomplishment types together. Start each statement in the list with a different past-tense action verb to add interest and distinguish accomplishments. Prioritize the list in order of importance or significance to the employer. The first accomplishment in the list should have the most impact as it is the most likely to be read. Bury weaker accomplishments within a lengthy list and make sure to end the list with a strong statement.

Barbara Fish, M.Ed.
Personal and Career Counsellor
“Helping Your Life Work”

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