The Resume Mystery: Solving Your Case for Employment

by Kristy Amburgey

Mystery movies, TV shows and books abound.  CSI, Sherlock Holmes and every Law & Order show imaginable are there to intrigue you and grab your attention.  The tenet of most of these amusements is the protagonist’s ability, much of the time, to establish evidence of a case and solve some great mystery.  With this image in mind, I ask you to examine your own resume and whether or not it establishes your case for employment.  Is an employer able to find evidence of your abilities, accomplishments and goals through your resume, or does your document create a mystery that not even a seasoned sleuth could solve?  The goal of your resume is to establish what job you want, how you can contribute to the company and that you meet the qualifications set forth by the company.  Understanding the need for a solid resume, I want you to pull out your magnifying glass and start combing through your background to build a case for your desired job.

To build your case, it is important to understand what the employer expects.  Read the job description, research the company and review feedback you have on the organization.  What are the company values?  What are common key words for this type of job?  What are the top qualities they want in a candidate?  What educational accomplishments are expected?  What advice did you receive from your contacts about the company?  Start the case-building process with your research and the job description.

The next step in building your case is taking your insight into the job and company and actually composing your resume.  Don’t skimp on the time you take with this process.  For every point in the description, ask yourself if there is an accomplishment from your past that would prove your ability to do that task.  You won’t necessarily have accomplishments related to all of the job description’s points, but you should integrate as many as you can that relate to the job.  What you don’t want to do is add accomplishments just to add them; keep each point related to the job and company.  Formatting your accomplishments as action-oriented content is an important part of the composition process.  One way to format your accomplishments is to start with an action verb and then list the description and outcome.  At times it is better to start with the action-focused outcome and then provide the description.  In each point, you must be concise and focused.

While building your case via the resume, you may get stuck from time to time, especially if you don’t have specific experiences related to the job.  At this juncture, brainstorm about your background to see if you have supporting evidence for success based on your previous experiences.  Consider all aspects from your past, including work, academics, professional memberships, leadership experiences and more.  These past accomplishments may be directly or indirectly related to the job you are pursuing.  When you do get stumped, use the below questions as prompts to work your way through the job description and resume evaluation process.  These questions should be used to guide you through the process as opposed to what you absolutely have to include in the resume.  Remember, what you list still needs to relate to the job you are seeking.

  • For any project, work or academic, what skills did you use to achieve the desired outcome?  What was the result of the project?  Did you get any recognition from the completion of the project?
  • When you had your last review or evaluation, what was an area or skill for which you received kudos?  Is there an accomplishment that exemplifies your evaluated strength?
  • In any of your work accomplishments, do you have quantifiable information to provide?
  • If you worked with people, do you have any positive feedback, ratings or other items that exemplify your people skills?
  • When you analyzed a situation, what was the outcome?
  • When you resolved a situation or problem, did you obtain favorable results?
  • If you ever advocated for implementing something, did a positive change occur?
  • What have you initiated?
  • How has your management style helped your team succeed?  Did you make positive contributions to the growth of your employees?
  • If you trained others, were they successful?
  • How many clients or customers did you handle at once?  How many projects or tasks within a project did you balance?
  • Did you design or develop a new product, idea or method that was used?
  • Did you improve a function or process?
  • Did you positively impact your organization’s bottom line?
  • Did you identify a new stream of revenue or money saving tactic?
  • When organizing and planning, was the event, project, program, etc. successful?
  • Did you follow company, federal or other regulations to achieve something?
  • Were you creative or resourceful in a way that led to a success?
  • Did you volunteer to take on work above and beyond what was expected?

These questions are great when developing your resume, but there are some job types in which you won’t have numbers to include or specific outcomes to list. There are jobs in which education, ratings, time and/or certifications are more important in the hiring process. Regardless, I still recommend that you use this exercise to identify the results you can list, which may include more qualitative accomplishments than quantitative details.

Just like with a good mystery, your case for employment has to emphasize solutions and minimize doubt about your ability to do the job.  For your resume, you need to establish, as best you can, a solid case for employment and remove doubt from an employer’s mind about your ability to do and succeed in the job.  To do this, you should integrate concrete evidence of your accomplishments into your resume so that an employer can best judge your fit for the job.  Use your resume to create a tantalizing story of accomplishments, successes and outcomes, and you will have cracked the case.

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.

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