Ultimately, the point of your resume is to convince someone to interview you. It is a marketing document, after all – nothing more.
I’ve read scores of articles on job searching. Hundreds… possibly even topping a thousand. I do so both to help in my own job search, as well as collecting them in my blog’s article aggregates. (I am selective – just because I click on and read/skim an article doesn’t necessarily mean it goes into an aggregate.) One topic specifically called out in these aggregates is RESUMES. Readers who have gone through these aggregates looking for help in their own job search have seen numerous articles on this topic – and multiple instances where I’ve opined that a resume is nothing more than a marketing document to get you the interview.
Three Parts to Catch Attention
In many of these articles there is a consistent theme; specifically, that a very common mistake made is to say “responsible for” or “duties include” – or other such terms. So what? The point made by multiple job-search authorities is simple: everyone has responsibilities and duties on a job… what did you do? What accomplishments did you do in your time at each position that differentiates you from everyone else who had those same responsibilities?
A second, very common theme of these articles is to recommend the use of action verbs. For example, “led”, “designed”, “improved”, among many others. The goal is to show you did something. And a third thing is to have numbers. How much money (or time) did you save? How much did you increase sales? And so on. Numbers – whether dollar values, percentages, and so on – catch attention.
Which brings me to an admittedly cumbersome acronym. Let’s break it down.
AVe – Action Verb. Use action verbs – and there are a gazillion links here to find them – to catch a reader’s attention.
NRe – Numerical Result. What did you save? Increase? Decrease? Improve? And so on. Have a number, even if it’s an estimate. You don’t need to be exact, and you won’t be asked to justify the number in any more than an arm-waving way – but be able to justify it. And if you’re pressed for details, cite confidentiality; always a good thing to show you protect the proprietary information of a previous employer!
TYA – Through Your Action. What did you do that created this result?
OK, so I’m shamelessly stealing a few accomplishments from my resume (I am looking for a job, after all!) – and noticing that I need to do some editing to follow my own advice (shame on me!); I’ll show two of these as my third and fourth examples. But first, two examples where I already followed the AVeNReTYA formula.
Saved over $250K annually by replacing molded virgin rubber with superior material based on recycled tires.
Let’s break it down.
AVe – Action Verb: “Saved”. A nice, strong action verb that catches attention.
NRe – Numerical Result: “over $250K annually”. Money talks. A quarter of a million dollars every year on an ongoing basis talks loudly.
TYA – Through Your Action: “replacing molded virgin rubber with superior material…” What I did to achieve this result.
Here’s another one:
Eliminated product’s 50% rework rate in brazing operation by redimensioning joint for proper process window.
Again, the breakdown:
AVe – Action Verb: “Eliminated”. Not reduced, eliminated. A very strong action verb.
NRe – Numerical Result: “50% rework rate”. First-time-through is a key metric in production – having to rework/repair items in a manufacturing environment is a bad thing. It’s not value-added. Going from having to rework half of this product’s volume to not having to do it at all is huge.
TYA – Through Your Action: “by redimensioning joint for proper process window.” What I did to achieve this result.
And a third, requiring a rewrite. I’m starting out with this line item:
Redesigned rotationally-molded coolant tank; reduced cost by 15% and eliminated four separate pieces.
Not bad, but in looking at this I can do better. “Redesigned” is not a bad verb. But it describes what I did, not what the result was. Try this rewrite breakdown on for size:
AVe – “Reduced”. “Decreased” would also work; use synonyms as you don’t want a string of the same word repeated. Some might argue that repeating the same word – if you can – is good marketing. Perhaps. But my opinion is that if you have a bunch of the same action verb in a row, e.g., decreased, decreased, decreased, decreased, it becomes easier for a reader to shift to a coasting mode; changing words forces more mental activity, thus avoiding someone falling into a mindless perusal.
NRe – “plastic tank cost by 15% and eliminated four components”. Not the shortest NRe but there are two solid results here. And if you are a plastics person trying to catch the attention of people who want your expertise – as I am, for example here, here, and here – using the specific word “plastic” can catch attention too.
TYA – “by redesigning with rotational-molding DFMA recommendations.” Again, what I did. And this gives me a chance to throw in two keyword, i.e., rotational-molding and DFMA. Both potential current attention-catching keywords.
Putting them together:
Reduced plastic tank cost by 15% and eliminated four components by redesigning with rotational-molding DFMA recommendations.
You May Not Have Numbers
In some instances you may not be able to quantify things. You may not have numbers, or you may be forbidden from using any numbers by confidentiality agreements, among the possibilities. You can still discuss AVeReTYA. (No “N”). And, as I write this essay, I realize I can edit this bullet point from my resume to follow the formula. I start out with:
Launched new spray nozzle with improved hardening treatment; achieved significant decrease in process variation and reduced changes from orifice abrasion during production runs.
“Launched” is what I did. “Decreased” was the result (“reduced” would also work); if you’re not sure about which word to use, try 3-4 different verbs, create examples of each, and then get outside opinions.
AVe – “Decreased”. A good, catchy action verb.
Re – “chemical process variation and nozzle replacement frequency”. My result. I added “chemical” to be a little more specific about the application.
TYA – “by launching new spray nozzles with improved hardening treatment”. What I did to achieve this result.
Putting them together:
Decreased chemical process variation and nozzle replacement frequency by launching new spray nozzles with improved hardening treatment.
Again, definitely better.
There Will Be Exceptions
Of course not everything will be able to be squeezed into these acronyms’ formulae. You may decide, for example, that in a particular instance what you did to achieve the result is more important than the result itself. Leading to another funky acronym: YAVAVNuR.
YAV – Your Action Verb. What was the action that you took?
AVNuR – Action Verb to a Numerical Result. (And, as above, you may be in a situation where there is no numerical result you can give.)
As an example of this, consider my resume item:
Led Design for Assembly effort to reduce labor costs in new generation of electro-mechanical capital equipment, saving over $5 million in L&OH within three years of launch and reducing assembly floor area needed over 50%.
Although the numerical results are impressive, in this case I think the fact that my action (I led) is more important. Breaking it down:
YAV – “Led Design for Assembly effort to reduce labor costs…” This is what I did, and I want the fact that I led the team to be seen before the numerical results. In this instance I put some description about the environment in which this happened.
AVNuR – “…saving over $5 million in L&OH within three years of launch and reducing assembly floor area needed over 50%”. Saving is a good action verb, and the numerical results will catch attention too.
What’s the Point of the Exercise?
By investing valuable editing time on your resume’s bullet points to make each accomplishment easy to read, you will increase how much content your resume conveys in the 5-7 seconds most resumes get when being screened. Presenting numerical results in an easy-to-digest format, your resume may well find itself not skimmed but read as people say “Whoa, wait, wow!”
Ultimately, the point of your resume is to convince someone to interview you. It is a marketing document, after all – nothing more. AVeNReTYA and YAVAVNuR can help in making your resume easier to read. The easier you make it for a skimming eye to see and grasp what you have done elsewhere, the more likely that person will slow down and start to extrapolate what you might be able to do for them.
And when they start seeing what you could do for them… you get interviewed. But some interview tactics and methods are in other essays.
© 2014, David Hunt, PE