On Your Résumé and Cover Letter, Numbers Matter

Numbers with wavy effect around them

I wanted to share with you some statistics from activity on my blog over the past couple months:

Blog posts consistently in the top ten for the day:

Top ten blog posts since March 2010 (when The Job Quest migrated to this URL):

Notice any similarities among these posts?

They all have numbers in the titles. This matters because people tend to be attracted to numbers. Why?

Because numbers are concrete. With numbers, you have a much better idea of what to expect. The quantity of whatever you happen to be discussing or reading about is clearly defined right away.

Now transfer this idea to your cover letters and résumés. By using numbers when describing the outcome of a project or explaining why a particular assignment was considered successful, you ensure that the audience members looking at your résumé will hold the exact same picture in their heads about your accomplishments as what you did when you wrote about them.

There is no grey area, no need to make assumptions. When you use terms like “several” or “significant growth,” you require your reader to interpret what that may mean.

While language like that can have a place on your documents, too much of it could cause you to run the risk of a misinterpretation, hurting your candidacy. If the HR rep or hiring manager underestimates your accomplishments, you could be eked out before the first round by other applicants who appear stronger. If your achievements are overestimated and you are brought in for an interview, you may be viewed as someone who was intentionally trying to deceive them with your vague language. Either way, you lose.

Consider one of my clients. On the original résumé I received from her, it said:

  • Provide high-level customer service for participants.

After talking with her and rewriting her résumé, I was able to include accomplishments like:

  • Achieved first-call resolution rate of 98% within first month of employment.

Which one clearly paints an accurate picture of her work? Which is more likely to be noticed by HR reps and hiring managers?

Image courtesy of Janet Ramsden

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