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Smart Resumes

When filling out the employment history section of your resume, you will want to record some bullet points on what you did. For many people, there is a tendency to use expressions such as ‘responsible for’, ‘involved in’, ‘worked on’, etc. But the potential employer, when reading your resume, is really looking to see what you achieved, how much money you made or how much money you saved. In other words, the potential employer is looking for ‘what’s in it for him’ if he takes you on to fill the vacancy. He wants the benefits.

The result is that you need to focus your resume any more specifically on what the potential employer is really looking for.

Now, everyone in business is trained to use SMART criteria in almost all areas of their work. The general interpretation of these smart criteria is often taken to mean, S for specific, M for measurable, A for achievable, R for relevant and T for timely.

If we translate these smart criteria into the world of resumes we could interpret them as follows for each of your achievement bullet points:

– Firstly, be Specific in what you actually did. Do not talk about activities going on around you, but be clear on what you did and what you personally achieved.

– Secondly, make what you achieved to be Measurable. Here you should use numbers of dollars for savings, or percentage increases in productivity, or percentage measures for efficiency savings, etc.

– Then, say what you actually Achieved in clear and simple English.

– Make sure what you say you achieved is still Relevant. Be aware that things you did 10 years ago may seem commonplace or even rather dated now. So, if you cannot make it relevant in some way to enhance your current value than the best left out.

– Finally, assert how you achieved whatever you did in a Timely manner. Perhaps you beat the competition, or maybe you met the deadline, or maybe it was somehow appropriate at that time. You need to use your own judgment here.

You will notice that in writing your employment history to meet these smart criteria, that you will be using what are often called ‘action words’. These are simply words that say what you did. Examples of these words are ‘trained’, ‘developed’, ‘ managed’, ‘ conducted’, etc. and a list goes on.

Let us now take an example of what I mean in the real life situation. Supposing you had an achievement in your employment history like:

* Responsible for supervising a small team of programmers to install a set of changes to a departmental system as part of an overall cost review exercise in the organization. This was due to the economic downturn. The effect was to increase departmental productivity and save staff costs.

Instead, using our SMART criteria, you might change it to something like:

* Managed, developed and implemented a systems project to a tight 3 month deadline, which resulted in a reduction of operating costs of $60,000 per year.

We can quickly check that it does indeed meet the smart criteria discussed above. Firstly it is much more specific than the original few sentences. It’s more concise and succinct. Secondly, it uses numbers for both time and cost. These are measures that are precise. Thirdly, the sentence show now clearly what you actually achieved. That is you managed, developed and implemented the project. Notice also the use of these ‘action words’. Notice too how the subject of relevance is actually skirted around. Instead of bothering about what the nature of system was, you are focusing instead on the project nature of the task and the fact that you completed it on time. The system itself may indeed be out-dated, but the fact that you can run a project is still current and relevant. Finally, the timely nature of the project is borne out by the fact that the cost saving was made and also that the project met the 3 month deadline.

As you can see, the use of SMART criteria helps in many ways to structure and make sense of your employment history and also make it relevant to today’s environment.

Peter Draper is an expert resume writer. For further information see