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8 tricks for showcasing accomplishments on your resume

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Improve your word choice to help your accomplishments stand out more in a stack of resumes.

Financial services recruiters and hiring managers are becoming pickier than ever. When they skim your resume initially, they often do a six-second scan; they typically look at the job titles you’ve held, the companies you’ve worked for, how long you’ve been at each job, and whether or not you’re local. That means the first word after each bulletpoint that encapsulates your professional accomplishments has to jump off the page.

Here are tips to best highlight what you’ve accomplished when you’re writing and revising your resume.

1. Think of the S.T.A.R technique

Roseanne Donohue, an executive recruiter, resume writer and career coach who worked previously at J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, recommends the S.T.A.R. method of describing your experience: Scope, Task, Action and Result.

One of the most important differentiating factors is featuring action words that are strong, for example, “Generated,” “Catapulted,” “Boosted” and “Penetrated,” the latter in reference to breaking into a new market.

“Typically people just list tasks or duties, but recruiters and managers want to see quantifiable achievements, so use metrics, dollars and percentages,” Donohue said. “If you were in a revenue-generating role, how much revenue you brought in; if you were charged with cutting costs, including the dollar amount or percentage you saved the firm is powerful. Bullets need to be your most impressive achievements, and whenever possible quantify the results.”

2. The perfect ratio of ‘how’ and ‘what’

Donna Svei, executive resume writer, interview coach and retained search consultant, reviewed the resumes of her clients who got hired most quickly and found a 70/30 distribution between “what” and “how” verbs. While you should include more of the former, the latter are key complementary elements in their own right.

What verbs are typically about change or results – for example, “Accelerated loan portfolio growth by 24%,” “Initiated,” “Launched” and “Produced.”

How verbs usually relate to either managerial or people skills – for example, “Collaborated with marketing and accounting on an initiative that generated $5M in new revenue,” “Cultivated” and “Negotiated.”

“It’s an important distinction, and while what verbs are even more important, people need both types of verbs,” Svei said.

3. Context matters

People often throw in numbers and feel that takes care of quantification, but you have to provide context and include results so people understand what you’re talking about, according to Alyssa Gelbard, the founder and president of Resume Strategists.

“Any experience you have raising capital is so important, so specify what kinds of clients or investors, the amounts you are talking about, the sources – with whom did you work to raise the capital?” she said. “If you’re growing AUM, client deal flow or number of clients, say by how much.”

Saying that you grew revenue by 250% is great, but anytime there is a percentage increase, the questions are “From what base number?” and “Over what period of time?” from what? Real.

“If you were involved in financing projects, how big were they? With whom were you working?” Gelbard said. “If you helped to develop a business model for reducing risk or increasing efficiencies, what were the results?”

4. Brag if you beat a deadline

The specific time frame of your accomplishments is not something you have to include, but if you’ve done something amazing in a short amount of time, then you should include it, Gelbard said.

“If you’ve achieved great results in a really short amount of time, then highlight the time frame in the bulletpoint,” she said.

5. If you’re short on accomplishments, make the most of whatever experience you have

For students, recent graduates and early-career-stage professionals, it can be difficult to come up with many accomplishments that will really wow financial services hiring managers. That said, for internships and entry-level jobs, the bar isn’t set as high and you won’t need to be quite as impressive in this area. That’s where your college years will be key.

“Investment banks and Big Four accounting firms have training programs, and the types of skills they look for in students and recent graduates are leadership, analytical skills, project management, experience with team projects and process improvement,” Donohue said. “Highlight any types of leadership roles, class projects, activities, honor societies and relevant courses you’ve taken.”

6. Demonstrate that you’re a survivor

Because the business environment has changed so much, anytime that you can show that you have weathered the storm through restructures, cost-cutting, mergers and acquisitions, you’re likely to come off well. Sometimes merely surviving a notorious round of cuts is an impressive accomplishment in and of itself.

“If you’ve survived all that, or even managed integrations and transitions, think about how best to describe the processes, whether you were reengineering processes as part of reorganization or took on more responsibility after one,” Gelbard said. “Were you actually leading a reorganization? Think through what else happens when there’s a restructuring that you could position as an accomplishment, not just strategic planning, but financial and operational execution as well,” she said.

7. Include a bulletpoint for every promotion you’ve earned

If you got a promotion, that is not the place to trim to save space.

“List whenever you’ve been promoted, because hiring managers looked for rock stars, for example, “Promoted within five months, given additional responsibilities above and beyond the regular job description,’” Svei said.

8. Avoid passive voice

Use an active verb whenever possible. Don’t write it like it’s a job description, Gelbard said.

“Don’t say ‘Responsible for…;’ instead, write ‘Spearheaded,’ ‘Directed’ or ‘Lead,’” she said.

Photo credit: Melpomenem/iStock/Thinkstock

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