Last week I talked about how to make your resume stand out from the crowd. Now, let’s go even deeper.
Before you even begin to put your resume together, consider gathering some case studies—instances from your own professional life that showcase your value to prospective employers.
For example, let’s say that you worked on a project last year where you established deadlines with your client. Then, your company went through a merger or transition, and the deadlines were suddenly no longer in accordance with the original plan. You, and your team, had to readjust to make things workable for everyone, and keep the client happy. How did you shine in this process?
How did you show the type of leadership, resourcefulness, and flexibility that your new employer might be looking for? These are the kinds of questions a case study answers.
Instead of panicking when things got complicated, let’s say you went immediately to your department head to work out a new calendar, and then prioritized each project item according to the new timeline. In the end, thanks to your resourcefulness, your team delivered the final product two days ahead of schedule. Plus, you saved your company 10% by negotiating with a new vendor.
Whether it’s bringing in more money, changing processes to streamline operations, coming in ahead of schedule on a deadline, or building a team that really went the distance, your professional accomplishments are probably more numerous than you think. Think back and pick specific instances to focus on, then list your actions and decisions step by step in chronological order. Your case studies might be just a series of notes or bulleted items, or they might read like narratives. The format doesn’t matter: what matters is that you’re using the process to familiarize yourself with your own “brag sheet.”
Once you have three or four solid case studies, try to wrap them into your resume. You can do this by dropping hints in the descriptive section of your employment history, or building keywords into your summary. The point is, you want the hiring manager who interviews you to ask about these specific instances—and when they do, you’ll have your talking points rehearsed and ready to go. If you get nervous in interviews, you can even bring your case studies with you and read from them. (However, you don’t want to include them in your resume package: until your interviewer is interested, they’ll just be clutter.)
Don’t think of your case studies as self-centered bravado. It’s hard, I know: sometimes acknowledging your own accomplishments is much harder than acknowledging your failings. But even if it’s an uncomfortable process at first, building case studies can help you target and hone your resume, streamline the interview process, and make it clear to a hiring manager that you’re prepared, detail-oriented, and not afraid to shine.