Your resume: “So What?”
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A great tool I learned from one manager when creating any given communication, such as a presentation, a whitepaper, or probably most important for you here, your resume, is to challenge the writing with the question: “So What?”
This is because it puts you in the mindset of the receiver of the information. Remember, as a writer of any of the things I mentioned, you already know the information. You’re not writing for you; you’re writing for someone else. That can honestly be difficult to do, and it takes practice to develop the skill.
So, I’m going to give you two examples here of resume content, one of which has been challenged with “So What?”, and the other which hasn’t.
I’m not telling you which is which until after. I flipped a coin about which should go first. See if you agree with my opinion about the change in quality between the two.
BTW: There are a lot of different formats you can use for resume information; I’m just presenting this in the simplest way possible. Focus on the content and what you can tell about the person, not the layout.
1/1/2016 to 12/31/2019
- Managed projects of up to 25 people, budget up to $6M/Y, and up to 12 months.
- Handled several projects at any given time, frequently using agile approaches.
- Project subjects covered public website, company portal, employee time tracking.
- Supervision included developers, QA, project coordinator, UX, UIE.
- Projects delivered on time, on-budget, and with quality, strong customer relationships.
- Created critical path, project status reports, issue and risk logs.
1/1/2016 to 12/31/2019
PROJECT MANAGER - COMPANY WEBSITE, EMPLOYEE PORTAL & TIME TRACKING
- Known for reliability, customer-focus, and results-oriented problem solving.
- Typical projects: 15-25 team members, budget $4M-$6M budget, 6-12 month durations.
- Successful coordination and leadership of multidisciplinary teams including developers (SE, UIE, DB), QA, UX professionals using agile approaches.
- Maintained strong, reliable, productive relationships with Product Managers, Product Owners, and important associated stakeholders.
- A personal approach is to emphasize showing consistent, transparent, delivered results in real-time to customers, driving engagement, creating agreement, and aligning expectations with projections.
- As needed, creates agile-PM appropriate artifacts including critical path, status reports, issue/risk logs, sprint velocity charts, and projections of project earned value.
STOP, AND ANSWER THIS QUESTION:
The above examples have 6 bullet points, not unreasonable for a resume block. They list skills used, budget information, teams, and are not far from each other in length. The information is much the same about the projects, with some reorganization between the two.
About 2 or 3 bullet points are used to just give a picture of duties & scope of responsibilities (which is often typically necessary) and others are used to describe what helped them stand out from the “commodity” employee.
Given these two examples, which one is:
- More engaging to the reader?
- Tells a better story about the work and skills the person employs?
- Shows you something about their strengths beyond just being a generically skilled PM?
...and which, as I’ve led off with, has an embedded “So What?” in the bullet point?
The answer, if you haven’t gotten there, is Sample 2.
APPLYING THE “SO WHAT?” CHALLENGE IN YOUR RESUME
As I’d said, the bullets in Sample 1 are true, and not unreasonable...but they don’t make a difference to the reader. Of course you do these things! Of course you manage a group of team members & coordinate their activities!
The question at hand is why do I, the reader, care that YOU do them? How are you different and interesting to me from the other resumes I’m reading?
That’s what the “So What?” challenge does, and it made a big difference in Sample 2.
You have a thing on your resume, whatever it is. Other than your contact information, you need to challenge yourself as though you were sitting with a hiring manager and they said, “So What?” about it: What’s the point? Why do I care? Why is this important to me?
Put the answer to that question in your resume, and you’re ahead in the game by a few steps.
Look at the two samples and consider Sample 2 being an update of Sample 1 after challenging with “So What?”. It makes a difference!
Here are things that will help you with “So What?”:
- What difference did this item make to: customers, my boss, stakeholders, or my team?
- What value was added by my doing this thing?
- Is this representative of my unique style or approach to doing my job?
NOW, DO THIS:
Take your resume & polish it using the “So What?” challenge!
If you are new at this, and never played the “So What?” game before, I’d expect you to revise about 50% of the items in any job you list.
I’d suggest showing your before and after resume to a trusted friend and see if they agree that you’re adding good and understandable information to your resume. This will help you to get into the mindset of the reader/recipient of your resume, and you’ll begin to understand more and more about how your writing is received.
Remember, the purpose of the resume is to be interesting enough to get to a phone screen: show your value, stand out, and you’ll get that call!
Best wishes in your career and job-hunting success,
Ryland has two upcoming online courses. Sign up online today:
Project Management and Agility: January 7th, 2022
Business Analyst Masterclass, January 14th, 2022
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About The Author:
Ryland Leyton, CBAP, PMP, CSM, SPC4, is an avid Agile advocate & coach, business analyst, author, speaker, and educator. He has worked in the technology sector since 1998, starting off with database and web programming, gradually moving through project management and finding his passion in the BA and Agile fields. He has been a core team member of the IIBA Extension to the BABOK and the IIBA Agile Analysis Certification. Ryland has written popular books on BA Agility and career topics. He can be reached at www.RylandLeyton.com.