Job Advice for New College Grads

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Resume Tip – Use Numbers

Posted by James M on November 8, 2008

One of the most important tips I can give to new college graduates to make their resume shine is to “use numbers” to your advantage.  This is especially true for the “Experience” section of your resume.  What do I mean by “use numbers”?  Well, I think this is best illustrated by an example.

Let’s say you had a college job working at McDonald.  Now I’m not ragging on McDonalds, but quite frankly many people would be ashamed to put this job on their resume and assume it has no applicability to the outside world.  Moreover, they would not know how to translate their job responsibilities onto paper.  But let’s take a look at some positive things you might be able to say about the job using quantitative measures where possible:

  • Serviced over 200 customers per day
  • Handled customer complaints and resolved them in a professional manner
  • Handled cash and credit transactions of up to $1500 per day
  • Swiftly responded to food orders servicing customers at a rate of 40/hour

So simply by adding numbers to an otherwise “average” job you have shown in real world terms, that you can work in a fast paced environment, handle customer complaints, and work with large amounts of money (which in-turn demonstrates your ethics).  This isn’t merely dressing up a mundane job to make it appear inflated or more important than it is.  That is not the point.  The point is to reflect back on the subtle lessons you learned during your experiences and to scope them using a valuation. Without using a numeric measure to scope your experiences the recruiter has no way to determine and evaluate the relatively responsibilities and scope of your previous positions.

Let’s illustrate these concepts further by looking at what I think is a pretty common example of a student resume.  This one is for a student position that we actually had as part of our student government at the University of Washington (one of my good friends actually held this role).  It was a paid position managing the student body elections.  Here is an example of what a typical student might put on their resume.  It isn’t bad, but it could use some help as well see in a moment:

Work Experience
Associated Students of the University of Washington
Jan. 2003-June 2003
Elections Committee Chair

  • Managed a committee and elections budget to conduct the successful completion of the University of Washington student body elections
  • Spoke in front of large groups of students and moderated several candidate debates
  • Worked on an advertising campaign that included posters, fliers, newspaper ads, and forums to target student voters
  • Managed several voting booths and booth staff during election days

Now let’s pretend you’re an employer, what key questions might you have?  Well you might want to know several things:

  • How big was the budget you worked with?
  • How large was the committee team which you managed?
  • How many student voters were target by the election?
  • How many students attended the forums which you moderated?

Now why might they have these questions?  Well it’s simple.  If you are a recruiter and trying to evaluate a candidate managing a budget of $500, is quite different than a budget of $10,000.  Managing a team of 3 people is different than managing a team of 30.  Speaking in front of 50 people is different than speaking in front of 1,000.  I think you get the point.  What you are doing, is taking a statement that in effect means nothing–“I managed a team”–and make it means something–“I managed a group of 5 team members.”  So by using numbers you help the recruiter scope your past experiences.

I want to point out that bigger numbers don’t always imply a job that was “more important.”  Sometimes speaking in front of 10 people is harder than speaking in front of 200.  Managing a smaller team has some unique challenges that are present with larger groups.  Don’t be afraid or embarrassed if your scoped number seem insignificant to you.  If you managed a team of 2 other people or a budget of $400 then great!!  Say so!!  It isn’t the numbers themselves that are important it’s what you learned from the experience.

Now let’s apply the new found lessons we’ve learned and try adding quantitative values to our example above:

Work Experience
Associated Students of the University of Washington
Elections Committee Chair
University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Jan. 2003-June 2003

  • Coordinated the successful completion of the 2003 student body elections while managing a committee of 6 people and a budget of $5,000
  • Increased the number of candidates by over 40% and voter turnout by 4.3% (1615 total votes) over the 2002 totals
  • Moderated 2 one-hour debates of 18 candidates with over 150 students in attendance
  • Worked on an $2,000 advertising campaign including, posters, fliers, newspaper ads, and student forums to target 15,000 potential student voters

Much better!  See that all of those questions that the recruiter might have asked have been answered.  Obviously, some jobs are easier to create these scoped values for than others, but if you think hard and push yourself to be creative you can create a Experience section that “pops” with scoped values of your work.

Noticed also that I showed the results of the election.  This is a bonus tip for the day—if you worked on some sort of study or evaluation then try to discuss the impact of the project after completion or implementation.

Alright, that’s today’s tip.  Try incorporating this method into your resume and let me know the results.  Until next time.

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One Response to “Resume Tip – Use Numbers”

  1. Nice writing style. I look forward to reading more in the future.

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