If there is one document people have trouble writing, it’s the resume. No one is born ready to explain all of their skills and accomplishments in one perfectly formatted page. Advocating for yourself can be anxiety inducing. And it can be difficult to know precisely what a potential employer is looking for.
While there is lots of advice about how to create and polish a resume there’s one particular piece of advice that I wish I had learned earlier. Be able to directly state what you have accomplished and be ready to defend why that accomplishment matters.
The Key Performance Indicator (KPI)
In the business world, companies want to understand exactly how much value their assets and employees are generating. To do so, they often use a metric called a “key performance indicator”, or KPI. KPIs help executives evaluate projects and make decisions. If you want to be evaluated well and be selected for a job, write KPIs for yourself! It’s a straightforward method for supercharging any resume.
What makes a good KPI?
For every project you work on, start keeping track of metrics or accomplishments that you are directly responsible for. Working at a restaurant? Keep track of how many orders you fulfilled or how many happy customers you served. Helping a business create social media presence? Save the analytics and keep track of the reach you helped generate. Are you responsible for sales? Recruiters will love to see you know your stats and the amount of value you generated. The key here is being specific. I don’t mean you need to have a precise mathematical measurement for everything you did. You just need to have some sort of metric demonstrating your contribution. Great resumes often have a number or percentage in every bullet point.
Original: Created dashboard to demonstrate sales data to account executives
With KPI: Created dashboard highlighting $120,000 of cost savings
Original: Washed dishes at a local restaurant
With KPI: Utilized new techniques to speed up dishwashing by 23%
Regardless of what you’re doing, find a way to track what you consider success. Not only will this give you awesome data to put directly into your professional portfolio, it will also help you clarify what you want to get out of a job or project. Defining metrics like this also shows potential employers that you have the ability to set, track, and execute on long-term goals. If you can successfully identify key indicators and demonstrate improvement over time, it will speak volumes on your problem solving ability.
How to Discuss KPIs.
Discussing and presenting KPIs in a way that will boost your professional portfolio comes down to the two rules “Be able to directly state what you have accomplished and be ready to defend why that accomplishment matters.” The first stage are the KPIs themselves. However, once you have explained your accomplishments be prepared to expand on them and defend their importance. The accomplishment may be that you analyzed some important numbers in a spreadsheet. Why it matters may be that your analysis helped make a sale. The accomplishment may be that you helped write a report. Why it matters may be that the report was sent to 100 employees to help them understand a complex topic. Here are a few metrics you can measure in your KPIs.
- Increased sales/revenue
- Decreased costs
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Increased efficiency
(For example here’s one section of my current resume)
As long as you can back up your claims with reasonable logic, you’re allowed to get creative with your KPIs. Have you ever seen a cashier at a grocery store check the carton of eggs to make sure none are cracked? That simple action could be part of a KPI! Every time they check a carton, they’re saving the company from an upset customer and costly return. If you can demonstrate specific actions you took to improve your project or organization, it not only shows you know what you’re talking about, but also proves you understand how to repeat those results.
Regardless of the projects you’ve worked on or what you want to do with your professional portfolio, focusing on KPIs is a straightforward way to gain an advantage over the competition. Even if most people in your current job would never track KPIs, you should take the time to identify a few. In addition to showcasing your achievements, the act of including KPIs in the first place demonstrates a strong ability to work towards goals and problem solve. Start tracking your personal KPIs today.