Selling yourself means demonstrating your value. Use these simple tips to make your case.
By Kevin Fogarty
Common wisdom from almost every resume writer, career coach, recruiter and hiring manager: Your resume should focus less on listing the jobs you've had than demonstrating the value you brought to each.
It's great advice, but not always easy to follow. If you're in sales, you can expound on how you performed against quota. In accounting, you can cite return on capital; in operations, you can enumerate reductions in cost for manufacturing or distribution.
Many other corporate jobs, however, are harder to quantify. Nevertheless, to command a senior executive salary, it’s essential you can justify your return on investment in dollars and cents.
In fact, there are cost justifications for even the most non-quant job and non-numerical credentials that both hiring managers and recruiters will recognize, according to Sharon Jautz, an HR consultant specializing in online and digital media after more than 20 years as an HR executive at companies such as Forbes Inc. and Playboy Enterprises Inc.
The first step is quantification.
"Every job is quantifiable to some degree, even if that's not the only thing you use to judge it," Jautz said. "At Forbes, I hired more than 100 people in a given year without using a recruiter. There's a (budget) number for hiring; dividing by the number I hired gives you a cost per hire. Even facilities management has that kind of quantification; if you switch from one water supplier to another, that's a demonstrable impact on cost."
Use common process-management or efficiency-modeling techniques to quantify the non-quantifiable parts of your job.
Read up on goals or performance reviews you’ve received in your career, and convert your personal priorities or accomplishments into financial metrics that show how they would have benefitted the company – that's why you were rated on them in the first place.
There are three categories you can use to quantify your accomplishments: revenue, personal or staff productivity, and process efficiency.
Every job deals with numbers to some degree; if yours involves cash flow in any way, focus on that first. Talk about the number of prospects you reeled in, deals you closed or any increase in the volume of business for which you were responsible.
Even if your job had nothing directly do to with landing the business or making a sale, talk about your accomplishments in the context of revenue. Note your accomplishment as a key part of the effort. Adapting Jautz's example above, you might try: "Slashed hiring expenses and cost-effectively built top-flight staff in a division that increased revenue xx percent over two years."
Personal and staff productivity
Time is money; literally. The company had to pay for your salary and benefits and those of your staff. Thus, anything you did to make them more effective reduced the amount of time they required to accomplish tasks – whether it was the design of a product, marketing, closing the books or any other corporate function – and afforded the company a quantifiable increase in productivity.
As a manager, did you have to absorb the workload of another department without adding staff? Did you have to demonstrate increases in workload or the amount of work your staff did without increasing hours or pay? Convert that to cash and claim it as productivity increases that go straight to the bottom line with a direct reduction in SG&A.
To make it easer, estimate the salaries of the people that work with or for you and break it down by the hour. If you worked in a department of 10 people, each of whom made an average of $100,000 per year, working eight hours per day, five days per week, 52 weeks per year, each hour you saved for the staff was worth $480.77 to the company:
A full day is $3,846. Cut the length of a weekly staff meeting by 30 minutes (480.77/2 *52), and you've saved the company $12,500.02.
Did you figure out how to handle a trade show or other group trip with two people rather than four? Figure in the travel and full-day pay of the people who didn't go as savings you created.
Process efficiency is productivity on steroids. Rather than reducing the amount of time it takes a department to do things, you reduce the time it takes a whole company or several departments to do things. A lawyer who reduced the amount of time it takes for several departments to sign off on a particular deal or complete a set of process requirements made each of those departments more efficient.
Multiply the single department above by the number of departments and the number of people in each, and you've got a number that gets impressive pretty quickly. Even if you're only saving time for the top managers of each division, there are a lot more zeros in their salaries than those of their employees; saving their time adds up even faster.
If a deal or product or event can't go forward without the process you completed, look at the total cost of the development of that whole process and estimate how much time you saved.
Making sure a product could be launched two days earlier gave the company two extra days to sell it; reduced the downtime of manufacturing and distribution networks; and gave every department involved in its launch, promotion or sale two extra days to do other productive work.
Put a dollar sign in front of those numbers, and you've given a prospective employer a quick and easy way to understand the benefit of hiring you.
Even if you can't correlate revenue to your specific job, provide the numbers you can. In customer service, put in the number of customers your department was responsible for and the increases in customer satisfaction. In distribution, put in the volume of shipping and reductions in time or cost of transport, breakage or returns.
No matter the job, there are a number of cases, number of customers, number of hours, number of applications or RFPs or payroll cycles for which you were responsible for. Put in some digits to give a hiring manager an idea of how busy you were or how big the division was that you supported.
Putting ROI into practice
HRLadder member Suzanne Frawley had to translate what she had done (in past jobs) into value numbers and savings during the resume revamp that eventually landed her a job as learning and development manager an office of German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim.
Sales is especially numbers-heavy when it comes to hiring, according to Russell Watkins, principal of Executive Search Professionals, a search firm in Texas. That makes it easier to use hard data to justify your compensation, but means you have to use a lot more detail and be prepared for more verification than people in less measurable jobs.
Without giving away competitive information about who the customers were or even how they landed one, candidates for sales jobs have to list as much detail as they can about quotas and sales growth, Watkins said. That includes details like how much monthly recurring revenue they generate, the number of new customers per quarter and the amount of new sales per quarter.
"I hate to say this, but if they don't put enough information on their resumes, they're not going to get looked at," Watkins said. "They should explain all the tools they used and the systems they worked on, whether they were in direct or channel sales, the type of vertical market, what percentage of plan they were under or over. Without that detail, some people just won't call you."
Kevin Fogarty is a writer, editor, and columnist with 20+ years' experience covering the technology, science and healthcare stories that make a difference with traditional fact-checking, source-vetting, dig-for-the-real-story journalism adapted to new formats, platforms audiences and news cycles.