The Data-Driven Resume

resume-envelopesYour resume tells a story at each leg of your job-seeking journey. It describes you to recruiters, hiring managers, and ultimately, other executives. Very often, it quietly shares a story after you’ve been hired. It is your ambassador, and unless your resume is carefully crafted, it may be telling the right story for its readers, but not for you.

It is no small challenge constructing a resume that captures both your strengths and your vision for the next leg of your career. Here’s a simple, data-driven approach to ensure your value is clearly communicated. And, if you’re an occasional poker player, you should get an extra kick out of it.

Resumes are read on gut. The individuals behind them are hard to quantify. Evaluating them – and you by extension – is a bet. Resumes present a sequence of events, stated interests, goals, credentials, extracurricular interests, and key relationships. When you’ve considered the resumes of others, you’ve probably been aware that identifying a candidate’s fit for skills, culture and leadership feels more like art than science.

Resumes “seem.” Candidates seem to have the skills. They seem like they’d like the position. They seem like they are a match for a set of challenges and opportunities. So, how you seem is important, and finding a way to measure this “seeming” is critical to finding the right opportunities and avoiding the wrong ones. If you don’t seem right, you may never event get into the room.

Here’s a simple, two-part exercise to validate if the message your resume tells is the one you want to send. You’re going to do this numerically, and you are going to measure how close your carefully crafted resume is to getting you the right job. At the end of this process, you’ll have insight on how to place a better “bet” on a successful job outcome.

If you’re game, there’s a third step at the very end.

Step 1 – Your Five Things

Set your resume aside. Get it out of eyesight. It has nothing to do with Step 1.

If you have a box of poker chips tucked into a drawer somewhere, go find it. If you don’t have a box of poker chips, find 50 equally dimensioned items. Monopoly pieces, for example, would work. As a last resort, open a spreadsheet.

Make a list of the top five activities where you want to spend your workday. These should be activities that are tied both to personal satisfaction and creating value for others. Make them count. If you wonder why “five,” then read Warren Buffet’s 5/25 advice. It’s a powerful anecdote around focus, clarity and ambition.

Imagine that you could do no other tasks than these. Don’t rush this, or you may end up in the wrong job. If you need to exhaustively list possibilities out first and then whittle down to five, that’s fine. Make each them as simple as a newspaper headline and no longer. These are your Buffet 5.

Let them sit overnight.

When you come back to them, draw six circles 3” on a piece of a blank piece of paper. Below each circle write each of your five things. Leave the sixth circle blank. You won’t need it until Step 2.

Open your box of poker chips. Take out 50. Set the remaining aside. Evenly divide them into five of the circles.

Imagine your workday equally divided between each of these activities. Let’s say it’s a 10-hour day with two hours for each activity. (It’s an easy day for you.) Unlike with a ranked list from 1-5, you’ll immediately notice that you’re doing too much of one of your five and not enough of another.

So, redistribute them as needed, completely by feel. The things you love the most, of course, get the most chips. Take your time as if your work satisfaction depended on it. It might.

For example, if mentoring is your most meaningful and satisfying gift, stack these higher. Give them twenty and borrow from the others. If framing and selling a strategic vision is your goal or strength, then bump these numbers. It’s not rocket science. Don’t count the numbers out yet, just intuit the distribution of your workday in a tactile manner. This, by the way, is why the poker chips rather than digits is so useful. You’re betting on your future as if you are on a roulette table. Excel users, you won’t have this benefit, of course.

Above all, don’t rush it. You are creating the work life you want for the foreseeable future. Take your time.

Now count. You’re done with the tactile and intuitive part. Find your percentages. If you haven’t already, open Excel and save them in a file. If you do nothing else with this information, you can interview potential roles with a very close eye to how close it might be to satisfying your 5 Things.

Picking a job against these numbers is still a bet, but it’s an informed bet.

Step 2 – Measure Your Resume

Now, find three or four people that aren’t part of your hiring process. They should be able to give you 15 focused minutes of their time. They shouldn’t know anything about your job search. They shouldn’t read resumes for a living, but ideally, they do read resumes for their own hiring. You could do this in a Starbucks.

Have each of them identify – separately from the others – the five things from your resume that they believe you most want to do. Not what they know about you. Not what you’ve told them. Just the resume’s five things. Their responses should be as tight as newspaper headlines. You know the drill for the rest.

Enter their numbers in a spreadsheet.

For each set of numbers, indicate how closely their evaluations satisfy your own. Again, intuitively stack the strength of each match. Evaluate how much their weightings correspond to yours. “They didn’t know I wanted to mentor at all” is a zero. If they knew “strategic supply chain optimization was key” then weight it high. This time, you’ll end up with matches against your vision.

Where their weightings don’t correspond to your own, put excess chips in the sixth circle. This sixth circle is a holder for complete misses. These would be wasted hours on things that aren’t most important to you. Repeat this process for each individual. This is your resume speaking for you. You are eavesdropping on your ambassador.

Average each of their results out, and you have a clear idea of what you want, what others think you want, and the delta between them. If you look at these aggregate numbers and imagine a day where 62% of the time you’re not doing what you want to be doing, your resume isn’t there yet. The individuals up and down the hiring chain are assessing somebody you don’t know for a workday you don’t want.

This approach relies on a fundamental premise. Everything’s a bet, and informed numbers get you to a better bet. Whether it’s a job we chose to take, a move to a new city, or a new hire you are bringing on to your team. Like all decisions, the more you can rely on informed numbers, the more likely you are to win.

And here’s one final step that requires no additional direction.

After 90 days of employment, consider the workday you actually ended up with. Evaluate your real job and split it into the six piles.

Was this the job you wanted?



Adam Nathan

Adam Nathan

Adam is the CEO and Founder of the Bartlett System, a Brooklyn-based consultancy focused on helping chief executives transform their organization with key performance indicators. Adam helps leaders find the right KPIs to align, focus and lead their teams.

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