Impact Over Function

A large number of the clients who contact me for help finding a job or figuring out a smart career move inevitably wind up redoing their resume at my urging, even if they are perfectly satisfied with the way they’re presenting themselves. That’s because most resumes tend to focus on functions performed rather than on impact.

A useful, simple analogy comes from my background in advertising. Think of a food product like spaghetti sauce. If I tell you that it contains tomatoes, spices, olive oil, and garlic that’s fine, but so does just about every other spaghetti sauce. What could set mine apart would be to go beyond the ingredients and make either a factual claim (“Preferred by 3 out of 4 who tried it”) or a preemptive one (“It’ll make you feel like you’ve eaten in Rome”). Either claim has a performance dimension that’s lacking in just the ingredient list.

Functional verbs

  • Responsible for
  • Oversee
  • Coordinate
  • Perform
  • Attend
  • Manage
  • Administer
  • Participate
  • Execute

These words all describe a function. If you think about it, even a terrible employee could accurately claim to perform these functions. They provide no indication of accomplishment, result, or impact. They’re entries on a checklist.

Now that might be fine for someone just starting their career with little or no prior experience. But for everyone else, it’s essential to focus not just on what you do/did, but the fact that you made a difference. When possible, seek to start the bullet points describing your accomplishments with “muscular verbs.” Verbs like:

Muscular verbs

  • Strengthen
  • Spearhead
  • Create
  • Improve
  • Develop
  • Initiate
  • Advance
  • Persuade
  • Resolve

Using this impactful approach to your resume coaching will ensure that you communicate that you did stuff and that what you did makes a difference! And that’s going to impress a potential employer a lot more.