If you’re a career-oriented marketer, you know how important it is to have an on-point resume. After all, if you can’t efficiently market yourself, then why should an organization trust you to market their brand and products?
One of the most common pieces of advice marketers hear when it comes to resume optimization is to list demonstrably analytical evidence of the value they have provided their employers. It’s certainly something we as marketing recruitment consultants preach constantly to any hopeful candidates we meet, though still a huge resume booster that often gets overlooked by many professionals.
However, even the marketers who heed that advice often don’t follow it to completion. They get 80% of the way there… and then fall just short of knocking it out of the park.
In today’s marketing environment where everything is measurable, there’s really no excuse not to be able to report on your success and show the difference you’ve made. But simply listing numbers isn’t enough. There’s one thing you must remember to include when you’re listing all your accomplishments: context.
The Importance of Perspective
Professional accomplishments, like everything else, are relative.
Listing a fact is meaningless in a vacuum. When you’re explaining how you’ve helped your employers grow and succeed in the past, it’s important to provide contextual information. Without it, it’s impossible to tell how significant your contributions were.
Consider these examples:
- You drove $5 million in annual sales? That’s great…unless your goal was $20 million.
- You doubled your Facebook following? Not bad…unless you only had one follower to begin with.
- You manage a lead database with has 1,000 entries? Seems low…unless you started from nothing.
- You updated an entire website to be mobile responsive? Impressive…unless you were 6 months behind schedule.
You get the idea. Without critical context, those stats can be meaningless at best and misleading at worst. In order for the content of your resume to actually mean anything, you must be able to provide enough details to tell a story.
How to Create Context
How, exactly, you can create that much-needed context will vary heavily on a per-case basis. It will depend on your line of work, the scale of the organization you were working in, and the specific situation the business was in at the time. When attempting to tell the story of your time with a current or former employer, consider the following:
- YoY comparisons: Showing your growth in KPIs on a yearly basis either with raw numbers or a percent increase displays consistent improvement.
- Timing: Giving time frames helps show that you were able to do something remarkably quickly, stick to a schedule, or perform reliably.
- Budgets and headcount: Explaining the resources you had at your disposal can show how you’re able to do more with less.
- Industry and corporate benchmarks: Showing you were able to deliver results better than competitors or counterparts within your organization.
- Your personal and delegated goals: Listing how you exceeded expectations assigned to you by management or taken upon yourself personally.
- Specific clients, projects, campaigns and initiatives you worked on: Naming well-known, prestigious and large-scale operations gives a sense of scale and gravity to your work.
- Information on the state of the business: Especially helpful if the company is not particularly well known. Adding context on the size of the business (number of employees, annual revenue) and the direction it was heading (growing, maintaining, struggling) makes your statements much more meaningful.
- Recognition and reward: Naming formal or informal occasions where your work was recognized as being exceptional, either within the organization (“Employee of the Year”) or externally (awards by trade organizations for a stand-out ad campaign)
For example, consider the examples I listed before. With minor changes, they become incredibly more impactful:
- Increased annual sales 20% to $5 million a year
- Grew Facebook following from 50,000 to 100,000 in 18 months
- Built a database of 1,000 qualified leads with clean data from scratch in two months
- Managed a 3-person team that converted a 600 page website to mobile-responsive under budget and on schedule
You don’t have to write a novel or get extremely detailed to provide context and stand out to top marketing recruiting firms. Sometimes just a little extra background information is all you need.
Managing Proprietary Information
One challenge that frequently crops up when detailing success on a resume is how to approach sensitive corporate information. And if you’re going to be adding even more data for context, you’ll have to be more and more discrete with how you share it.
In many situations, this won’t be a major problem. But you might find yourself in an instance where the information related to your success could be confidential or competitively compromising if it fell in the wrong hands. When that happens, you need to find alternative ways to share your experiences without giving up key details.
It’s up to you to get creative with how to balance confidentiality in your marketing recruitment with context. In general, it’s usually safe to speak in terms of percent increases in growth if you don’t think you should list hard numbers (like sales figures, budgets etc.). And if you’re unable to list a specific project you worked on due to an NDA (like a client name), you can give other details (ex: “executed ad campaign for major restaurant brand”).