Résumé writing: Focus on Outcomes

Take a look at this snippet taken from a resume:

Senior Engineer in the Sales Trading development team within Citi Equities Technology. In this role, my responsibilities include:

  • Working with desk traders and market connectivity teams on several features.
  • Software development primarily in Java on Linux with some Perl, Solaris as well.
  • Ensuring high quality code using unit testing and other practices.
  • Driving quality improvement & cost reduction initiatives.

As a hiring manager reading this resume, it’ll be really hard for me to get a good sense of the candidate based on the above snippet. The entire snippet reads like a job description. Isn’t that good? If the description of the job that the candidate claims to have done matches the description of the job that I’m hiring for, isn’t that all I need as a hiring manager? Not quite.

The reality is that there’s only so many ways to describe a software engineering role. So if resumes are nothing more than descriptions of the job, every resume starts to look the same and there’s nothing to differentiate one candidate from another. Thus, a resume written like a job description is failing at its primary function: getting the hiring manager to pick it out of a stack and shortlist the candidate for an interview.

Now take a look at this snippet:

Senior Engineer in the Sales Trading development team within Citi Equities Technology. Worked in a team of four that developed PTE – the primary trading system used by Citi’s Program Trading desk globally.

  • On-boarded the Program Trading desk onto two new exchanges, collaborating with desk traders and the market connectivity teams.
  • Built a FIX to Proprietary messaging adapter that allowed 70MM$ notional daily order flow to be routed to smaller markets and also serve as a failover route to the larger markets.
  • Migrated dozens of Java services and Perl/Shell scripts from Solaris to Linux yielding infra cost savings of $90K/year.
  • Spearheaded the Development Maturity Model, a development efficiency improvement program within Global Equities. Raised team’s score by 54%.

It’s for the same role but is now re-written to focus on tangible achievements and outcomes. There’s still a job description but it’s limited to the first couple of lines to provide context. It’ll be hard to come across another resume that looks exactly like this!

Not only does such an outcomes focussed resume stand out in front of a hiring manager, it also provides them with data that they can use to make a rough assessment of the level at which this person performs. This makes it easier for them to determine if the candidate would be a good fit for the scope/level of the role being hired for.

Writing resumes like this isn’t very hard to do. While the earlier example is from my own resume, let me share another example from the resume of a friend whom I recently helped with this exercise.

Here’s a section of his resume from before:

As a senior technologist in the Private Banking Technology group at {Large Bank}, I am responsible for:

  • Development of pre-trade disclosure automation platform which is part of digitization strategy of the bank to ensure all risks are disclosed accurately.
  • Heading the architecture and implementation of price discovery and execution platform for Foreign Exchange Options trading.
  • Participate in wider code and design review meetings to ensure adherence to clean coding and other agile practices.
  • Screening and interviewing software engineers for the division.

It mentions some specifics of the role but by and large, the entire section still reads like a job description.

Now here’s the same role, re-written to be outcomes oriented:

As a senior technologist in the Private Banking Technology group at {Large Bank}, I have:

  • Owned the greenfield buildout of FX Options price discovery and execution platform which enabled sales traders to efficiently get the best deal across the street and also reduced the manual booking efforts of Middle Office team by 80-90%
  • Onboarded majority of FX Vanilla options to new automated flow supporting a monthly trading volume of nearly $125M
  • Provided valuable data insights to senior management on key metrics related to platform usage and influenced future strategy
  • Mentored software engineers to help them establish best practices for software development and automated testing to ensure fast time to market

Hopefully, you will agree that the re-written version is much more differentiated and impactful.

A great piece of career advice that I received more than a decade ago was to update my resume every six to twelve months regardless of whether I was looking for a new job. The act of updating the resume provides the catalyst you need to reflect on your own career growth. If in six months or an year you have nothing meaningful to add to your resume, then clearly you aren’t growing in the role and it’s time to explore new options.

Obviously, implementing this advice would be rather difficult with a resume that reads like a job description! An outcomes oriented resume forces you to take stock of your career and be honest about your own progression.

So go ahead and take a good look at your resume. If it doesn’t mention what you’ve actually achieved, spend a little time and make it outcome oriented today!