Resume Tip: Quantify – but within reason

Most people have heard that it is important to quantify things on your resume.  Numbers don’t lie.  Well actually they can, but that’s another story.  But the point is that quantifying a responsibility or result can help the hiring manager better understand the scale of your achievement. The corporate world is very numbers- and result-driven. So you might think the major problem is that candidates don’t quantify enough on their resumes. True enough. But would you believe that sometimes people actually go overboard when quantifying items on their resume?  It can be very problematic and irksome for the reader. In fact, take this quiz: 

Which one of the following is the best example of quantification:

a.  Managed human resource activities for an organization with 300 members.

b.  Supervised maintenance for the auxiliary systems of a $2.8 billion submarine.

c.  Developed the annual training program for an infantry battalion of 500+ personnel along with vehicles and equipment valued at $450 million.

d. Led aircraft maintenance team for a fighter squadron that accumulated over 5,000 flight-hours over the course of the year. 

e. Arranged shipment for 45 tanks, 8 armored personnel carriers, 22 Humvees, 15 5-ton trucks, 24 trailers, and 4 recovery vehicles to a training event 3,250 miles away. 

To be clear, each of these items is very impressive. They are the kinds of things that impress moms, dads, friends, and neighbors. Yet an interviewer might say ‘meh’ to some of them.

So which is the best one? We would choose Answer A. You might think, “Really? That’s just admin stuff.” But when compared to the others, it’s the only quantification that is both simply stated and actually relevant to the role. That sentence describes the population of customers that the person had to serve, so it gives a fairly good sense of their scope of responsibility. 

Why are the other ones not so good?

b. Does it really matter how much the submarine cost? We get it, a nuclear-powered submarine is a very expensive piece of hardware. But whether it’s $100 million or $100 billion, does it make a difference when the person’s role is to oversee the maintenance of auxiliary equipment on board that submarine?

c. On this one, the person is emphasizing a training program which is probably quite extensive. Yet, why does it matter how much equipment the organization had? The equipment is not the training audience.

d. Flight-hours? A maintainer within the fighter squadron would know if 5,000 flight hours is significant. But how does that relate to the maintenance program? Granted, there is a likely correlation, but not one that would be clear to a person with no background in that environment.

e. This quantification is relevant but it goes a little overboard in that it is overly specific. In the grand scheme of things, the type of vehicles probably doesn’t matter. Also, does the exact mileage matter? Instead, the person could have simplified it and said: Arranged for the cross-country shipment of 118 vehicles and 24 trailers. Another option would be to describe the equipment as 142 pieces of rolling stock

In summary: Numbers good! Relevant numbers better!!