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Updated June, 2021
By the time I finish writing this article, I will be able to claim a “proven track record” of having written an article, which I can then add to my resume. The challenge is that this track record is both unremarkable and indistinguishable from any other content producer out there. That is…until I differentiate it with a story.
Though this example is offered tongue-in-cheek, it’s based on thousands of interactions I’ve had with Ivy Exec members during resume consultation calls. In my four years as a Senior Career Advisor, I saw this phrase, or variations of it, countless times. I never once doubted the veracity of my clients’ track record claims. The challenge is that without evidence, they remain just that, claims.
The most common area for this ‘proven track record’ phrase to appear is at the top of a resume, in the ‘executive summary‘ section. In my experience, the term, “executive summary,” is responsible for the challenges job seekers face in writing it as it creates the wrong mindset. An executive summary is typically a passive preface that is neither designed to make a point nor drive any action.
While a summary is useful for capturing the breadth of an experienced candidate’s career, on a resume, there is no time for any text that doesn’t make a point or drive action. This is why I believe that you should instead open with a pitch instead of a summary. Ideally, you should aim to begin answering the only question the employer is really asking…“why should we hire you?” Your executive
summary pitch should start there — and waste no time in proving your proven track record.
How to Actually Prove Your “Proven Track Record”
Go ahead and read or recall your current executive summary. Ask yourself, “is there proof of my track record and would I hire myself if I read this summary?” If the answer is, “No,” then we have some work to do together.
When I guide clients in crafting their executive pitches, I like to start with the format and then address content. Your ‘executive pitch’ should typically be a 3-5 line paragraph at the top of your resume, immediately after your name and contact details. The reason I suggest a paragraph is that you are trying to tell a story. Bullet points leave the onus on the reader to connect the dots and I want you to be in control of your narrative. We want your summary to be short and impactful.
In writing your pitch, your intention should be to demonstrate: What’s In It For the Employer (WIIFE). Think, “what results have I achieved in my career that would demonstrate my benefit to this employer and how can I prove it to them?” Adopting this mindset is how your proven track record moves from claim into evidence status. Your goal is to grab your reader’s attention and motivate them to read further.
Also read: Making of a Modern Resume
The notion of “level-setting” refers to describing the scope and scale of your career and responsibilities. Providing this information will allow your reader to quickly calibrate your candidacy to see if it matches the vacant role. For example:
PMO head with 15+ years’ experience managing portfolios ranging from $50-$100M and leading global IT teams of up to 100.
This opening sentence packs in solid/actionable details that will immediately tell your reader who you are and your level of experience in key areas: 1) years of experience; 2) project portfolio value; and 3) team leadership. Rather than a generic claim of a “proven track record of leadership,” you have just proven what your leadership track record actually looks like.
Your value proposition is your chance to offer the key result(s) that demonstrate your ability to impact a business. Where possible, try to leverage metrics to make concrete what you can deliver, based on past performance. For example:
Delivered over $200M in cost savings to date, while serving as a strategic business partner.
In this case, the employer is able to see a critical result that this role is responsible for. This might well be a pain-point that you have now shown you can alleviate. Rather than a “proven track record of generating multi-million dollar savings,” you have just proven the value you bring.
Also read: 3 Resume “Power Moves” Only Older Executives Can Make
When writing a resume, always remember that you are competing against a host of candidates just as qualified as you. I often saw sales leaders mention their ability to exceed quotas. I would gently push back, reminding them that this fact doesn’t make them unique. Most sales leaders could say the same. What would make them more unique might be the margin by which they generally beat their quotas or how they did it.
With professional branding, I encourage clients to ask themselves the following question. “What makes me different, unique, or better than someone else who is equally qualified for this role?” Answering this question will help you set yourself apart from the competition and hopefully provided a memorable data point in a stack of resumes. Continuing with the example:
Experience building PMO/shared services functions from scratch for two separate organizations and transforming one IT department from cost to profit center.
Other candidates may have built a PMO or profitably managed an IT department. If you happen to have done them both, that’s how you can stand out from the pack. Rather than a “proven track record of delivering key initiatives,” you have shared unique aspects of your career that help brand you.
Putting it all together
If you can incorporate level-setting, value proposition and personal branding into your executive pitch, it will read like this:
PMO head with 15+ years’ experience managing portfolios ranging from $50-$100M and leading global IT teams of up to 100. Delivered over $200M in cost savings to date, while serving as a strategic business partner. Experience building PMO/shared services functions from scratch for two separate organizations and transforming one IT department from cost to profit center.
The final result is a concise but powerful and informative executive pitch that should get the attention of any reader. There is not one unsubstantiated claim, and the “proven track record” is immediately available.
Think of this first paragraph on your resume as a promise. From this strong starting point, the rest of your resume should fulfill that promise by telling the specific stories behind the achievements cited, and more. Remember to give context, provide evidence, and be specific with the write-up of your experience section. Don’t tell employers about your responsibilities, we all have them, tell them about your impact.
If you are able to do this, by the close of your resume, you will not only have a proven track record, but also one that clearly stands out from the competition.