We are all familiar with the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. There is some debate as to who coined this phrase but little argument over its meaning and truth. However, I am going to be so bold as to suggest modifying this saying to “A few numbers are worth a thousand words”. At least when it comes to a resume. Allow me to explain myself.
When a picture is used to sell a product or convey a message, one is selected that will portray an image with a clear message, catch the viewers attention quickly and easily and will have a high impact on the viewer. If the desired result is achieved then that picture was worth a thousand words and got the attention of the viewer a whole lot quicker and more efficiently than words could have. Similarly, when an advertisement is attempting to convince the listener or viewer of something, numbers can be worth a thousand words as well. As an example, say a candidate was running for office and wanted to quickly and effectively communicate his/her credentials to potential voters. Which would have a stronger impact: “In the past I have created jobs, cut taxes, increased benefits to the disabled and provided safer streets for our citizens.” Or: “In the past 4 years I have created 50% more jobs, cut taxes by 20%, increased benefits to cover 40% more of our disabled population and cut crime by 30%.”
The same is true for a bank or hedge fund wanting to impress investors with its ability to successfully manage money and provide safe returns. The bank might quote that it has $x under management and averages a return of x% for the past x number of years.
Recently, I heard an advertisement for the Indian Point Power Plant extolling its benefits and safety. The ad highlighted that if the plant were to close all of our energy costs would be much higher. When I heard that I thought to myself “What does that mean? What is the definition of much? It can mean $1 per year to one person or $1000 per year to another.” The vagueness of the word “much” left me doubting their words and skeptical of the whole ad. I wondered why they didn’t put a value or percentage to the rise in energy costs.
The same can occur on our resumes. Stating that we significantly reduced spending may mean 1% or 75%. The ambiguity may turn off some hiring managers. If you actually had a significant impact on spending, then state the number. Sometimes a percentage is more effective and sometimes the actual dollar amount is appropriate. This applies to all positive achievements. Stating the percentage by which you reduced errors, customer service was improved, sales increased, revenue increased, etc, tells a stronger story than merely saying it without any quantifiable measurements. How many people did you hire, how many users did you service, how many clients did you have, how many clients did you add, how many hours did you save…. The examples can go on and on. We each have to look at our careers and quantify our achievements from our own personal backgrounds regardless of our positions. Numbers talk – they convey a message. So if you have numbers that can tell a positive story – use them!
This is my justification for making a modification to that age-old saying: “A picture is few numbers are worth a thousand words”.