MBA Career Advice: Three Tests for Your Resume: The CEO Test

In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews. 

Once your bullet points make sense to a lay person, what you have accomplished can truly shine. Or, if your resume is like most people’s, your complete lack of accomplishment will stick out like a sore thumb. That’s not because you haven’t accomplished meaningful things in your career; it’s because you haven’t structured your bullets to emphasize results.
MBA Career Advice: Three Tests for Your Resume: The CEO Test - mbaMission

Why does this matter? Again, remember that you are seeking more responsibility; you want to manage and lead; you want to have a bigger impact. Your ability to do each of those things rests on your ability to understand the impact you have already had and how the work you have done has influenced real business outcomes, even if you were the junior-most member of the team (take note consultants, accountants, and bankers!!). Even in a team environment, you need to uncover your meaningful individual contributions to the shared outcome.

So that means that each bullet point on your resume needs to contain a result. The outcome and impact needs to be visible and, where possible, measured. Did your work lead to estimated time or money saved? Did the relationship you built result in a quantifiable sale? Did your analysis drive a key recommendation that changed the final result of the project in measurable ways? Your bullet points need to highlight your accomplishments.

Think about this as the CEO Test. If the CEO of your company were to read that bullet point, would she shake your hand? Would she care that you did that? Or would she stare blankly with indifference? The CEO is responsible for the workings of the entire company, so he/she will likely be unconcerned with the job responsibilities of any one member of the team. Results, on the other hand, especially those that translate to the bottom line, no matter how small, are a matter of CEO concern.

You want each of your bullet points to showcase a result that you produced and where you excelled vis-a-vis expectations, targets, or peers. Do your best to measure your results in real terms—dollars or time, for example—in a way that translates directly to the bottom line wherever possible.

Consider these examples:

CEO Test Fail:

  • Responsible for managing a $10M media campaign

CEO Test Pass:

  • Initiated $10M social media campaign introducing new detergent, surpassing first-year sales targets within three months

CEO Test Fail:

  • Performed investigations to resolve customer complaints and identify broken processes

CEO Test Pass:

  • Developed a new monthly performance monitoring framework, which identified a $2M annual cost savings opportunity and a critical call center data issue in the second month

CEO Test Fail:

  • Conducted detailed analysis of client’s profit and loss statements and presented findings to team

CEO Test Pass:

  • Drove recommendation to divest three snack brands for consumer goods client by identifying key strategic misalignment in manufacturing process based on detailed profit and loss analysis

If you find yourself struggling to understand the results of your work, consider discussing this with your managers and teammates. They can sometimes help you connect what you did to the outcome that resulted. If you ensure your bullets convey the impact you have had in real business terms, you will already be going a long way to demonstrating your competence and professional potential.

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