MBA Career Advice: Three Tests for Your Resume: The Cause and Effect 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 you have refined your understanding of the results you have produced in your work and couched each bullet on your resume in lay terms that a high school graduate could understand, it is time to make sure your bullets pass the Cause and Effect Test. If you have really thought about the impact of your work and ensured each bullet passes The CEO Test, then there is a good chance you are also passing The Cause and Effect Test. But occasionally, even though a bullet delineates a clear result, it is unclear how the candidate directly achieved that result. Let’s consider an example:

Cause and Effect Test Fail:

  • Improved margins by 26% and created $35M in new profits.

This bullet passes both of the previous tests: clearly, the CEO would care about this fact, and anyone with a high school education can follow this language. But what is unclear is exactly how the candidate achieved the result. If the reader cannot connect the dots between your actions and your results, then you will at best get partial credit for them.

Cause and Effect Test Pass:

  • Analyzed daily sales volumes and identified opportunity to increase price point in Midwest, resulting in 26% margin improvement and $35M in new profits.

Now we can see!! The candidate produced this result through her analytical skills—she looked at a big data set, extracted some valuable takeaways, and used those to drive profitability improvements. Now we want to give her a job! Let’s look at a few more.

Cause and Effect Test Fail:

  • Received exceptional promotion during a hiring freeze

Cause and Effect Test Pass:

  • Received exceptional promotion during a hiring freeze due to demonstrated excellence in client relationship management and top 10% revenue generation in class

Cause and Effect Test Fail:

  • Reduced customer dissatisfaction from 40% to 0 in three months

Cause and Effect Test Pass:

  • Reduced customer dissatisfaction from 40% to zero in three months by streamlining issue response process, training customer service team, and directly managing key relationships

Notice how much more credible the candidate appears because the cause and effect are both clear. If you ensure that each of your bullets not only conveys your results but also reveals the specific actions you took to produce them, your resume will truly help you differentiate yourself and stand out from even the most competitive field.

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