MBA Career Advice: The CEO Test: Qualitative Results

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. 

Last time, we talked about the CEO Test for your resume bullets. Make sure that every line of your resume conveys a concrete and verifiable result you produced. The best results are measurable in terms of time and money, so seek to understand your bottom-line impact in everything you have done.

While concrete measures in terms of dollars and time are ideal, it won’t always be possible to showcase them. Notably, the earlier you are in your career, the harder it will be to understand how the work you do has translated into real results for your company. But you still need to ensure each bullet passes the CEO Test. In other words, they must convey an outcome the CEO would care about. For example…

CEO Test Fail:

  • Implemented training program for all 300 employees for environmental awareness

CEO Test Pass:

  • Reduced environmental non-compliance 40% during internal audits on manufacturing floor through company-wide awareness programs and training

Again, notice how much more compelling this bullet is because it highlights the outcome of the candidate’s work. The impact of training, mentoring, and education initiatives often can’t be quantified in terms of the bottom line. But if you dig a little bit, you might be surprised how many things can be measured or are already being tracked by your company or your clients. Be careful not to overreach or make up numbers. If you offer measures that stray from dollars and time, make sure that any numbers you cite (in this case 40% non-compliance reduction) can be backed up with empirical proof.

Sometimes quantifiable results are simply not available. In those cases, be sure to offer more qualitative measures of your success. Awards are a great example of a qualitative result. But they do not mean much by themselves, so be sure if you have been lauded for excellent performance, that those acknowledgements are included as part of the bullet that led to the award.

CEO Test Fail:

  • Work extensively at client offices; communicate with clients frequently through in-person meetings, email correspondence, and formal letters
  • Star Performer Award for outstanding work performed

CEO Test Pass: (bullets fused to show the result)

  • Met unrealistic demands and deadlines, kept team morale high, and mastered client software quickly on tax compliance project; leading to a Star Performer Award for my work

CEO Test Fail:

  • Involved in campus recruiting for firm

CEO Test Pass:

  • Led recruiting initiatives at multiple schools by organizing, leading and attending recruiting events; identified as a top 5% contributor to recruiting efforts last year

Consider these final bullets:

CEO Test Fail:

  • Managed a team of six on a design project

CEO Test Pass:

  • Managed a team of six to design a new client solution on a compressed timeline under budget

CEO Test Fail:

  • Helped design the firm’s five-year strategic plan

CEO Test Pass:

  • Led three executives in crafting five-year corporate strategic plan; plan praised by CEO as the most comprehensive and actionable in firm’s history

You can see how much more powerful the bullets are when they are associated with outcomes. Even qualitative results matter to the CEO, and they will matter to your future employer as well. So if you can’t credibly connect your work to a quantifiable outcome, then be sure to ferret out the results that are nonetheless measurable, even if that means relying on more qualitative information.

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