Author: Ron Boaz

PMTimes_July04_2022

How To Write A Data-Driven Resume

As business professionals, we know the increasing importance of data-driven decision making in our projects and operations.

 

This article will explain why we need to bring that same approach to resume writing, and how to level up your Project Manager/Business Analyst resume writing skills.

The Importance Of Data

In the business world today, it is hard to come by important decisions that are made in the absence of data to support them. Managers are, understandably, loath to not have evidence stacked up to support a claim or decision that exposes their organization to opportunity, but also risk.

This same perspective can be applied to hiring decisions as well. Are not employees a huge opportunity, albeit potential risk, for any business? A star employee can transform an organization for the better, resulting in a strong bottom line and happier customers. In a competitive job market, candidates need to sell their attributes and accomplishments to hiring managers, who increasingly need to base their hiring decisions on strong evidence, not unlike other operational or project decisions. Show me the data!

What Does This Mean For Your Resume?

For one, your resume needs to be quantitative. Most resumes list work experience and education in a neat table, sorted by date and organization. This is a good start. However, when you drill down into the details (the bullet points) underlying each previous job, the descriptions often leave something to be desired. For example;

  • “Compiled project analysis for company executives”
  • “Managed an organization-wide ERP solution implementation”
  • “Trained support teams on use of new software tool”

What these examples demonstrate is a lack of volume, scale, or size. How is a hiring manager to know if you managed the roll out of an ERP system for a staff of 10, or 2000? What does improved service delivery really mean? That each agent more consistently said thank you at the end of each call? Or were turnaround times reduced by 30%? Look for your ‘wins’ and highlight them with data.

What this can look like:

  • “Comprehensively analyzed and compiled dozens of address, routing, and fuel data points on a weekly cadence, to draft executive reports that could be quickly understood and acted upon”
  • “Managed a 1 year ERP implementation affecting 900 staff, resulting in time savings of 5 FTEs”
  • “Facilitated dozens of training sessions of 5‐25 participants each, achieving an average instructor rating of 4.5/5 from feedback forms”

There are 2 important take-aways from the above examples:

  1. Fully use the real estate provided to you on the page. Your resume should only be 1-2 pages, so use up that white space as efficiently as possible.
  2. The examples use specifics that are quantified.

Examples of other metrics you can use:

  • $’s spent, saved or earned
  • Time taken or time saved
  • Cadence or turnaround time of process or task
  • # of people impacted, trained or involved
  • # of computers/machines updated or provisioned
  • Volume or quantity of materials

 

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Is The Data Impressive Enough?

What if the numbers aren’t impressive, you may ask? When providing feedback on resumes, mentees often state they don’t think their accomplishments sound big or important enough if too much detail is given, as if keeping it vague somehow augments their work. If you don’t think an accomplishment is worth quantifying, remember that hiring managers can also revert to the lowest common denominator, if quantities aren’t provided. You may have concurrently managed 10 accounts worth an average of $10,000. In the absence of concrete numbers, a hiring manager may theoretically guess that maybe it was 4 accounts worth $5000 each.

Sometimes, exploring different ways of telling your data story can make your work history sound more effective too. Maybe you successfully negotiated a $100 savings on a monthly vendor contract. That’s great, but maybe you can re-word it as, “Negotiated a 10% savings on a recurring monthly expense, saving $1000s per year”. Explore absolute versus percent versus ratio metrics for each claim, as sometimes one will sound better than the other.

Internal- And External-Facing Data Points

You may notice 2 distinct metrics types, that we can call internal, vs. external. Often, when we are stuck in the weeds of our projects, we only think of our internal metrics. These could include things like # of stakeholders managed, dollars spent, or groups involved. What are often more impactful, in terms of convincing employers of the significance of your work, are metrics that speak to what your project ultimately accomplished; the downstream outcomes. Sometimes, these data points may not be known for months or years. These could include things like # of new clients, # of people trained, or incremental dollars earned or saved, directly due to actions you took while deep in the weeds of your project. Have a think about your last few projects. What were their downstream outcomes?

Quantify Your Interests

People differ on the utility of a personal interests or extracurricular section of your resume. I’m personally a fan, because hiring managers are hiring people, not robots, and want to know who the person is that they are hiring. Also, hiring managers, like all humans, are subject to nervousness around meeting new people in a formal interview setting. The personal interests section provide great small chat talking points to fill otherwise awkward pauses that can occur before and after the formal questioning part of an interview.

Just like with the other sections of your resume, be specific, and quantified, with your personal life! Instead of;

  • “Organizer of musical festivals”, or
  • “Love travelling and photography”

you could say

  • “Have organized 3 musical festivals with 1000s of participants each”, or
  • “Have traveled in 23 countries, and photographed the Taj Mahal to the fish & corals of the Great Barrier Reef”

Final Thoughts

Lastly, quantifying your resume is an exercise to perform not only once you are looking for your next contract or job, but on an ongoing basis, so that you can leverage the metrics you have formulated for yourself in conversations and informal networking chats.

Good luck on your next application!

The Critical First Conversations with a New Project Team

As a Project Manager or Business Analyst, you have been assigned a new project or team.

Like with any change, this can be a time of trepidation, as you and your teammates will wrestle with the new business goals being asked of you to achieve. You will also size up your potentially new colleagues, determining how you will fit in to this new team paradigm. This is a critical point in time, at the beginning of any new project. This is a time at which you can take steps to set you and your team up for success. This article will elaborate on those first important, time-sensitive conversations using a framework of Listen, Trust, Set. Spoiler alert: The crux of the matter is expectation setting.

Context

In 1965, the psychologist Bruce Tuckman published his famous 5 stages of team development. For those of you unfamiliar with Tuckman’s seminal work, the summary is this:

  1. Forming: In the beginning, team members meet their peers and learn about the new project. Most members are on their best professional behaviour.
  2. Storming: As members become more comfortable with one another, and their place in the team, opinions are more outspoken and members may competitively vie for authority. Conflict resolution becomes an important role of the project lead to keep members aligned to common goals.
  3. Norming: Good project leads will successfully align the team to the project objectives and establish a climate of tolerance amongst peers.
  4. Performing: Great project leads will successively move the team from tolerance of one another to active champions of established policies and processes, driving the whole team full steam ahead towards successful project delivery.

According to this model, while the team only reaches its peak performance in the last stage, actively listening, building trust, and setting expectations right from the beginning will set the stage for a quick storming stage, and the emergence of a solid and lasting performance stage.


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Listen

While listening doesn’t seem like a very active exercise, it is critical in the beginning for you to learn what not to do, what can be done, and when or how soon. Before you meet as a project team, setup 1:1 meetings with each team member and listen to where they’re at currently, what their concerns are regarding the upcoming project, and what their personal strengths and weaknesses may be. Listen to not only their words, but their body language and the vocabulary they use and don’t use. This will position you to be able to speak the language of the team once you will be standing in front of them and motivating them to join you in pursuing the project’s goals. You may also gain some important risks to add to your log. 

On the softer side of things, develop rapport with each team member, engage them in conversation, and build a foundation for the emergence of trust.

Trust

Trust in business means different things to different people, and in different cultures around the world. To quote David de Cremer from a Harvard Business Review article February 11, 2015, 

“In China you build trust first, once that is achieved, only then you do business. In the West, on the other hand, people are used to doing business almost immediately when they work in the same industry.”

However, no matter where you are, while there are cultural differences in business practices around the world, some concepts in trust are universal. And building trust isn’t an arduous, lengthy, unattainable thing. It is when you set the first meeting with your team and show up on time. It is following up with that one team member who missed a deadline so that they and the others see that you will hold people to account. Most importantly, it is admitting you had forgotten something, or asking for clarification on something that might seem obvious. These actions signal to other team members that this is a psychologically safe space where project quality and deliverables take precedence over individual egos. 

Every little interaction you have with your team members, individually or as a group, is important, especially in the beginning, to set a foundation of what will be tolerated. Show them that you can be trusted by repeated consistency, and that they can count on you to hold everyone, including yourself, to the same standards.

Set

Ultimately, the most important foundations to set at the beginning are the team member’s expectations, of you, and of the bar you will hold them to. These expectations are the hardest to reset or reestablish later on so you want to establish your expectations with the team right from the beginning, and both implicitly in your trust-building actions, but also explicitly so that there is no plausible deniability. Some members will be so motivated by a project that they will not need external motivation. Some, however, will need to know that you expect honesty, integrity and hard work from each person, and whatever more specific expectations you may have. Predictability is key.

Summary

Following this easy to remember framework of actively listening, building trust, and setting expectations, will put you on a path towards a strong performing team that will come together to deliver on the project objectives clearly articulated at the beginning of the project.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuckman%27s_stages_of_group_development

https://hbr.org/2015/02/understanding-trust-in-china-and-the-west

How to write a data-driven resume

As business professionals, we know the increasing importance of data-driven decision making in our projects and operations.

This article will explain why we need to bring that same approach to resume writing, and how to level up your Project Manager/Business Analyst resume writing skills.

The importance of data

In the business world today, it is hard to come by important decisions that are made in the absence of data to support them. Managers are, understandably, loath to not have evidence stacked up to support a claim or decision that exposes their organization to opportunity, but also risk. 

This same perspective can be applied to hiring decisions as well. Are not employees a huge opportunity, albeit potential risk, for any business? A star employee can transform an organization for the better, resulting in a strong bottom line and happier customers. In a competitive job market, candidates need to sell their attributes and accomplishments to hiring managers, who increasingly need to base their hiring decisions on strong evidence, not unlike other operational or project decisions. Show me the data!

What does this mean for your resume?

For one, your resume needs to be quantitative. Most resumes list work experience and education in a neat table, sorted by date and organization. This is a good start. However, when you drill down into the details (the bullet points) underlying each previous job, the descriptions often leave something to be desired. For example;

  • “Compiled project analysis for company executives”
  • “Managed an organization-wide ERP solution implementation”
  • “Trained support teams on use of new software tool”

What these examples demonstrate is a lack of volume, scale, or size. How is a hiring manager to know if you managed the roll out of an ERP system for a staff of 10, or 2000? What does improved service delivery really mean? That each agent more consistently said thank you at the end of each call? Or were turnaround times reduced by 30%? Look for your ‘wins’ and highlight them with data.

What this can look like:

  • “Comprehensively analyzed and compiled dozens of address, routing, and fuel data points on a weekly cadence, to draft executive reports that could be quickly understood and acted upon”
  • “Managed a 1 year ERP implementation affecting 900 staff, resulting in time savings of 5 FTEs”
  • “Facilitated dozens of training sessions of 525 participants each, achieving an average instructor rating of 4.5/5 from feedback forms”

There are 2 important take-aways from the above examples:

  1. Fully use the real estate provided to you on the page. Your resume should only be 1-2 pages, so use up that white space as efficiently as possible.
  2. The examples use specifics that are quantified.

Examples of other metrics you can use:

  • $’s spent, saved or earned
  • Time taken or time saved
  • Cadence or turnaround time of process or task
  • # of people impacted, trained or involved
  • # of computers/machines updated or provisioned
  • Volume or quantity of materials 

Advertisement

Is the data impressive enough?

What if the numbers aren’t impressive, you may ask? When providing feedback on resumes, mentees often state they don’t think their accomplishments sound big or important enough if too much detail is given, as if keeping it vague somehow augments their work. If you don’t think an accomplishment is worth quantifying, remember that hiring managers can also revert to the lowest common denominator, if quantities aren’t provided. You may have concurrently managed 10 accounts worth an average of $10,000. In the absence of concrete numbers, a hiring manager may theoretically guess that maybe it was 4 accounts worth $5000 each. 

Sometimes, exploring different ways of telling your data story can make your work history sound more effective too. Maybe you successfully negotiated a $100 savings on a monthly vendor contract. That’s great, but maybe you can re-word it as, “Negotiated a 10% savings on a recurring monthly expense, saving $1000s per year”. Explore absolute versus percent versus ratio metrics for each claim, as sometimes one will sound better than the other. 

Internal- and external-facing data points

You may notice 2 distinct metrics types, that we can call internal, vs. external. Often, when we are stuck in the weeds of our projects, we only think of our internal metrics. These could include things like # of stakeholders managed, dollars spent, or groups involved. What are often more impactful, in terms of convincing employers of the significance of your work, are metrics that speak to what your project ultimately accomplished; the downstream outcomes. Sometimes, these data points may not be known for months or years. These could include things like # of new clients, # of people trained, or incremental dollars earned or saved, directly due to actions you took while deep in the weeds of your project. Have a think about your last few projects. What were their downstream outcomes?

Quantify your interests

People differ on the utility of a personal interests or extracurricular section of your resume. I’m personally a fan, because hiring managers are hiring people, not robots, and want to know who the person is that they are hiring. Also, hiring managers, like all humans, are subject to nervousness around meeting new people in a formal interview setting. The personal interests section provide great small chat talking points to fill otherwise awkward pauses that can occur before and after the formal questioning part of an interview.

Just like with the other sections of your resume, be specific, and quantified, with your personal life! Instead of; 

  • “Organizer of musical festivals”, or 
  • “Love travelling and photography”

you could say

  • “Have organized 3 musical festivals with 1000s of participants each”, or
  • “Have traveled in 23 countries, and photographed the Taj Mahal to the fish & corals of the Great Barrier Reef”

Final thoughts

Lastly, quantifying your resume is an exercise to perform not only once you are looking for your next contract or job, but on an ongoing basis, so that you can leverage the metrics you have formulated for yourself in conversations and informal networking chats.

Good luck on your next application!