Forget your skills. Forget your certifications. Forget your degrees. Just for a minute, forget all those things you believe qualify you for a job as a tech wiz.
Instead, think about this: How can you describe your value to a prospective employer in terms of return on investment (ROI)?
Today's hiring decisions are made based on factors other than the number of acronyms crammed on your resume, so techies need to start thinking in terms of ROI. What matters to employers -- and what should matter to you -- is how you could help an organization achieve its goals. To demonstrate that, you need to redirect your job search, from resume to interview, to quantifying the value you bring to a company.
"Numbers are king on resumes right now," says Jeff Markham, metro market manager for staffing firm Robert Half Technology in the San Francisco area.
Thinking in terms of ROI can be a challenge, especially for skills-obsessed techies. Follow these guidelines to recast your experience in terms that specify the value you can offer:
- "Don't sell features, sell benefits." That's a time-tested rule for sales, and techies can learn something from it, says Jason Berkowitz, chief operating officer of Hunter Recruitment Advisors. A resume, after all, is a sales tool. Consider the benefits you can bring to a company, rather than what specific features -- i.e., your skills -- you have to offer.
- Use quantitative data to make your case, Markham says. "You've got to be super-descriptive," he notes, as employers want a sense of what you do for the company's bottom line. "You can't just list your skills," he says. "They want to know how you made your company money with Java. How did you save your company money with Java? It's got to be quantifiable."
- Emphasize your achievements, not just what you do in your job, suggests Bob Senatore, executive vice president of staffing firm Comforce Information Technologies. To do this, candidates may want to include several bullet points after each job or project in a resume, citing specific achievements.
Bringing an ROI perspective to your resume -- and your interview responses -- doesn't simply mean you need to know how much money you saved a company on a project. "With a lot of technology, the cost savings aren't going to be seen for 36 months," Markham says. "You can usually see immediate operational effects."
Here are several examples of the types of data you might consider adding to your resume:
- Project scheduled for 45 days completed in 29 days.
- Software enhancements cut the time required to process a purchase order by 38 percent.
- Among top 5 percent of help desk in terms of calls handled and cases resolved.
- Revisions to billing software allowed a head-count reduction of 12 in a 108-person department.
- Company CEO cited database overhaul as essential to the company's increase of Q2 profits.
Consider this example of a revamped resume:
Used Java and JSP to design, develop and deploy enhancements to existing components of a system for the company's marketing department. System runs on a Unix mainframe (IBM), connecting to a DB2 database.
Designed, developed and deployed enhancements to a system serving as backbone of company's 205-member marketing staff. Used Java and JSP on an IBM-flavored Unix mainframe connected to a DB2 database.
- Team cited by CIO for completing six-month project three weeks ahead of schedule.
- Success rate of marketing calls increased by 27 percent
Such changes not only highlight the candidate's achievements, but also signal to employers that the candidate is motivated to serve business goals. Your pitch, after all, isn't just to other techies.
"Technology people should understand they need to appeal to people who don't understand the details of the technology," says Berkowitz. But remember, the people doing the hiring do understand the impact technology has on the business.