The Recipe for Resume Success


If you visit my website, you’ll see that I’ve read more than 500,000 resumes. It is a frustrating exercise, because most are little more than spam (resumes that in no way fit the requirement) or are badly written – a simple recitation of responsibilities without contextualizing the work that was done.

I was interviewing Ron Nash for my podcast, Job Search Radio, a few weeks ago, and together we hit on a recipe for resumes that get results. We joked that it was an Italian recipe for a successful resume because the acronym spelled out PARM, as in “parmesan.”

Before we discuss the acronym, I want to encourage you to think of your resume in the context of SEO or keyword optimization, particularly if you will be submitting it through an applicant tracking system (black hole) or posting it on a job board. Because of the ranking systems both tend to use, you want to list terms firms search for to find someone like you in the top third of your resume, where both systems will be more likely to believe that it is recent, relevant experience.

Also, minimally, you should include your city, state, zip code, and your mobile number under your first and last name. Not including your zip code prevents firms and recruiters alike from finding you in their systems when new positions open that might fit your experience. After all, when searches are run, 25 or 35 miles from a particular zip code is one of the variables used for locating people.

Now, let’s get to the PARM model:

‘P’ Is for Problem: What Is the Problem You Were aAsked to Work On?

Describe in detail what the problem is you were asked to resolve. Maybe you are an IT professional hired to manage a project to deliver a system for your firm. Maybe there were network issues or business continuity problems you were brought in to resolve. Maybe you are a CPA who is hired to do month-end closings for clients in a timely way. Describe the problem in great detail.

‘A’ Is for Action: What Actions Did You Take to Resolve the Problem?

What did you do and how did you go about doing it? Who did you interact with?

Slam dunkLet’s use the example of an engineer. They might be tasked with developing a solution to a particular problem. Who did you meet with on the business side? How did you resolve issues between the different groups? How many people did you manage? Were they all on site or were some offshore? How large a budget did you have? All of these factors give texture to a description of what you did.

‘R’ Is for Results: What Results Did You Achieve With the Actions You Took?

Describe the outcome of your efforts. Perhaps you delivered the project on time and under budget. Perhaps someone described your work in glowing detail because of the success you achieved. Too often, people only discuss the role and responsibilities instead of going into detail about the results of their work. How will anyone know unless you tell them?

‘M’ Is for Metrics: How Did What You Do Help Your Company Make or Save Money?

There is a big difference to an employer when someone has worked on something that saves $10,000 versus $10 million. There’s a big difference between someone who helps a firm make $10 million versus $100 million. Let people know the scope of your work. After all, unless you tell them, they have no way of knowing.

If you are in a job where this particular metric does not apply, there’s another way to demonstrate value.

Let’s say you work in a call center where such metrics are not available. You can always describe the percentage difference in whole volume you handled versus the average worker. For example: “Handled 17 percent more calls than the typical employee of the organization. Resolved 42 percent of all calls without escalation versus 18 percent for the average employee.”

Such metrics demonstrate how you would be a superior hire for their firm.

Put it all together and it spells PARM – a recipe for resume success.