Accomplishments that Hurt a Resume

I write a lot about how important accomplishments are to a resume.  They provide the sales pitch to get a hiring manager interested and excited about your background.  They also demonstrate your capability in a way that nothing else can.

The resume I read today showed me the rare example of when accomplishments actually hurt the overall impression.  The problem wasn’t the individual accomplishments – each was good and impressive.  The problem was they didn’t fit together.  In fact, they seemed to contradict each other.  Below are the two accomplishments from an operations manager within a distribution company:

  • Building up staff to eventually build in 2nd shift for production to accommodate increased volume.
  • Reduced warehouse staff 25% and increased production by 15% in shipping and receiving.

The candidate has been with this employer for around a year.  In this short time, both increasing and decreasing staffing levels seems out of place.  If the candidate had a five year track record with the company, it would be fine.  The business cycle has changed and companies are adjusting.

Do I think the candidate is lying about his accomplishments?  No.  There is probably a good explanation for what he did.  Despite this, I’m focused on whether he is telling the truth, how these two accomplishments could be reconciled and whether the accomplishments are credible.  I’m not thinking about how the accomplishments demonstrate an ability to help an organization.

If the job seeker is coming for the exact role and type of company than the job being filed, this won’t be too much of a problem.  A hiring manager is like to still give him a call.  More often, a job seeker will be from a different job type or industry.  If this is the case, the job seeker already has a strike against them.  Adding even a little doubt or confusion about the accomplishments can be the deciding factor in rejecting the candidate.

There are a couple of solutions for this job seeker.  The easiest is to delete the bullet related to adding 2nd shift.  In a down economy, more companies are concerned about cutting costs, and few are worried about expanding.  Dropping this will not hurt the resume.

Another option would be to explain the accomplishments better, so they make sense together.  For example, the staff reduction might be in one department and adding 2nd shift could be in a completely different department.  If this is the case, providing a little more detail would fix the inconsistency.

One of the greatest challenges when writing your resume is knowing how a reader, who knows nothing about you, will interpret what you write.  You have the benefit of knowing your complete work history.  This makes it difficult to see when key details are omitted.  The solution is to have someone, who knows little to nothing about your review your resume, assess the content.