So What? – Michael Dennis, CBF

Answer- So What?
Answer- So What?

A couple of years ago, I joined the Financial Executives Networking Group (FENG). Networking is often the key to finding a new position, especially when you are out of work. For me, one of the advantages of FENG membership is that I can repay in-kind the people who helped me through two layoffs. I volunteered to review resumes submitted by FENG members for peer evaluation. Some resumes are simply outstanding. Many are not. A good resume might open doors for a job candidate, but a poorly written resume will slam them shut, especially when you remember that individual resumes are normally screened by human resources in a minute or less.

A friend of mine was laid off recently, and asked me to review his resume. It ignored a basic rule I now call: So-What? For example, his resume stated: “I managed a staff of 9 collectors.” So What? If his resume stated: “I managed 9 collectors and with my guidance we reduced DSO by 40% and bad debt losses by 60% within 12 months” then every potential employer would have an answer to the So What question.

Here is another example from the same resume: “I developed and ongoing dialogue with the sales management team to foster closer collaboration.” So close, but so what? His resume could have said: “I developed a collaborative working relationship with sales management resulting in an incremental increase in sales of at least $15 million a year.”

In my opinion, resumes need to be more focused on accomplishments, and far less on job responsibilities. Remember, you have one chance in about one minute to impress one resume screener enough to include your resume in the “for further review” pile. Don’t waste that chance.

Michael Dennis, MBA, CBF, LCM
Michael Dennis, MBA, CBF, LCM

In my experience, most resumes break the “so what” rule. What do you think of resumes you receive that break this rule?

Michael Dennis’ Covering Credit Commentary. Michael’s website is

The opinions presented are those of the author.  The opinions and recommendations do not necessarily reflect the views of CMA, or their Officers and Directors.  Readers are encouraged to evaluate any suggestions or recommendations made, and accept and adopt only those concepts that make sense to them.

6 Replies to “So What? – Michael Dennis, CBF”

  1. That is a very enlightening piece of information!. Ive been at the same job for nearly 25 years . I know my resume completely broke the so what rule. It never occured to me to focus on my accomplishments. The only rough place ,I think, would be for someone applying for their first job requiring a resume. They might find it hard to live up to the so what rule. I guess they would have get past it by concentrating on their skill set and education. Anyway- thanks for the thought provoking comments.( Im not in management or HR so I dont get to see resumes)

  2. Thanks for the tips Michael! It makes so much sense when you really think about it. So What?? Indeed!
    My son just graduated college a couple of weeks ago. I will pass this information on to him.
    Take care, Deanette

  3. Most resumes that I have seen ignore your so what rule and focus on tasks instead of accomplishments. I agree this is a missed opportunity. Example: If I am interviewing candidates for regional credit management role and the job description states that candidates should have 5 years of experience in credit management, I really don’t need to see a list of job duties… and I actually would be interested in knowing which of their accomplishments they consider the most significant.

    Question: Are you saying that the traditional resume listing responsibilities will usually get a job candidate screened out??

  4. Michael,

    While I agree with your comments, as a general rule, I temper the numerical values they tout unless they can convince me during the interview that they are realistic. Too often the percentages, savings, and income levels noted are inflated and are almost never verifiable. These accomplishments must be taken with a grain of salt and be consistent with the story they tell and the size of the company to whom it applies.

  5. My first reaction was “interesting point”. My 2nd thought was i would be careful not to throw more than 1 “statistic” at them or I may bore them.
    (some of us love our statistics – others glaze over). It could backfire if you state specific $$$ which might be very small potatoes to the company where you’re applying for a position. On the other hand, next time I see statistics stated on a resume I review, I think I’ll make them quantify or explain it further… Thanks Michael

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