Hard-to-Quantify Achievements: They're About Solving Problems


While wrapping up my post on hard-to-quantify achievements, it occurred to me that one of the examples sent in by Diana Kelley, founder of Security Curve, illustrates other resume-writing advice.


A device known as SAR-situation, action, result-can provide structure to your stated achievements in resume writing and in interviewing.


Here's what Kelley wrote:

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Achievement: Changed password policy.

Wording: Using SIEM and monitoring tools, identified high level of password resets on two critical systems (the situation.) After completing risk assessment work, managed password life-cycle change from 30 to 90 days, (the action) which reduced help desk calls by 40 percent and resulted in no increase in unauthorized access to systems (the result).

In some quarters, this is called PAR-problem, action, result-and IT resume specialist Jennifer Hay advocates starting with a business problem, then going into what you did to address it.


Another person responding to my call for advice for stating hard-to-quantify achievements was Ross Sharrott, co-founder and director of mobile app company Long Weekend, who said he previously worked as senior IT manager at a recruitment company in Tokyo. He wrote:

Most even hard-to-quantify jobs do have a metric that a hiring manager will view positively. The trick is remembering that [bringing work] in line with expectations and reducing failure rates are often enough to give a dollar implication.

He offered these examples:

  • IT Infrastructure: The server reconfiguration project I implemented improved system uptime from 98 percent to 99.95 percent, about our 3 nines uptime target.
  • IT Support: I consistently addressed and closed tickets under our two-business-hour SLA.
  • Security: The system we put in place warded off more than 5,000 attacks a day, with no major breaches over two years.


And wrote Brian Barnier, a risk-management specialist who also teaches continuing education classes for the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA):

I suggest the same thing for resumes as I do for describing internal performance or getting a project: Follow the COBIT business objectives structure. This ties everything right back to business objectives. COBIT even provides the same metrics. These are the same metrics that are used by auditors when evaluating performance, so it's pretty solid stuff.