Here are typical examples of phrases that individuals use on their job search (across resumes, interviews, and cover letters). Where a few numbers would make a difference.
"Improved company sales"
Was that by $500 or five million dollars? By 2% or 20%?
"Revitalized school, resulting in improved academic performance"
Did student's academic achievement improve by a 1/10th of a grade level or two grade levels? Did graduation rates improve by one student or 100?
"Implemented stroke recovery best practices, expediting rehabilitation"
Did the stroke sufferers recover 1 day faster or a month faster? Did they return to 60% of pre-stroke functioning or 90% of pre-stroke functioning?
As you can tell, adding numbers makes your arguments a lot more persuasive. You move from being vague to being specific. More importantly, you move from seeming like a talker to a doer, someone who produces results.
Put another way, if you leave off these numbers, it's like leaving off a Grade Point Average for a recent grad. A hiring organization can only assume you are a C or D level performer. Average or lower. You'll see below how you can do better.
If you are like many people, you're saying,
1. "Numbers don't really apply to me," and
2. "Even where they do apply, I don't know what's right. I'm not going to say something that's dishonest."
Let's dispel each of these.
Numbers always apply.
For instance, let's say you worked in a non-profit that educates consumers about avoiding debt. Here are just some of the numbers you could include:
How many people were on your team educating consumers?
How many events did you host?
How big was your budget?
How many people attended one of your programs?
How many people received your literature?
For those people where you do know results, by how much did they reduce their debt, or reduce their interest rate on debt?
As you can see, there are a lot of numbers you could use. Yet you may still not be sure because you're thinking about the other really common excuse-
That reason is just: I don't know the exact number, so I won't say anything.
Here's what you do. You guess.
Not just an out of the blue guess. Rather give your best guess at what the right amount would be, an amount that if an interviewer asked you about it, you would feel like it was pretty accurate, something that you would feel comfortable defending.
For instance, let's say you decided to participate in a 5K race to raise money for breast cancer research. You don't know exactly how much money you made.
But, you do know that it was more than a $1,000 and less than $5,000, probably somewhere in the middle. You could either say, "raised over $1,000 or "raised ~$3,000". Either number helps your audience to understand the scope of the accomplishment.
What are other ways you can use numbers?
Level of participation:
Hosted over 500 conference attendees from four countries
Led 8 member team
Received over 400 sign-ups.
5-year strategic plan
Decreased processing time by 10%.
Decreased customer returns by 20%.
Responded to customer calls up to three times faster.
Before / After comparisons:
Went from 20% to 65% of students reading at grade level.
Moved from 60% on time deliveries to 85% on time deliveries.
Improved from one help desk call needed per hour to three per day.
Take a few minutes to review your resume, your cover letters, your elevator pitch and your interview answers, and look for opportunities to add numbers. Think about the critical questions you must answer to land the job you want. Then match up the numbers that prove it. Numbers will show you are a doer, not just a talker.