You can make problem-solving a key theme of your resume and cover letter by giving concrete examples from your background. The following guide will show you how.
Problem-Solving on Your Resume
To develop strong examples of problem-solving on your resume, follow these steps:
Step 1: Brainstorm past problems
For each relevant job in your work history, brainstorm the general business problems you’ve solved or alleviated. These may include:
- Employee skill or knowledge gaps
- External audit findings
- High staff turnover
- Process inefficiencies
- Low employee morale
- New regulations
- Poor customer relations
- Cost increases
Step 2: Pinpoint your actions
Now identify your core actions in relation to those problems. The following verbs list can help you explore and determine how you’ve tackled past challenges. Notice how each verb indicates some problem or issue that hindered (or threatened to hinder) business performance, as opposed to more neutral/positive resume verbs like “Created,” “Enhanced,” or “Introduced.”
- Pared back
- Turned around
Step 3: Explain measures you took
Having identified past problems and your core actions in response to them, try to be more specific. How did you solve or alleviate the problem? Describe the strategies or projects you developed. For instance, did you address skill gaps by devising a new training program? Or fix service issues by introducing a better way to engage with customers? If so, what did that new service approach entail?
After completing these steps, you should have the basis for one or more strong examples of problem-solving on your resume, such as:
- Developed a new training program that resolved critical gaps in sales team’s product knowledge
- Restored positive relationship with a major client by paying regular in-person visits to demonstrate new product features and address any concerns
Step 4: Quantify your results
If possible, quantify the example with hard numbers. Show how your problem-solving made a tangible impact on $ revenue, % growth, or other business metrics. For example:
- Restored positive relationship with a major client by paying regular in-person visits to demonstrate new product features and address any concerns. Efforts prevented loss of a $500K account
Detailed bullet points like this one are the cornerstone of a great resume. By giving concrete examples of your problem-solving talents, they show hiring managers you’re ready to tackle similar challenges at their organization.
(Optional) Step 5: Use the PAR method
You can develop the example further by using the “PAR” (Problem, Action, Result) approach. This approach is a slight variation of the STAR interview method. With the PAR method, you write out one or more distinct lines to describe:
- The particular problem you encountered
- The action you took to solve the problem
- The positive result your solution produced
Problem: A top client struggled to integrate the company’s latest product with its systems, leading to miscommunications and frustration with the support team.
Action: Quickly revised work schedule to focus on mending the relationship. Paid weekly in-person visits to client offices to demonstrate new product features and address any concerns.
Result: Restored positive relations and productive partnership with the client, preventing loss of a $500K account.
The PAR method is a great way to call extra attention to your top achievements. However, keep in mind that this structure takes up much more space than a regular bullet point and can be a bit ponderous if you overuse it. To keep your resume manageable, consider using PAR for just your top three achievements from your career so far.
Problem-Solving on Your Cover Letter
The four-step process above lets you feature problem-solving on your cover letter, as long as you’ve structured your letter to include bullet highlights. Copy over the examples you’d like to include in this document. Since the bullet points will appear on your letter out of context, cite the associated job and company in brackets at the end of the line. For example:
- Developed a new training program that resolved critical gaps in sales team’s product knowledge [Sales Director, ESS Corp.]
Don’t worry about repeating these resume points on your cover letter. A little repetition across job search documents doesn’t undermine your application and can make it easier for the hiring manager to register your top selling points from your experience. Take care not to repeat more than a few sentences or bullet points. Keep the overall focus of your cover letter on why the job and company at hand appeal to you.
You can also emphasize problem-solving in the introductory sections of your resume. Consider these four options:
- Incorporate one of your problem-solving examples in your Profile description. Add a sentence that starts with “Achievements include…” or “Recent achievements include…” and then plug in whatever highlight you’d like to showcase.
- Add a line to your Profile stating your general skill at problem-solving. For example:
Focused on isolating key business problems and finding creative yet practical solutions.
- Also, in your Profile section, include the adjective “Resourceful” or “Solution-focused” ahead of your professional title. For example:
Resourceful Sales Director with 10+ years of advancement and achievement.
- In your Key Skills section, add one or more of these terms as they relate to your background:
- Complex Problem-Solving
- Cost Reduction & Elimination
- Operational Turnarounds
- Risk Management & Mitigation
- Technical Troubleshooting