Describing your job duties is not what a resume is really about. Once the employer sees your job title, they already have a pretty good idea what you did from day to day – or they could google up a job description!
The same goes for interviews. By that point they know what your jobs have been about.
What they don’t know is: How well did you do it? How did you do it better than someone else would? And what difference did it make for your organization?
The answers to those decisive questions are your accomplishments, the “success stories” or “wins” that propel your job search communications.
Let’s say you’re a Sales and Marketing Executive, and one of your responsibilities was to sell services to large corporations. Your accomplishments might include:
- Grew the business by 20% in 2011. (Or express this in $$ if the amount is likely to impress your target employers.)
- Ensured a high level of client satisfaction resulting in 98% renewal rate.
Each of these bullet items is an extremely concise summary of a success story, boiled down to one sentence for a resume. In an interview, you could tell it more fully. (More about that in a later post!)
It doesn’t matter whether the accomplishments are in big bucks or small problems solved – the principles are the same.
Let’s look at the elements that make an accomplishment different from a job duty.
Anatomy of an Accomplishment
Let’s look at the elements of an accomplishment statement like those bulleted above.
- Solutions and Impact: Tell what you improved – e.g., you streamlined a complicated procedure, invented a new system, etc. – and what the positive impact was.
- Specifics: It’s not enough to state that an effort was “successful.” In what ways was it successful?
- Evidence: “Prove” how well you did the work by describing positive responses from customers – e.g., your work “saved” a major client who was on the verge of walking away. Or mention some recognition you received, such as a promotion, an award or strong praise in your annual review (perhaps with a brief quote).
- Quantities: Specify or estimate the revenue generated or costs reduced, time saved, percentage of improvements, ratings, etc. Some occupations, such as management and sales, lend themselves to this. Others, such as accounting or nursing, are harder to quantify. Look for processes you streamlined (by 20%? 80%?), or an exceptionally large volume of work you completed (how large? how quickly?).
Obviously, you want to express your successes without making your past employers look bad – especially if you’re writing for your LinkedIn profile or a resume you’ll be posting online.
Now the trick is: How can you identify these accomplishments from all the details you remember – or don’t! – from your past work? Read my post, How to Identify Your Accomplishments.