Surefire resumes and cover letters focus on ACCOMPLISHMENTS, NOT job duties and responsibilities.
Has this ever happened to you? You’ve been instructed to list your career accomplishments, and you can’t think of any. Or you’re asked in a job interview, “What accomplishments are you most proud of?” — and you freeze up. You know you have had accomplishments, but you just can’t dredge them up.
The inability to come up with accomplishments happens to lots of jobseekers. We know because we ask our resume and cover-letter clients to list accomplishments as part of the process of preparing their job-search documents. Although we stress that accomplishments are far more important than duties and responsibilities, a surprising number of clients are unable to articulate beyond the day-to-day tasks they performed in their jobs.
In a study by the former Career Masters Institute (now Career Management Alliance), content elements that propelled employers to immediately discard resumes included a focus on duties instead of accomplishments, while documented achievements were highly ranked among content elements that employers look for.
Accomplishments are the points that really help sell you to an employer — much more so than everyday job duties, and you can leverage your accomplishments for job-search success at all stages of the process: resume, cover letter, interview, and more. Career counselor Michelle Watson notes that “employers are seeking success stories.” In the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers, Watson observed that “resumes are now focusing not only on ‘regular’ job descriptions, but also include concrete, measurable accomplishments. Physical portfolios, long thought of as tools for artists, will become commonplace as candidates strive to show their talents, not just talk about them.”
Echoing that sentiment, resume writer JoAnn Nix recently gave this advice in an interview on the Guru.com Web site: “A resume should be accomplishment-oriented, not responsibility-driven. The biggest mistake that I see in the resumes people send me is that they list responsibilities. That doesn’t grab anybody’s attention. People aren’t interested in your responsibilities. They already know the general responsibilities of a position so they don’t want to know what you do from day to day. They want to know that you’re a mover and a shaker: How you contribute to the organization, how you show initiative, that you can be a key player. That’s what they want to see.