I’ve seen thousands of resumes in my 13-year recruitment career and most of them don’t stand out. Unfortunately, a lot of resumes are filled with information about the jobseeker’s daily responsibilities, and lack tangible resume accomplishments relevant to the role they are applying for.
The competition for many roles is extremely high and many applicants for any given job will have similar skills and qualifications. To stand out, you need to demonstrate to the potential employer that you can do the job well. You do that by showing how you’ve made a positive impact and contribution to your employer’s business. Resume accomplishments are most powerful when you quantify them using numbers or percentages.
Resume Accomplishments vs. Responsibilities: What’s the Difference?
A resume should be accomplishment-oriented, not responsibility-driven. The biggest mistake a jobseeker can make when they build a resume is to include a long list of the responsibilities associated with their past roles without context. A list of responsibilities doesn’t grab anybody’s attention.
What recruiters and hiring managers want to know is how you contribute to your organization, how you show initiative, how you really add value. In other words, they want to see how -- by performing your duties -- you have made a positive impact.
Duties and responsibilities are also dull and lifeless, and don’t say anything about you as a worker. Employers may see resumes from several candidates who have similar work experience and similar responsibilities. Focusing on resume accomplishments (what did you do or create that was above and beyond the scope of the job that was handed to you?) -- this is what will set you apart.
Turn Responsibilities into Accomplishments
A duty describes what you did, while an achievement describes how well you did it. Let’s look at some examples of resume accomplishments vs. responsibilities to learn more about the difference between the two:
Spearheaded sales and marketing initiatives for a newly developed territory.
Joined organization to spearhead sales and marketing initiative for newly developed territory. Led the turnaround of a poorly performing district and increased sales from $1 million to $8 million in 15 months.
Saved company money by finding ways to cut costs.
Implemented new payroll and tax accounting systems that saved firm $1 million in personnel costs over the next 10 years.
Organized a sold-out charity event for 300 people and raised $125,000.
Created plan for a restructure of the manufacturing unit.
Led the restructuring plan for the manufacturing department to achieve profitability within a 12-month period. Returned $52 million in profit in 2016 versus a $4 million loss the year prior to acquisition.
Produced email campaigns on a monthly basis.
Produced 70-90 email campaigns and generated over 30 million emails to customers per month.
Successfully sold software solutions to various clients.
Increased sales from $400,000 to $3.2 million.
Conducted training sessions.
Conducted compliance training for 80+ managers across three locations.
Resume Accomplishments for New Grads
Resume accomplishments don’t always have to come from paid employment. If you’re a new graduate or a college student, think of what you’ve done in your class projects, summer jobs, or internships. Perhaps you’ve raised money for a charity or led a student team on a project -- what size was the team and what did it achieve under your leadership? This kind of data serves as valuable resume accomplishments.
3 Ways to Add Accomplishments to Your Resume
1. Create a list of things that make you stand out
For each of the positions on your resume, ask yourself the following:
- What did you do that went above and beyond your normal responsibilities?
- What accomplishments were you praised for by your boss, colleagues or clients?
- Did you win any awards (for example, Employee of the Year)?
- Did you implement any new processes to improve things?
- What problems did you solve?
- Did you consistently meet or exceed goals or quotas?
- What skills or qualities make you really great at your job?
- Did you do anything that improved your company’s revenue, customer service, or efficiency?
- Did you increase the company’s press coverage?
2. Quantify your experience and clarify the benefit
Numbers easily impress people, so the more facts and numbers you can add that demonstrate the impact you’ve made, the better. What kind of budget were you responsible for and how much money did you save or make for the company? How many people were on the team you’ve been managing, and what were they able to accomplish?
Also, whenever you add something to your resume, ask yourself, “So what?” In other words, you know how to write press releases. So what? What was the real benefit to your boss or the organization thanks to you having that skill?
For example, instead of simply writing, “created monthly client reports,” you could write, “prepared and created 30 monthly status reports to ensure clients received timely information on their campaigns’ performance.”
3. Target your resume to the specific role
You need to illustrate how your qualifications and resume accomplishments match the employers’ requirements in order of importance. To do so, look at the first few responsibilities listed in the job ad, as these are typically the most important. Ensure the resume accomplishments you list are relevant to the requirements of the role and that you are using the same keywords as the job ad.
Personally, I prefer to see the resume accomplishments under the job in which they were achieved, but it’s good to also have a Skills section on top of your resume to grab the recruiter’s attention with your most relevant skills.
A resume full of accomplishments is the best way to show off what you can do, and it sets you up for your next success: landing a great new job. If you need more help with laying out your accomplishments, consider using a resume builder.