Writing a resume? Here's how to describe your achievements

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 07/02/2019
writing about your achievements in resumes

It can be difficult to sing your own praises. This applies in life generally, but even more so when writing a resume. Who wants to brag? As a result, when it comes to outlining achievements, many people will simply fall back on describing the tasks and responsibilities of a job.

But in reality, a resume is really only as good as the tangible achievements that it describes. That is – the story of how you actually improved, created or otherwise added specific value to the organisation. Resumes with well-described achievements secure interviews. So we have set out our best tips for crafting a resume that avoids the ‘ho-hum’ of tasks - and instead dazzles with the outcomes that you have achieved.

Don’t rewrite your position description

When you apply for jobs, it makes sense to look at the tasks involved in order to establish both your fit and capacity. An example of this might be: “Responsible for contacting all stakeholders for comment.” You can do this type of work – terrific!  But it is crucial not to fall into beige descriptions when setting out your relevant achievements for the next role.

One common mistake in describing achievements within resumes is to fall back on your daily, routine responsibilities – in effect your position description. Thus the above achievement might rather anaemically read: “I was responsible for contacting all stakeholders for comment.” Quite uninspiring!

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Instead, you need to ask yourself some quality questions that help you to step out from behind responsibilities and reveal actual achievements. For example: were you solely responsible and was this unusual in the context? How many stakeholders, and did this increase annually? What was the feedback from stakeholders about your communication style, and how did this specifically assist other tasks? And so on.

Get specific

When you have delivered an improvement or outcome it is important to be very specific about the quantum of this achievement – preferably using percentages. This can best be achieved by thinking through the actual difference that was made as a result of your personal performance.

For example, if your re-ordering system saw sales increase from 85 to 112 units in the following year, then you should phrase the improvement as being “a greater than 30% increase”. Get out your calculator – you might be surprised at some of the tangible gains achieved under your watch!

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For some roles and tasks it can be challenging to pinpoint percentage-based achievements that can be used on your resume. But you can still be specific. Examples might include “Feedback of ‘excellent’ from each of my clients across three consecutive years.”

Capitalise on your dazzling verbs

A key resume writing trap is to downplay – consciously or otherwise – your involvement in success. This can often happen through the use of quite ordinary verbs within the resume text. This is such a wasted opportunity. Verbs are of course the ‘doing words’ and it is not hard to animate your resume through the right descriptive choices.

Explore verb lists to find some inspiration for your resume. Bearing in mind that a resume needs to reflect solid achievement, consider how the drab verbs below not only bore the reader; they also tell us nothing about your success:

“Managed a team of 16 people in a call centre.”

“Telephoned clients about their claims."

Not particularly engaging, right? The key is to examine these types of plain task descriptions for clues about achievement. Then, using what we know about verbs and the need to be specific, the following might be revealed:

“As team manager, I successfully motivated the call centre’s largest team of 16 to reduce average call waiting by 20 seconds in 2018, as compared to 2017."

“I engaged compassionately and professionally with injured claimants, being later informed by my manager that this was directly responsible for reduction of complaints figures in 2017/18 by 70%."

Harvesting your achievements

When setting out your resume, look closely at task descriptions to find the achievements hidden within. Don’t look at this as bragging! You might think – oh well anyone could have done that. But they didn’t – you did. (and by the way, most people probably couldn’t).

Go back and consider those quiet moments when you thought "gee that’s way better than last year"… or "wow I have the best figures this month"...

But in your resume, don’t be quiet at all. Be specific, use dazzling verbs and don’t rewrite your position description.

Good job – when it comes to achieving within your career, you’ve done it. Now the trick is to clearly describe it! At Bluegum Resumes, we specialise in writing and editing high-quality resumes that highlight your accomplishments. 



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