Failure to effectively articulate accomplishments is one of the top reasons why job seekers don’t make it past the first interview or worse – don’t get the interview at all.
Recruiters and hiring managers have numerous résumés to sift through and interviews to conduct so they don’t have the time to figure out how you can help them in a way that addresses their specific “pain points”.
If you can’t express what your value is right off the bat (whether on paper or in person), you might be disqualified for the next best candidate who can articulate that.
If you’re actively looking for another opportunity or you just want to position yourself as an expert in your field, you need to communicate your accomplishments succinctly, otherwise you’re just wasting your time.
The more you can quantify the positive results you achieved, the more likely you will stand out and get noticed.
Duties vs Accomplishments
This is where a lot of people get confused. There’s a difference between job duties (tasks, responsibilities, accountabilities) and accomplishments (achievements, key contributions, “wins”).
- are about what you did
- tell the employer about the nature and scope of your responsibilities
- give some context by showing the kind of skills and knowledge you might possess
- are not necessarily something that went well
- give “proof” as to how well you performed your duties (see above)
- give clues as to your ability to meet and potentially surpass targets
- are often measurable and quantitative in some way (but not always)
- show how you would likely perform in position if you were to be hired
- are by nature something that went well
Do you see the difference?
Just because you did something doesn’t mean you did it well or that you met or surpassed expectations and targets. On their own, skills, knowledge, and experience are not accomplishments unless you can clearly show how they benefited your employer.
Example of a duty vs a quantifiable accomplishment
Here’s an example of the kind of statement that I see all the time which says nothing about the candidate’s ability. They could have performed the task poorly.
“Accountable for new business development across North America” .
Change it to:
“Identified and secured 20 new business accounts in 10 territories over 4 months that produced over $500K in additional annual sales revenue”.
So, how do you extract accomplishments from your career history? It can be difficult especially if you’re in of role that isn’t metrics driven, like an administrative position or academic research.
Questions to ask yourself to formulate your accomplishments
- Where did you achieve positive outcomes that exceeded expectations or metrics?
- Where did you go above and beyond your job requirements?
- What did you do that you’re proud of?
- What did you do that you were praised or recognized for?
- What problems did you solve?
- What challenges did you overcome?
- What made you so great at your job?
- How did you stand out among your peers?
- Where did you save money, increase revenue, or bring in new business?
- Where did you complete something ahead of schedule?
When expressed effectively, your accomplishments will differentiate you from your competitors as a potential “fit”.
Collect and track your accomplishments
I recommend that you make a list of all your accomplishments and keep them in a secure file either digitally or on paper. Then, track them regularly and include as many metrics as possible.
Keep all supporting documentation that demonstrates your accomplishments. This could be any number of things like letters/emails of appreciation (from clients, peers, company), performance reviews, completion of professional development, Linkedin recommendations (take screen shots), and anything else that provides credibility.
The idea here is to create your very own “brag book” that you can pull from when needed. That’s the first step.
The second step is to create your impact statements and use those in your résumé, cover letter, Linkedin profile, and all other career marketing documentation.
7 great reasons to collect your accomplishments
There are many situations when you can benefit from a review of your accomplishments that isn’t limited to just creating or updating your résumé.
- For performance evaluations
- To establish your professional goals
- To track the progress of your projects
- To clearly demonstrate your qualifications in your résumé
- To support your candidacy in an interview
- To support your request for a raise or a promotion
- When applying for recognition (awards or scholarships)
And my fave:
- To remind you of how awesome you are when you’re having a bad day 😊
Writing up your accomplishments
This is where everybody has difficulty. Most résumés read like a generic job description which is exactly what you don’t want to do. It will get you rejected for sure.
You need to transform your accomplishment into a clear, concise, and compelling impact statement. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a sentence that demonstrates the positive impact you had on the organization. Focus on the kinds of results that you achieved and how they benefited various stakeholders.
An effective impact statement is one to three lines. It begins which a strong action verb, contains metrics (measurables), and ideally includes some kind of time line. Here’s an example:
“Implemented aggressive category management and assortment strategies that reduced SKUs by 55% and waste by 20% within 18 months, representing total savings of $25 million.”
Keep it relevant
While it’s important to describe the end results and provide some context, you also need to make sure that the accomplishments you highlight are relevant to your job search.
To do that, consider the key areas of competency required for success in the position you are seeking. What are the key components of your job? Then identify accomplishments that directly relate to this expertise.
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Hi! I’m Diana.
I draw from over 15 years recruitment, career/job search coaching, and sales/marketing experience to help all kinds of jobseekers stand out, get noticed, and get hired for their dream job.
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