How to Write Accomplishments on Your Resume
An accomplishment section is a great addition to your resume. It can help demonstrate your skills in action and show the potential employer that you can add value to the organization beyond just performing your duties.
But we all know that bragging about our accomplishment isn’t always easy. Not to mention being sure what even counts as an accomplishment! Sure, you’ve gone to work each day but that’s not really an accomplishment, is it?
In this guide, we’ll go through what constitutes as an accomplishment and how to write the section in style. You can find plenty of tips and concrete examples to help you create a winning resume.
WHAT’S AN ACCOMPLISHMENT?
Before we start looking at how to write the section, it’s important to understand what accomplishments mean. You want to ensure the section is about your accomplishments and not just a list of other things. The most common confusion amongst job applicants is to treat accomplishments as duties or strengths.
Accomplishments are specific actions you’ve taken and which have resulted in a beneficial outcome. The outcome must be something better than what was expected of you – it must provide positive benefits to either you or the organization you were working for.
It’s not about the things you were meant to do. It’s not an accomplishment to manage a clientele of 100 people – this is a duty; something that was part of your job description in the first place. An accomplishment would be something like “I helped grow the client-base from 100 to 150 in six months”. This wouldn’t just be doing your job but going above and beyond your usual duties.
Furthermore, your accomplishment shouldn’t be a list of your strengths either. You don’t need to list your characteristics here or mention you are good at languages – you’d rather want to outline an achievement that provided benefits.
BEFORE YOU START WRITING ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Now that you know what constitutes as accomplishments, you can start preparing to write them. You should take the following three steps to get started.
Brainstorm and list your accomplishments
Take a piece of paper or open a Word-document and start brainstorming. You can just write all the accomplishments you can think of from your career and academic life. If you want, you can even mention any major accomplishment from things you’ve done outside of your academic or work career – for example, any accomplishments from your voluntary work.
Don’t edit or think too much at this stage. Just let your mind flow and look back to the things you’ve achieved in the past. To make the brainstorming session easier, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Have I received praise or recognition from colleagues or bosses? What were the specific tasks I was applauded for?
- Have I received a promotion, and award or commendations from clients?
- Have I been selected to be part of special projects or committees?
- Am I known for something specific in the workplace or team?
- What are the accomplishments I feel the most proud?
Include anything that comes to mind at this point – the time for editing and refining is later. If you’re finding it hard to come up with any accomplishments on your own, you can always ask your colleagues or friends to help.
Understand and list the qualities the job is looking for
Next, you want to take another piece of paper and analyze the job posting. You want to carefully read it through and list all the things the employer is looking for in the perfect candidate. List those skills and characteristics.
Think about the items you’ve listed in terms of the achievements that would showcase them. What kinds of achievements would help you in the role? For example, if the employer is looking for an experienced IT person, think how your accomplishment could show this? Perhaps you’ve received a special award for your IT skills or you’re known as the “unofficial IT guy” at the office.
Pick the achievements the employer is looking for
Now it’s time to combine the two. You need to examine your listed accomplishments in the light of what the employer is looking for. Remember your resume has to be relevant to the job you are applying for and you don’t want to waste the hiring managers time by including information that doesn’t interest them. Therefore, you shouldn’t list accomplishments, which aren’t relevant for the role.
You want to go through the lists and pick out the accomplishment that best fit the job description. Those achievements that highlight your ability to perform in the role and help the organization move forward.
WRITING ACCOMPLISHMENTS ON YOUR RESUME
You now have a list of accomplishments that are relevant to the role. It’s now time to start refining and editing your accomplishments.
You need to focus on results
Remember how at the start we talked about the difference between an accomplishment and a duty. You are not here to tell what you’ve done, as much as you are to tell what happened as a result. The key to accomplishment is in the outcome – the recognition of your actions.
Therefore, your focus should be on the results. Your accomplishment section should show how you’ve been able to do something outside of what was expected of you. You want to focus on the benefits you brought to the employer or for your own professional career.
For example, your accomplishment section should state things like “I’m a hard working employee, who stays overtime to get the job done.” That’s not an accomplishment. But if you say, “I often stay overtime to finish my projects, which has resulted in praise from my colleagues and boss,” you are presenting an accomplishment. You are doing something that has caused people around you to recognize it positively – in this case, you doing overtime helps the team finish projects.
You should quantify your achievements
Another important thing is to focus on quantifying those results. You want to use figures because they add more context to your accomplishments. Look at the examples below and think which one sounds more impressive:
“I’ve been recognized by my colleagues as a great customer service person.”
“I’ve been awarded the customer service person of the month award for three months in a row by my employers.”
You probably agree the latter example is much more powerful. It illustrates the accomplishment clearer – not only do you mention there’s an actual award for it (i.e. a competition you’ve won), but you also highlight you’ve not just done it twice but THREE times.
When you are looking at your chosen achievements, ask yourself:
- Have I received an award or a concrete promotion due to my actions? For example, the Employee of the Month award.
- Can I illustrate those achievements with figures, such as percentages or monetary amounts? For instance, improving sales by 10%.
- Have I done things ahead of time and received praise for it? For example, finishing a project three weeks in advance.
Of course, you won’t always be able to quantify everything you have done. You shouldn’t pluck numbers from thin air here. If the accomplishment is appropriate and relevant in all other ways, then you should include it on your list without forcing a figure into it.
Use action and power words
As you are refining your accomplishments and writing them on your resume, you need to pay attention to the language you use. The average hiring manager spends around six to ten seconds looking at your resume and it’s important to catch their attention. The best way to do it is by including colorful language. You want to include actionable and powerful words.
You can find a list of great action verbs from the Resume Genius blog post “The Longest Action Verb List in the Universe”. It includes great verbs such as:
You definitely want to place your action verb right at the start of the sentence. Instead of saying, “My colleagues awarded me with an award”, you should be saying, “Received an Employee of the Month award”.
So, what about power words? Those are words The Balance describes as words that “will jump off your page, quickly showing the hiring manager that you have the skills and other qualifications for the job”. Now, there are different types of power words and the action verbs mentioned above are just one example. Others include words like:
- Words describing the company values.
- Words that showcase popular transferable and soft skills.
- Words that are used in the job description, i.e. the keyword.
- Words that are popular in the industry.
As you can see, power words are easily identifiable when you research the company during the brainstorming session.
Follow the PAR method
A great way of writing the accomplishment section can be to include achievements that follow the PAR method. PAR stands for:
PROBLEM – ACTION – RESULT
So, you would take a problem, and then show the actions you took to resolve it and highlight the beneficial results. For instance, you might have been faced with a declining client-base at your previous work as a barista. You implemented a new voucher mechanism, which helped boost your clientele by 20%.
The PAR method can be used in all sorts of ways. Please note the problem doesn’t have to be something you actively noticed or went on to tackle at the time. It can just be used to add context to your accomplishment and provide insight into your skills. Presenting your accomplishment in this manner doesn’t just talk about those achievements but also your problem solving skills – you include a hidden message for the hiring managers, who are always reading between the lines, too!
You also don’t always have to use the PAR method in that order. You could also build the sentence by noting the action first before presenting the problem and the result. You can also just show the result first and then show the action and problem.
The Problem – The Action – The Result
EXAMPLES OF GOOD ACCOMPLISHMENTS SECTIONS
With the above information in mind, you might be eager to see concrete examples of good accomplishment sections. Here are a few sentences you should consider when writing your resume:
Each of the above example starts with an actionable word and includes a quantified example of a result. They are crisp and on point.
Monster.com has also three great examples that show how to move your accomplishment from the initial rough idea into a polished answer. The examples include this one for a teaching job:
|When I first started, students were passing state exams at the dismal rate of 67%. I updated the curriculum and instilled the students with a love of history. By year’s end, my students had achieved a 93% pass rate.|
The polished statement:
|Dramatically increased pass rate of eight-grade students from 67% to a record-high of 93% on state proficiency testing.|
You can see how the refining has worked. There has been an identification of the key figures and the use of the PAR method. In the above example, the method is used by first stating the action, then the problem and finally, the result. Furthermore, the single bullet point starts with a power word and an actionable word.
As mentioned, you might not always have figures to present. The Monster.com post also has a good example of an accomplishment statement for these circumstances. This example is for the position of an administrative assistant.
|On my first day on the job, I couldn’t find anything because the filing system was a mess. Customers were unhappy because wait times were long as we located files. I reorganised the filing system, which now works beautifully.|
The polished statement:
|Improved office efficiency and customer service by overhauling previously haphazard filing system.|
ADDITIONAL TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND
You should keep a few other things in mind when compiling the list of achievements. It’s important to remember the importance of keywords when writing your resume. Modern resumes are often digital and they get scanned by a system called applicant tracking system (ATS).
The technology uses keywords outlined by the employer to pick the resumes and applications who best match the employer’s criteria. Therefore, you need to ensure you select words and use language that would match those keywords and boost your chances of moving forward in the hiring funnel.
How do you know what are the right keywords to use? You need to analyze the job description well. It’s a good idea to match the wording on the job description and use similar terms and language the employer is using – without forgetting to sound natural and only include skills and qualifications you have. You might also want to check out similar job postings to get an idea on the language the industry uses. You can find more tips on the below YouTube video:
Here’s a quick example to help you with keywords and writing the accomplishment. Let’s say the company’s job posting is states the following things:
- You would be responsible for making marketing brochures.
- You would be responsible for Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns.
You can include the keywords “marketing brochures” and “Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns” (CSR campaigns) by tying them to your accomplishments. For example, you might be able to write bullet points like these:
- Launched CSR campaign, increasing participation in an annual charity event by 30%.
- Created innovative marketing brochures to drive up sales by 20%.
It’s also important to avoid repetition. You don’t want your accomplishment section and your skills section sound the same, for example. When you are writing the specific sections, you want to avoid mentioning the same skills and characteristics – each part should offer something unique for the hiring manager to learn about you.
So, make sure you don’t just look at your achievement section in isolation from the rest of the resume. Ensure you don’t list and talk about things you already have in the other parts and vice versa.
In terms of formatting your accomplishment section, you should stick to bullet points. These are quicker and easier to read than paragraphs. If you are wondering how to format your resume, you should read this blog post.
Writing accomplishments on your resume might seem tricky. We’re often told not to brag and now you are suddenly thrown into a situation where you need to boast. It’s important to learn to keep track of your accomplishments as you go through life and to learn to give credit when credit is due.
Like with any section in the resume, remember to keep it relevant to the job you’re applying for. Make it concrete by including figures and by outlining the situation with the PAR method – focus your accomplishments on the results.
With the above tips, you can write powerful bullet points that engage the hiring manager, impressing them with your skills and abilities.