Many resumes I receive from prospective clients describe the tasks they performed at each of their jobs. A more powerful way to describe your work is to focus on what you accomplished at each job because employers know your job description.
Job accomplishments have three parts:
- The problem you had to solve,
- What action you took to solve it, and
- Your results.
Should you copy your job description into a resume?
Those of us that have been in the workforce for years probably wrote our first resumes using the job descriptions HR gave us. The resume repeated the job description and included little or no discussion of the projects we completed and the results we achieved. Experienced workers—even senior professionals and executives—often continue to write their resumes the same way. They go to their company website, copy their job description, and then paste it into their resume. Alternatively, they go to an online database of job descriptions such as www.onetonline.org to copy and paste a generic job description.
A recruiter I discussed this approach with yesterday told me she finds this approach okay for entry-level job candidates. My experience, though, is that you can do an accomplishment-based resume at any career level and get better results because your resume will stand out from the avalanche of job description and task-based resumes.
A resume that includes only your job descriptions does not tell recruiters and managers anything about your specific contributions to the job. The description may include functions you did not perform, or terminology you are not familiar with, so you will not be prepared to defend it at interviews.
Our solution is to describe your unique contribution to the job. First, briefly state the scope of your assignment, and then discuss your accomplishments on the job.
Explain the scope of your job.
Succinctly explain the purpose, or scope, of your work assignment in a few sentences just under your job title. Excerpts from your position description are okay here, as long as you make certain the excerpts describe the work you performed. For example, a former school principal I worked with described the scope of one of her jobs as follows:
“Organized and directed all phases of operations at this K-5 school, including 60 staff members, 425 children and a building budget of $350,000, excluding salaries. Initially assigned by the School District to “turn around” the North Woods program because it was not delivering mandated services or meeting parent expectations.”
We might have written that she was “responsible for organizing and directing all operations at this K-5 school…” but she could have had this responsibility without carrying them out. It is stronger to write that she “organized and directed…”
The scope statement, then, gives us the opportunity to tell the reader what our boss, corporate leadership, board, or agency leadership mandated us to do. The next step is to describe what we did to accomplish this mission.
Accomplishment statements are the heart of your presentation.
The remainder of the content under each job title consists of bullet points, often referred to as accomplishment statements. An accomplishment statement starts with a strong action verb. Then, it includes the following 3 elements:
- What business problem or opportunity you were asked to address,
- The action you took to address the problem or opportunity, and
- Your quantifiable results.
We call this the Problem, Action, Result, or PAR, model. You will also see it referred to as the STAR, or situation, task, action result model in some books and websites.
The strongest way to develop PAR statements for your resume is to set up a three-column table with Problem, Action, and Result columns, and then write as many problem, action, result examples as you can think of in each row of the table. You can also write your PAR analysis as a narrative, as I did below prior to writing one of my own resumes several years ago.
Problem: The business problem or opportunity is a situation you were expected to address at your job. For example, at a large welfare-to-work program I was expected to create resumes for every work readiness client. Welfare-to-work program regulations in New York required that each work readiness client had a resume. Our job developers also needed the resumes to market each job candidate to industry.
Action: I critiqued, edited, or wrote more than 2400 resumes for job candidates over an eight-year period to address this business problem. In addition, I led resume classes and computer lab sessions to help our job candidates develop resumes.
Result: The quantifiable result was that I was credited with about 200 competitive job placements.
The bullet points I wrote based on this analysis were as follows:
- Worked one-on-one with more than 2400 participants to develop resumes that addressed their individual situations.
- Credited with more than 200 competitive job placements among individuals that attended my resume workshops, one-on-one resume coaching sessions, and job search computer labs.
I could have condensed this into one bullet point, but decided to write two bullet points for clarity.
The bullet-points will also serve as your talking points at job interviews. You should be prepared to elaborate on each point. In fact, you may have additional accomplishments that you did not have room to discuss on your resume. Be prepared to present and elaborate on those additional points at interviews.
Everyone has accomplishments!
Job candidates often tell me that they do not have any accomplishments. I’ve found that virtually everyone I’ve worked with has accomplishments. For example, a custodial maintenance worker I coached was tasked with cleaning a 23,000 foot warehouse each morning. He used mechanical buffers and solvents to solve the problem. The result is that 100% of the warehouse is clean and safe at the start of business each day.
Use strong action verbs.
Start each bullet-point with a strong action verb. Often job candidates tell me they “participated” in meetings. This could mean they sat in meetings and took notes, or it could mean they made major presentations. “Prepared verbatim notes to provide minutes for the CEO and leadership team” is stronger than “participated in leadership team meetings.” Google “resume action verbs” for many excellent lists if you get stuck.
Start preparing your accomplishment-based resume.
It would be easy to create an “old school” employment history section for your resume today. You could list your employers and job titles, and then paste in your job description. The resume may not generate many interviews because it would provide little information that differentiates you from your competition. If you do get interviews, the resume will not guide the interviewer in the desired direction.
Accomplishment-based resumes generate better results because they communicate your unique value proposition to employers. Recruiters and hiring managers will be prompted by resume content to ask about accomplishments you are prepared to discuss. Click here for three examples of accomplishment-based resumes. Then click here to schedule your free consultation where we will address your specific career direction.