Most resumes I receive from jobseekers have something in common—they are a compilation of job descriptions. The resume is task-oriented. In other words, we learn that the jobseeker responded to customer service calls, dispatched trucks, had P&L responsibility for 5 retail locations, or whatever else they were asked to do. After reading through a page or two of narrative, we don’t know how much they improved customer satisfaction, whether more trucks made deliveries on-time, or whether their assigned stores made money
While job descriptions are useful, a better strategy is to think about each of your work assignments and ask yourself:
- What challenges you addressed,
- What actions you took to address the challenges, and
- What results you achieve?
This approach will work whether you are a recent graduate in a customer service role, a middle-manager, or if you are a senior leader. You will be able to identify and discuss accomplishments whether you are in a profit-making company, non-profit organization, or even a government agency.
What challenges were you asked to address?
We are hired to address specific needs in our organizations. Often, our leadership team or immediate supervisor gives us goals for certain periods of time. Even better, we probably got this information in some document we have access to and had to sign.
Use the goals your team leaders gave you as a starting point. For example, the challenge one of my clients faced some years ago was to reduce production development time for a fashion retailer’s brands sourced from vendors in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and the Philippines.
In another example, at one of my own jobs I was tasked with making certain that every jobseeker had a resume. The resume had to meet the requirements of our government contract, and it had to meet the needs of our job development team—the staff that did job placement—because we had job placement goals.
No specific revenue or cost goal was associated with either my client’s project or my project. Nonetheless, we could quantify goal achievement in both cases.
What actions did you take to address your challenges?
Many of us are modest when potential employers and others ask us what we did to meet our expectations at the job. It’s tempting to say “the job was to ensure every job-ready client had a marketable resume, so I critiqued, edited, and wrote resumes every day.”
Job search is the process of marketing our skills to prospective employers, so say more than “I did the job.”
With regard to my own job, the action I took to meet both the program’s administrative and job placement goals was two-fold. First, I critiqued, edited, or wrote more than 2400 resumes while at the program. Also, I provided one-on-one coaching, led job search computer labs, and conducted interview workshops.
My client who worked at a fashion retailer told me that, to reduce development time, she “piloted, documented, and then implemented Zymmetry PLM. This was an online system that provided real-time production data from the US team to her Asian vendors.”
What results did you achieve?
Our next step in building an accomplishment statement is to let the facts speak for themselves when describing our results. For example, our fashion retailer client said that, as a result of her project, the Company reduced product development time by at least seven days. We need not say she “successfully” reduced development time at least a week—the number tells the story.
With regard to the accomplishment example from my own resume, I described my result as being credited with more than 200 competitive job placements.
The most important thing you can communicate to prospective employers is the result you achieved on your assignments or projects. Ideally, jobseekers should describe their achievements in terms of the amount of money they earned or the amount of money they saved for their previous and current employers.
Sometimes, the jobseekers I collaborate with can document revenue increases or cost-savings that their work has generated. It’s just a matter of writing an accomplishment statement that does not include confidential information. For example, one client was expected to keep insurance costs under 30 percent of total cost for a certain line-of-business. The actual percentage was confidential, so we agreed on writing that she “exceeded corporate insurance cost reduction goals…”
Other jobseekers do not have direct knowledge of the amount of money they earn or save for their employers. Instead, we have to work with the metrics their employers used to evaluate them. For my fashion industry client, the metric on the project we have been discussing was whether or not she reduced product development time. The metric in my own case was the number of placements resulting from my work.
The bullet-point my client and I built using her accomplishment read as follows:
- Shaved at least 7 days off production development time for brands sourced overseas by piloting, documenting, and then implementing Zymmetry PLM that provided real-time production data from the US team to vendors in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and the Philippines.
The bullet-point I used on my own resume was:
- Credited with more than 200 competitive job placements among individuals that attended my résumé workshops, one-on-one résumé coaching sessions, and job search computer labs.
Conclusion Resume writers and career management coaches can help you craft the language for accomplishment bullets and help you prepare to explain your accomplishments at interviews. But it is up to you to gather the facts, ensure the facts are accurate, and then explain your accomplishments to both the experts that help you as well as prospective employers. Your prospective employers will know what you have achieved, not just your job description when you follow an accomplishment-based strategy.