When clients ask us to improve their resume, there is one mistake we often see immediately – they have often written a reasonable list of their previous duties or responsibilities but haven’t mentioned their past achievements.
We don’t mean the debating trophy they won in Year 10 – we mean achievements in previous roles.
Your resume is your chance to sell yourself. So, like any sales content, you need to give prospective employers the benefits (your results) as well as the features (what you do).
Why employers want to see achievements
Prospective employers don’t just want to know whether you can do the job; they want to know how well you can do the job and whether you can add value to their organisation.
So just telling them what you did in a role isn’t enough. How did you make things better and easier for the organisation? How is the organisation better for you having been there?
Make sure the focus of your resume is your achievements, not your duties.
How to write achievements in your resume
Focusing on achievements can be more time consuming than just listing your responsibilities. However, you don’t need to throw out your current resume and start from scratch.
Start by looking at every duty or responsibility you’ve written on your resume and ask yourself ‘So what was the result of doing this?’ If the answer is ‘I got the job done’, you probably don’t have a handle on the achievement yet.
There are several formats you can use to write achievements:
- Result and Action (R&A) – This is a simple format stating what the result was and what you did to achieve it. It works well for entry-level roles and is also great for sales positions.
- Situation, Task, Action, Result (STAR) – This is a common format and a good place to start. You may also find it useful for answering behavioural questions in job interviews, or addressing key selection criteria.
- Challenges, Obstacles, Steps and Results (COSR) – This approach provides more detail, including the problem that needed fixing, the steps you took to fix it, the obstacles you had along the way and the result. It can be a bit more difficult to frame up but works well when you addressed an ongoing problem or led a complex project.
Examples of achievements
- Sales target exceeded – Delivered 140% to 2020 sales target by prospecting into new categories, notably securing a deal with a key automotive player worth $1.2 million.
- Cost savings – Saved $30,000 per year in leasing costs by analysing and reworking floor layout, and subletting unused space.
- Successful campaign – Following a 6-year period of organisational decline, successfully strategised and launched a focused media campaign, securing a $15-million commitment at the May 2019 federal election. This was the most significant election announcement for any primary-based industry and bolstered the organisation’s financial viability.
- Challenge addressed – Developed and led the campaign to increase the price of discount milk by 10 cents per litre in collaboration with Woolworths. This gave dairy farmers a $60-milion per year income boost across supermarkets.
- Time savings – Reduced end-of-month reporting times from more than 5 days to fewer than 2 days by creating a set of new templates and training staff to use them correctly.
- Innovation – Developed an online notes system for use by the administration team. Later rolled out to 400 staff companywide, resulting in stationery savings of more than $6000 per year.
No matter which method you use to write achievements on your resume, make sure a few things are covered:
- Focus on what you achieved or the result, and the actions you took to achieve it.
- Use metrics or a tangible result where possible (e.g. numbers, stats, percentages) to provide context to your achievements. (If you’re vague, recruiters will assume you’re padding your resume to sound impressive).
- Where possible, try to forward-load the achievement. This means starting with the benefit or the gain.
- Keep it brief – just a sentence or two unless there is significant detail that you feel needs to be demonstrated for the role.