If achievements in your resume lack the punch and persuasion of Conor McGregor (yes, I’m a Conor tragic … can you tell?), it’s likely that you’re unnecessarily missing out on great job opportunities.
The obvious question needs to be asked, then – how do you write persuasive, compelling resume achievements to ensure that your resume communicates your commercial value?
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Are Achievements And Responsibilities The Same?
Unfortunately, most people lose the game of resume achievement writing before they even begin: simply because they confuse achievements with responsibilities.
If you retain anything from this article, I urge you to remember this: the most effective resumes are be achievement-centred. Not responsibility-driven.
What’s the difference?
A job responsibility describes a task you were accountable for, while an achievement explains how well you performed it. For example:
“As a senior sales executive, I was responsible for driving sales while mentoring and training 5 junior salespersons.”
“Delivered YOY revenue growth of +190% in FY18, exceeding sales targets while developing a capable, motivated and high-performing BD team of 5 through astute people and performance management, with one member winning the President’s Award.”
Does that make sense?
By the way, poor achievements are also a hallmark of substandard professional resumes. Read this article for a full debrief on shortcomings of so-called ‘professional’ resume writers.
How To Write Highly Effective Resume Achievements.
The process of writing achievements intimidates many people because, on the surface, it appears to be a very time-intensive and complex task.
Well, I have some bad news for you. This is somewhat true (mainly due to the amount of thought and revision that is required to do it well).
The good news is that you can save yourself a great deal of time (and sanity) by learning how to write achievements by using one of the three professional methods below.
Let’s dive right into it then. I’m about to pull back the curtain on the exact methodology used by top resume writers to craft outstanding professional resumes.
But first, let’s discuss a couple of common mistakes you should avoid.
The Wrong Way To Write Resume Achievements.
Consider this achievement for Vice President, Sales of a luxury goods brand:
“Achieved 125% to annual sales target in 2016.”
What do you think?
This person certainly seems like a high performer. But are you interested in finding out more? Do you find yourself thinking “hold the phone, I’ve found my new Head of Sales”?
The main problem with an achievement like this is that it lacks context, and therefore leaves the following questions unanswered:
- Wasn’t 2016 a pretty good year for luxury spending, anyway?
- How did their three biggest competitors perform that year?
- How did the sales team do under the previous VP of sales?
In other words, an achievement like this creates more questions than it answers.
And when recruiters are left with too many unanswered questions, they tend to do the worst thing possible – put your resume into the “too hard basket”.
(Related Article: What’s The Best Font For An Australian Resume?)
3 Methods For Writing Outstanding Achievements (Used By Pro Resume Writers).
It should be becoming clear to you why resume achievements – as they’re written by the vast majority of people – aren’t very effective at helping people get jobs.
Let me show you how it should be done.
Method 1: Achieved Result By Taking Action (ARTA).
The title of this method gives away the mechanics of this approach.
If you were to rewrite the above example using the ARTA method, you’d get:
“Delivered 125% to 2016 sales target [Achieved The Result] by developing a new-to-company strategy to target the Asian markets [By Taking Action].”
ARTA is useful for communicating straightforward achievements and is most of the time suited for entry-level roles.
As you can see, the example above doesn’t address all of the recruiter’s questions, but it does provide more context in a confident tone while demonstrating some knowledge of the market.
Method 2: Challenges, Obstacles, Steps And Results (COSR).
Let’s dive straight into it and rewrite this resume achievement using the COSR method:
“Addressed a decade-long trend of declining global sales performance [Challenge] and overcame effects of financial headwinds in Europe [Obstacle] by embedding a new-to-company Asia market strategy [Steps], achieving 125% to 2016 annual sales target within the first year [Results].”
Now, this is a person whom you probably want to have on your team.
In one sentence this achievement demonstrates that the person has strategic chops, deep knowledge of global markets and an impressive ability to influence stakeholders.
Method 3: Situation, Task, Action, Result (STAR).
This is a method that’s quite commonly used by professional resume writers.
It’s a fairly universal method and is often seen on resumes of middle management employees.
Let’s take a look at the example of our Sales VP again – this time written by using the STAR method:
“Addressed downward overall spending trends [Situation] and met sales turnaround and growth goals [Task] by identifying and targeting opportunities within the lucrative Asian luxury goods market [Action], achieving 125% to 2016 sales plan [Result].”
Pretty straightforward, right? Right.
Key Point To Remember About Resume Achievements.
To do a great job of selling yourself for a particular role you need to write a resume which positions you as the person who has the skills and abilities to do that job successfully.
Use one of my three resume achievement writing methods above to show a proven, highly relevant track record of success on your resume. This will help eliminate a recruiter’s or hiring manager’s doubt that you’re the right person for the job.