How to List Your Accomplishments

by Diana La Femina, Senior Editor, INALJ Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, New Brunswick, Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta

How to List Your Accomplishments

diana la feminaIn my last blog post I talked at length about what should go into your resume. Now, I want to discuss how to list accomplishments.

You’ve heard it over and over again: you should quantify your experience at your jobs. But what does that actually mean? It means that there should be two parts to each job/position you list on your resume. One should be your responsibilities – what tasks you performed, what was/would be listed on a job ad for your position. The second should be your accomplishments – what you did for your company.

To explicate further, a responsibility is “answered reference questions”, and an accomplishment is “answered reference question via email, phone, and in person in a department with a rate of 1,000 questions per month”. In the latter statement, you saying that you have a proven capability to answer reference questions in a busy reference department. And THAT’S what we’re looking for: proven capabilities.

I guess the best way to define the difference is that a responsibility is something you theoretically do, or the actual task you perform, while an accomplishment is how you perform that task. It’s how you contribute to your workplace.

With an accomplishment you’re going to use so-called “power words”: achieved, gained, increased, decreased. You can look up lists of them online so I won’t take up space with them here.

There should be two parts to your accomplishment: what you accomplished, and how you accomplished it. Make sure to list what you accomplished first; that’s the part that will grab a reader’s attention so you want the most impressive part first. So you should write:

Saved company $10,000 per month by creating a more efficient system of ordering supplies 
rather than:
Created a more efficient system of ordering supplies, saving company $10,000 per month.

You see which one sounds stronger? List the most impressive part first and the reader is more likely to be drawn into reading how you accomplished the feat.

Again, I can hear you saying, “But I haven’t accomplished anything!” Yes, you have. You’ve done things at your positions, both past and present, which go beyond what you were supposed to do. To help start you off, think about these few points:

• Did you ever receive praise or recognition for something? (This doesn’t need to be an award, just someone acknowledging that you did a good job.)

• Were you asked to take on further responsibilities/roles? (Such as training new hires, help out with someone else’s responsibilities for a period of time; this shows you were trusted.)

• Did you complete a project?

The easiest way I found to do this, at least in the beginning, is to find a list of “power words” and try to match them to each position on my resume. After a few times it starts to click.

Try to list at least one accomplishment for each position, though three is ideal for me. List as many as you need to and you can always edit some out or condense if you need to shorten your resume.

Hope this helps!