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How to Explain your Achievements in your Resume

Achievements have three elements:

1. What you did

2. How you did it

3. The result or benefit or outcome or impact or value of what you did.

Achievements are things you did which added value, made a tangible or noticeable difference and contributed to the business of the organisation. They are not skills you learned, abilities you developed, knowledge you gained or awards you won.If you express an achievement as: "Reviewed and restructured the company's sales force", this does not provide much useful information to the reader. The typical response to such a statement of achievement would be something like: “so what?” They want to know how you did it and what the impact was. Reviewing is not an achievement. It is a task or process. "Re-structured" is far too nebulous and vague to be of much use to the reader.

The achievement might be re-worked as: "Increased the company's revenue base by 10% by de-centralising the sales force and delegating decision making authority which enabled a higher proportion of sales to be closed in the field."

If your achievements are quantifiable, don’t just provide dollars or other “raw” numerical data because these are not very meaningful until they are put into a context. For example, if you increased sales by $1m from last year, this might be impressive if the company was a $5m a year enterprise. However, if the company was a $500 million a year business, a $1m increase is not nearly as impressive. Therefore, express increases in sales, decreases in costs, increases in market share and other changes to an organisation’s key performance indicators as percentages or fractions.

If you improved customer satisfaction to 90%, or if you increased on time in full delivery to 95% or if you reduced machinery downtime to 1%, indicate the previous period’s figure. This provides the reader with an understanding of the magnitude or scale of the improvement. (For example: improved customer satisfaction from 75% to 90% within 12 months by ……………………)

Put quantitative achievements into context. For example, if you sold $1m of a product in a year, this won’t mean much by itself if the reader does not know how big the company is, how big the market is or how much the product costs. For example selling a $1m property in Hobart is more impressive that selling a $1m property in Manhattan. Selling 6 BMWs in a month in Sydney is as impressive as selling 30 Kia motor cars in a month in Sydney and much more impressive than selling 6 BMWs in Munich or 30 Kia cars in Seoul. Selling a Mercedes to wealthy person in Saudi Arabia is not impressive because every wealthy person in that country seems to have at least four. However, selling a Kia in that market demographic would be more impressive because most of the wealthy citizens of that country would not want to be seen dead in one (no offence to Kia Motors, but it’s horses for courses).

If an achievement is not easily quantifiable, you can still provide a meaningful indication of the value of the achievement. For example: “Reduced duplication and enhanced the re-usability of test suites by improving testing and planning through discussion forums which enabled team members to share knowledge and identify areas for improvement.”

The general pattern is: what you did, how you did it and what happened as a result. (what, how and so what.)

If you were not the person wholly or fully accountable for an achievement, indicate your role or contribution to it. Saying you “participated in” or were “involved” in something is not sufficient. An employer will rightly ask the question: "What was your role? What was your level of participation?"

Avoid weak and vague terms and phrases. Make your achievements as concrete and explicit as possible, while not getting bogged down in excessive detail.

It is not useful to provide information in your resume about awards or rewards received or information about skills you learned and developed in a job. These are typically not the types of achievements in which an employer or recruitment consultant is interested. They want to know what you did to earn those awards or rewards or what you did with what you learned. That is, if the company rewarded or awarded you, the reader wants to know what you did to earn them. If you learned new skills, the reader wants to know how you applied them to the benefit of the organisation.

Examples of Well Expressed Achievements

 Reduced employee turnover by 50% by increasing salary levels and introducing performance based incentives which enabled enable the organisation to compete with other employers in the industry for the first time and increased the organisation’s overall capabilities by enabling it to attract higher calibre candidates.

 Increased profits by 10% in a highly competitive environment by focusing on the less price sensitive customer segments who valued service, which eliminated the need to use price as a mechanism for securing new business.

 Reduced employee turnover by 20% and significantly increased productivity by introducing a performance management system that recognised contribution, challenged staff to accept responsibility and empowered them to make decisions.

 Increased employee productivity and the overall efficiency of the unit by introducing processes and procedures that eliminated duplication and reduced the time to complete month-end reports.

 Reduced employee absenteeism to less than 2% and eliminated non-genuine sick days by designing and implementing a “no-fault” absenteeism program which rewarded employees with lump sum payouts of unused sick leave for the year.

 Reduced the time required to respond to customer requests and improve customer satisfaction by providing front line counter staff with the skills, knowledge authority needed to resolve customer enquiries and complaints.

 Reduced duplication and enhanced the re-usability of test suites by improving testing and planning through the implementation of discussion forums which enabled team members to share knowledge and identify areas for improvement.

 Enabled the Executive Director to focus on high priority strategic issues by taking responsibility for the day to day administrative affairs of the office and responding to all requests for information.

 Significantly reduced staff costs and improved productivity by improving the firm’s administrative procedures which reduced the administration workload from full time to a part time.

 Consistently submitted quarterly Business Activity Statements on time after they had been previously been submitted well behind schedule. The company was then able to submit reports to the external accountant for the preparation of the year end return.

 Contributed substantively to a high level of patron loyalty through my interpersonal skills, length of service, personal presentation and my understanding of the personalities, preferences and expectations of customers.

 Elevated the perception of the company as a contributor to the community by establishing a community fund which has distributed almost $200,000 to local not for profit organisations and has resulted in the publication of an average of 20 articles a year.

 Increased production capacity by 15% by redefining and restructuring work flows which enabled the company to consistently meet or exceed promised manufacturing and delivery turnaround times and enabled the company to more accurately forecast and more capable of accommodating demand fluctuations.

 Increased efficiency by restructuring the Department into Operations and Administration functions which eliminated time consuming administrative tasks from the workload of the Operations Team and released substantial time for operational activities.

 Reduced anomalies with authorisations and improved the company’s ability to respond to customer enquiries by devising and introducing internal process controls for credit notes, despatching orders, initiating the cashbook and the credit card payment book.

 Developed and launched the company’s performance management system ensuring a direct link with its Core Values, role clarity and goals at the individual, business unit and corporate levels. This has provided staff with clarity, aligned staff with the company’s strategic direction and has improved skills and capabilities aligned to business needs and enabled the company to more effectively identify, develop and retain talent.

 Consistently achieved a high level of customer satisfaction by exhibiting a positive attitude and building trust, by ensuring commitments are met and expectations are exceeded by offering additional information about the company’s products in line with customer needs and priorities.

 Helped increase profits by devising and recommending a variety of promotions and customer incentives which significantly increased patronage.

 Achieved national and international recognition for design and marketing excellence by launching and securing market acceptance of new branding for the business and a range of new products.

Author:.

Tom Hannemann is Principal of Advance Yourself Career Services - http://www.advance-yourself.com.au - a firm dedicated to helping executives, managers and professionals advance their career by developing their resumes, helping them respond to selection criteria and helping them prepare for interviews. He has been Seek's resident resume writing expert since October 2000 and is the preferred resume writing service of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Recruitment firms, executive c...

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