How to Make Your Resume Sell With Accomplishments

The most problematic part of a resume for people seems to be crafting their accomplishments.  The confusion between an accomplishment and a responsibility is the difference between generating excitement by selling what you can do, and making a bland statement that elicits the question “So what?”   It’s the difference between being invited in for an interview….and getting no response at all.

A responsibility reads as if it was taken from your job description.  It fails to distinguish you from any other person that held that title before you, or holds that title at any other company.  It says your function, but it doesn’t speak to your ability to perform that function.

By contrast, an accomplishment is what differentiates you from any other person that does, or has done, that job.  It not only indicates how well you perform your job, but what type of person you are.

How does a factual accomplishment reveal something as subtle and subjective as a personality trait?  Measured with the length of time you were at a company, your number of accomplishments indicates the degree to which you are a go-getter.  It says if you’re motivated to go beyond the average job, and how much pride you take in your work.

It tells the hiring authority if you look for problems and find ways to solve them, or if you are content with saying, “That’s good enough.”  And it also tells him how well you know your job by how well you solved those problems.  Let’s look at an example.  If you’re a teacher, a responsibility might read:

  • Developed innovative, education-based curriculum

Which leaves the following questions:

  • For what classes did you develop a curriculum?
  • Why did it need to be developed?
  • What was going on before it was developed?
  • What was the result of the development?

Interviewers want answers, not questions. Since the responsibility statement doesn’t indicate how well you performed your job, it’s easier not to invite you in for an interview. Interviewers don’t know if you have accomplishments hiding behind your responsibilities. They assume you don’t have anything to say, because you didn’t say it.  They don’t care that perhaps you didn’t know how to say it.  If your resume doesn’t sell you, it’s not their problem.  It’s yours.

By contrast, the accomplishment version of the same statement might read:

  • Created and implemented innovative, education-based curriculum that engaged students more actively, resulting in 75% of student body raising grades by average of a full point

This says you’re worth talking to.  Then at the interview, it opens the field for the interviewer to ask you for more information about what types of programs you implemented and how you implemented them.

An accomplishment is a results-oriented statement.  It shows the benefit of hiring you by telling what you can do.   What you’re saying is, “I know what you want done, and I’ve done that.  I’ve done it successfully for my previous company; therefore, I can do it successfully for you.  When you hire me, you aren’t risking an unknown.  You’re hiring someone who has a proven ability to do the job successfully.”

That’s what interviewers want to know.  That’s what they want to hear.  They don’t want to wonder, and they don’t want to figure it out.  If your resume doesn’t indicate what you’re capable of, the chance of an interview in which to sell yourself is slim.

If you’ve been sending out resumes and getting nothing in response, take a look at your bullets under each company name.  Do they just say what you did, or do they say how well you did it?

You’re selling a product, and the product is you.  The interviewer is the buyer, and your resume is, in effect, your marketing brochure.  But if the buyer isn’t interested, you can’t close the sale.  And that’s your problem, not theirs.

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This blog was originally posted on Career Rocketeer. Judi Perkins, the How-To Career Coach, was a recruiter for 22 years and worked with hundreds of hiring authorities on entry level through CEO. She set up over 15,000 interviews, and has seen over half a million resumes. Her clients often find jobs 8 – 12 weeks because she brings them sequence, structure and focus, and shows why typical strategies often fail. She’s been on PBS’s Frontline, Good Morning Connecticut, in Smart Money magazine, CareerBuilder, MSN Careers, Yahoo Hot Jobs, New York Times, New York Daily News, multiple radio shows including a regular Thursday morning gig, and quoted in numerous career books. Sign up for her free newsletter

Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Future Employer

During an interview, one of the most impressive things a candidate can do is to ask great questions. Asking questions shows that you have taken the time to think about the interview and to consider what it would be like to work for the company. Here are five questions to ask your future employer.

1.  What are the typical challenges a person in this position has faced? This Interview, Candidate, Staffing, handshake question will give you a chance to use your own skills and strengths as a way to show your value for the position.

2.  Do you have any concerns about hiring me today?  This is ultimately a closing question, but it presents the opportunity for you to address any concerns and to see where you stand in the interview process.

3.  What do you enjoy the most about your job/position/company?  This can be great insider information to see if you are a good fit for the company and if you’d enjoy similar aspects.

4. Where do you see this company/industry going in five years?  This can show your standing power and interest in a long-term career path.

5. What are the career paths of this position/department?  Again, this is another way to let your interviewee know you are serious about the future and advancement within the company.

Regardless of who your future employer is, they all want to know that the candidate is just as interested in them, as they are in you!  Be curious and go into your interviews with a seeker’s mentality – find out all that you can about your potential new employer.