Work Assignments / Accomplishments
By Ken Soper, MCC, NCCC
Reverse chronological ordering of this information is typically expected, listing current and previous employer’s name, location by city and state/province (don’t include street address, phone numbers, or supervisor’s name), a one-line description of what the organization does (check their website), and then the job title/work assignment. A short one or two line summary of the tasks, duties and responsibilities of the assignment then follows. This information forms the framework or skeleton and context for the reader, and sets up layout to emphasize how well you did your work, using accomplishment statements. This step is also helpful even if you elected to use a functional layout. More about this later.
Just what are ‘accomplishments’? Accomplishments are things you started, completed, worked on, created, developed or made possible—things that happened because you were there. It can be a long or short term project, done as a member of a team, something created or supervised with others, or by yourself. But they're always specific, not general, and they are always things in which you played an active role, even if others worked with you.
Look below at the difference between a task, duty or responsibility (TDR) which does not market you effectively but is the way most people write their resumes, and compare it with the same situation described as an accomplishment.
Here's a TDR like those that appear on a typical resume:
- Wrote weekly reports on sales and submitted these to home office.
Now here it is the same work as an accomplishment, presented with selective detail:
- Completed 134 summary reports on sales, including weekly volume, percent of increase, and new clients seen. Received commendation from sales manager for accuracy and for never missing a deadline.
Note that the accomplishment described how well this person performed the duty using "quantifying” and “qualifying" words.
Doing something is one thing; doing it well is quite another! Results detail the positive differences, advantages and changes which occurred as a consequence of your efforts and work, i.e. the value you added to the organization. They are best expressed in easy to understand words (i.e. qualifying) or in numbers (i.e. quantifying). These positive results are the benefits your previous employers received for hiring your skills.
Here's another TDR description that is trying to show results:
- Sold complete line of cars and trucks for a major metropolitan dealer for six years. Interfaced with sales force, customers, service department, and prospected by phone.
Now, here is the same description with much more persuasive, results-oriented statements in two sentences: Situation/Action and Results/Satisfaction.
- Sold 200+ new cars and 50+ new trucks annually--over $2.5MM in sales--for each of the past four years, receiving the dealer's highest measured customer service rating for most of the 70 months on the sales force. Averaged 35 cold call phone contacts daily, converting 6% into customers.
So, how does one develop accomplishment statements that show results? Below is a four-step process for writing such statements. Once you get the knack, you will find it easier to develop such statements; a talented resume writer can help fine tune your statements. They can be developed for use on resumes, in cover letters, and in telling stories during interviews.
Telling stories? Right! These kinds of stories can be persuasive and powerful in convincing interviewers that you’re the person they need to hire.
Accomplishments are situations or activities that you significantly changed through your efforts--either alone, with others, or both—where you have made a contribution to an organization or activity that would not have happened if you'd not been working there. For example, "created new procedure...," "reduced scrap...," "improved design...," "installed equipment...," and "produced cost savings..." are all beginnings of accomplishment statements that can be very important to convey to prospective employers in a resume or as a "short story" during an interview.
Try writing an accomplishment statement using the following four points in preparing for work search and interviewing. Once written in this “long” version, you can edit down or condense each story into a concise form that can be used in resumes and cover letters—and having done so, you have created a “mental library” of stories for interviews, including those you choose not to include in your resume.
1. Briefly describe the situation and/or problem.
2. The steps you took using action verbs (first, second, third and so on).
3. With these results (such as "improved significantly...", "reduced 35%...".
4. What was satisfying to you about this.
Ok now, write out a number of accomplishment stories using this four-part structure, even if only in outline form. Word processing software with the outlining feature helps. Then, you can redraft the story in an “abridged” or condensed version—combine #1 and #2 together and combine #3 and #4—as accomplishment statements for your resume. This “rehearsal” also helps you prepare for interviews where smart interviewers want you to describe actual behaviors in your past, because those behaviors are the interviewers’ best means of predicting your future success. This approach by interviewers is known as “behavioral based interviewing,” an approach very prevalent.
For example, look again at the accomplishment statement below. See if you can see the four different parts condensed into two using quantifying and qualifying words.
- Sold 200+ new cars and 50+ new trucks annually--over $2.5MM in sales--for each of the past four years, receiving dealer's highest measured customer service rating for most of the 70 months on the sales force.
- Averaged 35 cold call phone contacts daily, converting 6% into customers.