On the surface, your resume might look like a detailed job history, but we know it’s much more. A resume is a marketing tool that sets you apart from the other candidates. It’s a safe bet that everyone in the applicant pool has had similar job duties, so a resume that stands out from the rest must go beyond focusing on what you have accomplished in previous roles. This way, you highlight your skills and how you’ve leveraged them to create positive results.
There are plenty of other reasons why focusing your resume on accomplishments over job duties might help you get to the next step in your career. For example, maybe you’re making a career change and don’t have much experience in the field you want to join. Or perhaps your job titles and duties don’t reflect the level of responsibility and leadership you’ve taken on. Ultimately, you want the bullet points on your resume to tell a unique story about who you are, not what was required, through specific examples.
We recently spoke with Heather McBride, senior resume consultant, HR expert, and founder of InClarity360, about using accomplishment-based resume writing techniques. Catch the full recording of this Mulberry Conversation on YouTube, or keep reading to learn more.
Accomplishment-based Versus Task-based
Of course, prospective employers will want to know what duties you’ve been responsible for and what your day looked like in your roles. But adding a layer of detail that shows the difference you were able to make in your work environments takes it to the next level.
Let’s say one of your past job experiences was working at a nursery. A task-based resume might say, “handle incoming telephone inquiries, plant seeds, and grow plants to maturity.” Of course, anybody who worked with you could say the same thing. But if we put an accomplishment-based spin on it, you might say something like “reduced plant diseases and increased propagation times, resulting in a 60% reduction in loss plants.” See the difference?
You won’t always have quantitative figures like this or a super accurate measure of your work, but qualitative descriptions can be just as good. For instance, “develop and manage a daycare program” might translate to “created a sensory-friendly and developmentally responsive learning environment to deliver original daycare curriculum.” Hiring managers want to see the results you’ve achieved so they have an idea of what you can achieve for their organization.
There’s a simple method you can use to start recognizing your accomplishments and putting them into concise bullet points for your resume. You may have heard of the STAR Method for interviewing, which we covered in another Mulberry Conversation. Heather showed us a modified version she uses for resume writing: instead of Situation, Task, Action, Result (STAR), she pushes the Situation and Task together for a rich but brief look at a specific challenge.
Here’s what it looks like:
Situation/Task: What was the problem or the challenge?
Action: What were the steps that you took to solve it?
Result: What were the qualitative or quantitative results?
You’ll want to start an Excel spreadsheet or a document that works as your “accomplishment database.” Of course, not every piece of information will be relevant to your resume, but the SAR method helps you get everything on the table so you can pick the most important details. You can also mix and match how you present them in your bullet points—they don’t always have to appear in SAR order.
Writing these out will do wonders to prepare you for interviews, and you can always go back to review your database. Make sure you create a reminder or set an appointment in your Google calendar to add new bullet points from recent experiences a few times a year.
Hack The System
Before revising your resume, you need to know what’s impressive to the hiring managers at your prospective employers. Use the criteria in the job posts you’re applying for to help determine what keywords and examples you pull from your database.
If you’re searching for a new position after a long time in one company, you might not remember the particulars from your first few years on the job. Heather has a fix for this too! See if you can access official job descriptions or records of your past performance reviews. You might even find some awesome quotes from your supervisors to include in other application materials. If you have files saved from presentations you’ve given or reporting from specific projects, you can dig that out to jog your memory and uncover some hard numbers. Sometimes you can even find stories about what your team did on your company website’s press tab or in the about section.
Where Do I Place These On My Resume?
You have a few different options for arranging accomplishment-based details on your resume. For example, you might list one or two significant accomplishments in your professional summary right at the top or list them as bullet points under the details about each experience in your work history.
In general, you want to address what hiring managers care about most at the top of your resume and use short bullet points to keep their eyes moving down the page. Stay away from long paragraphs because the most important details will get lost, and when you’re skimming through hundreds of resumes, it’s easy to get fatigued.
Another option is to separate the traditional job history section into two columns, with the dates and details of each experience on the left and bullet points of your accomplishments on the right. For example, you might title them “Experience” and “Areas of Expertise.”
Go Ahead, Hype Yourself Up
One of the things we hear all the time is job seekers have a hard time talking and writing about themselves. We all want to be humble, so focusing on your accomplishments can feel like bragging. But this is one situation in life where it’s good to do a little bragging, especially if you have the receipts!
Getting an accomplishment database started is wise, no matter where you are in your career journey. To get a detailed look at the SAR method and learn more tricks to help you stand out, watch the recording of our Mulberry Conversation with Heather McBride.