Highlighting your accomplishments on your resume is not important at all — said no one, ever. In fact, after making it past the applicant tracking software (ATS), your accomplishments are what really get you an interview. But don’t panic if your resume falls a little short. Read on for a step-by-step guide to identifying, recording, and describing your top achievements to secure your remote dream job.
Overcoming Anxiety About Adding Accomplishments on Your Resume
Employers are looking for demonstrated success and measurable benefits, especially when recruiting for remote positions due to the level of trust required in new hires. If reading that sentence just sent your self-esteem into a tail-spin, don’t worry, we all have our successes. Really! In most cases, it’s just a matter of correctly identifying and framing what you do best as an accomplishment.
But let’s begin at the beginning and introduce some practices you should incorporate into your professional routine. Entry-level job seekers can start off on the right foot, and those of us with more experience may want to go back and remediate as much as possible.
Identify Your Accomplishments
We have terrible habits when it comes to identifying our accomplishments. Some of us will overlook or undervalue our contributions, not thinking that what we do every day could really be considered an accomplishment. Others will tend to overvalue their contributions and inflate the impact of their job activities on the organization. The key here is to be realistic.
Your previous written performance reviews are a great way to start. If your boss was impressed with it, chances are it was an accomplishment. Any awards or incentives you have earned will also point the way to your accomplishments. Other ways to objectively identify accomplishments are reference letters or thank you emails from clients. They will almost always list your positive contributions. Even offhand compliments during meetings can be used to identify your strengths which, in turn, lead to your accomplishments.
The reality is that every job activity you do results in an effect. The effect is the accomplishment if it is positive and useful to the organization. Now using this definition, we would be writing accomplishments for days and our resume would be books, but this is a good starting point because it’s always better to have too much information to work with than too little.
Record Your Accomplishments
Wherever you are working right now, whether it’s in a job, school, or doing volunteer work, you should start a document to provide an ongoing record of your accomplishments. This will prevent you from forgetting what you did, losing supporting documents, not knowing where to find the associated metrics, and so on. Five years after the fact it can be pretty hard to remember important details.
Just open a new spreadsheet. Organize according to your position and chronologically by date. You can add columns for types of activities, descriptions, key performance indicators, success metrics, etc. Whatever applies most to your situation and is generally accepted in your industry. For example, customer satisfaction ratings if you are in customer service, or revenues generated if you are a sales professional. If you are still in school, use your grades and special projects.
Now, start to fill it out. Start with your current projects or activities, and then go back in time as far as possible. Revisit this document at least once or twice a month to make additions. This is especially important if you work on complex projects. You want to record your milestones as well as your final goals because sometimes these are more important and you don’t necessarily know what skills will be valued by future employers.
Add Accomplishments to Your Resume
With the information you have gathered on your spreadsheet, you can start adding your accomplishments to your resume. There are four parts to writing an effective accomplishment:
- What you did. Briefly summarize what the project or activity was that you undertook. Include both those you completed individually or as part of a team as these highlight different skill sets.
- Why you did it. Briefly summarize what the reasoning was behind the project or activity. What problem did it solve? Identify the goal or business objective it contributed to and the primary benefits.
- What the specific outcomes and/or results were. Cite metrics to support your success. Whether you measure success via Google analytics or dollars and cents, everybody is emphasizing data-based metrics, so it’s important to find some that support your success.
- The scope or context of your accomplishment. How many customers were impacted? Did you increase revenue over previous years? How many people and projects did you complete?
You can write an accomplishment without supporting data, but it will have a lot more impact if you have it.
- What you did: I completed a project to redesign the office filing system. I researched software programs and systems so we could move to a cloud-based digital records system. I presented recommendations and worked with the vendor on pricing, customization, and implementation.
- Why you did it: The boss said he wanted to reduce paper costs and make files more easily available to people working in the field.
- Outcomes/Results: After the first six months we saved $4,000 in paper costs. Good feedback from field agents.
- Scope/Context: Total clients affected 2,500.
Rewritten as an accomplishment…
In most cases, people would record this accomplishment on their resume by stopping at number one, and writing something like this on their resume:
- Implemented new cloud-based electronic records system for the organization.
This approach has very little impact as it doesn’t talk about how the project achieved business goals or organizational benefits. It also doesn’t indicate the scope of the project.
Some people may go as far as incorporating number two and writing something like this:
- Led the planning and implementation of a project to redesign the office filing system and coordinated the migration of files into a digital format to reduce paper waste and for easy access by sales agents.
The problem with this approach is that you are essentially burying the lede. Employers want to know the benefits and the positive impact you have had in your previous positions. In order for you to fully realize the impact of your accomplishment, we could write something like this:
- Saved $8K annually and improved service to 2,500 customers by planning and executing migration to cloud-based records system that reduced waste and streamlined workflows for 50 field agents.
Additional examples can be found here.
Rules to Follow When Adding Accomplishments to Your Resume
In order to maintain a resume format that is commonly accepted, there are a few rules you need to follow:
- Always lead with a positive action word. For example, reduced, saved, improved, enhanced, increased, resolved, etc.
- Never use a pronoun. The pronoun is always implied, “I” reduced…
- Try not to have bullet points over two lines long or more than one sentence. When accomplishments are being evaluated, it will be a person evaluating it and we know that people don’t like big blocks of text. They like short blocks with a little white space in between, so it’s important to keep things as brief as possible.
- Two or three accomplishments per position is a good number. You should never list more than five. However, you should still write an accomplishment for each one you can identify. This way you can customize your resume as needed for different positions. Just switch out the accomplishments to list the most relevant.
- Keep the number of accomplishments in line with the time you were at each position. If you were in a job for one year and list five accomplishments, and are in another job for five years and only list one accomplishment, a recruiter may wonder why.
- Accomplishments do not replace a brief description of your job scope and responsibilities. It is important to still include this information for keyword analysis by the ATS and also so that human recruiters can see you have the basic skills and experience necessary to complete the daily activities of a position.
Other Uses for Your Accomplishments From Your Resume
Now that you have identified your accomplishments and framed them so they are impactful and demonstrated the value you can bring to a position, you can use your accomplishments in a variety of other professional settings and situations. For example:
- Cover letters
- Elevator pitches
- LinkedIn profiles
- Job interviews
Other Benefits of Writing your Accomplishments
It’s important to identify and celebrate our accomplishments for other reasons as well. Conducting any job search, whether you’re under the gun to find a new job or not, is one of our most stressful life events. It can involve months of rejection and following dead ends. Our confidence and self-esteem can take a real beating. Anything that we do to remind ourselves of what we accomplished in our previous positions will help to offset the job search blues.
The fact that you now have a complete list of your accomplishments across your career gives you a boost just knowing about them. It can also go a long way to keep you confident in social and networking situations as you conduct your job search as well. When people ask what you’re doing, you can talk about your accomplishments in detail and with enthusiasm, and promote your job search without embarrassment.
Most people find writing their accomplishments a difficult task for a reason. Even with clear instructions, many will still get stuck and feel uncomfortable writing about their accomplishments. If this is you, don’t worry! Remove the guesswork by contacting the Career Services team at Virtual Vocations today for a comprehensive resume review and professional rewrite.
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