Terry Gallagher, president of Battalia Winston International, a New York-based executive search firm, says he places “three times as much value on results versus responsibilities on a resume.”
But while touting your successes may be a winning strategy, figuring out what to include and how to convey it can be a challenge, say professional resume writers.
To make your resume easy to read, keep the chronological format and integrate your accomplishments into each job listing, experts advise. Executive resumes longer than one page should also highlight selected accomplishments at the beginning, says Martin Weitzman, president of Gilbert Resumes in Englishtown, N.J.
Stumped when it comes to identifying your accomplishments? Here are five tips to help you get started.
1. Ditch the modesty.
“The resume is absolutely no time to be humble,” says Heather Eagar, owner of ResumeLines.com, a reviewer of resume-writing services.
Judy Rosemarin, president of Sense-Able Strategies Inc., a New York executive-coaching firm, recalls that a client from the banking industry froze and began perspiring after being asked to write down her accomplishments. “Where is that talented executive I was just talking to?” Ms. Rosemarin says she asked. In response, the client explained she was uncomfortable bragging.
Remember that you are a solution to the hiring manager’s problem, advises Ms. Rosemarin. If you are uncomfortable, think of your list of accomplishments as sharing instead of bragging, she says.
2. Review a performance checklist.
Ask yourself the following questions about each of your previous jobs:
- What was your impact on your division, company and group?
- What would not have happened if you hadn’t been there?
- What are you proudest of during your time with the company?
“Sometimes we are so busy working we don’t realize how good we are,” says Margaret Flynn, a career and communications consultant in Staten Island, N.Y. She also recommends enlisting the help of family, friends and former colleagues who may remember accomplishments that have slipped your mind.
One good source can be a spouse or friend who heard about your complaints and successes on a regular basis. Ask him or her what you bragged about or were proud of at work, says Deb Dib, president of Advantage Resumes in Medford, N.Y. You can also ask colleagues and vendors for their input. Ms. Dib suggests saying something like, “We had a great working relationship. What did you like best about working with me?”
3. Use job evaluations.
Dig through your old annual reviews and take note of what your supervisors praised you for, says Mr. Weitzman. Accomplishments may be listed on the evaluation. Reading some of the strengths that supervisors identified may help you think about how you used those strengths to meet goals.
When Joyce Irene de los Reyes, 26 years old, updated her resume, her first draft listed only her responsibilities. “When I went back and read my resume, I asked myself if there was anything that would make an interviewer look twice, and I wasn’t satisfied,” Ms. de los Reyes says. She used the written recommendations she received from each of her jobs to develop a list of accomplishments and recently landed a position as a technical support analyst for a software company in New Brunswick, N.J.
Haven’t kept your old reviews? Call human resources at your previous employer and ask for them, suggests Mr. Weitzman. Depending on the company’s policy, it may be possible to get them released.
Letters of recommendation and company newsletters in which employees were recognized by management may serve the same purpose, says Ms. Dib.
4. Measure your results.
Think about your performance, and apply numbers where possible, using percentages, dollar signs and time quantifiers, advises Ms. Rosemarin.
If you have increased profitability or decreased costs, list these accomplishments, says Mr. Weitzman. If you exceeded a goal, note the original goal. If you didn’t hit your target, don’t mention it, but use the number you did attain, he says. “Saving $100 million is still an accomplishment, even if the goal was $200 million,” says Mr. Weitzman.
Time is a variable some job hunters may overlook. A simple way to incorporate it is to apply a time frame to projects that you completed ahead of schedule, says Ms. Rosemarin. For example: “Completed project three months before projected plans.”
5. Cite recognition.
If your employer has recognized you with an award, cite it on your resume. Give an indication of the award’s criteria so the recruiter can see why you were selected and what you accomplished.
If you were chosen to receive additional training or head special projects, these can also be considered accomplishments, says Ms. Rosemarin.
But make sure any award you cite is based on merit. “An award for working 20 years with the company,” Mr. Weitzman notes, “just means you sat there for 20 years and is not an accomplishment.”