The Achievement Focused CV
The most effective type of curriculum vitae (CV) or resume is one which focuses on your achievements, i.e., not just the duties you performed in previous roles but the positive impact you made while you were there.
Unfortunately many job seekers do not include professional accomplishments, possibly because they have based their CV on their job descriptions and not thought any further about it. While just listing your daily duties and responsibilities may have worked in the past, an unremarkable CV like this is unlikely to win any interviews in today’s job market.
Achievement focused CVs get interviews
With competition for many undecisive role being extremely high, it’s not unusual to find that a lot of applicants for any given job have similar skills, qualifications and experience. Creating a CV which is focused on tangible strengths as opposed to just listing duties will help to get your CV noticed and increase your chances of getting an interview.
Make your CV remarkable by highlighting your achievements.
Duties are not the same as achievements
Your achievements are the things you did in a job which made a positive impact and contribution to your employer’s business. They demonstrate to a potential employer that you can do the job well. On the other hand, the skills and knowledge you would be expected to have in order to perform your everyday work duties do not count as accomplishments, unless you can demonstrate specifically how you used them to benefit your employer.
Quantify your accomplishments
Accomplishments are not just an exaggerated way of describing your skills and experience, they’re tangible proof of your past performance. They are most powerful when you quantify them using numbers or percentages, for example the statement:
is much stronger if the reader knows by how much you increased sales:
‘increased sales by 15%’, or ‘increased sales by £10,000’.
If you don’t know the exact number it’s fine to estimate as long as you state that you are estimating and you are confident that the estimate is fairly accurate and would be confirmed if an interviewer asks a previous employer for a reference.
Everyone has achievements
A common mistake when creating your CV is assuming that the only sort of contribution that counts is increasing company sales or winning new customers. Sales are undoubtedly very important but there are many other ways to make a positive difference, so don’t be tempted to think that you didn’t make an impact just because you weren’t in a sales role. Other ways that you may have made a contribution to your employer’s business include the following:
- Increasing the loyalty or satisfaction of existing customers
- Solving a problem or challenge, e.g., decreasing customer complaints
- Saving money, e.g., negotiating a better deal from a supplier
- Saving time, e.g., suggesting a new time-saving process
- Developing an idea your employer acted on
- Launching new products, projects or initiatives
- Increasing the company press coverage or market recognition
How to identify achievements
One of the best ways way to identify your career accomplishments is to look at your skills and previous job duties one-by-one. As you go through them ask yourself what positive difference you made to your employer while you were doing that particularly activity.
Also review work-related feedback you’ve been given including positive comments and praise as well as formal inputs, e.g., the results of performance reviews.
Outside opinions can be helpful
Some people have difficulty identifying their achievements and find it helpful to get input from supportive colleagues and friends, or even previous employers. Asking someone else to make an objective assessment of why you were particularly good at your job is likely to reveal things which you may not have considered. They may also be able to help you quantify the difference you made.
Individual versus team achievements
If some of your best results were achieved as part of a team you can certainly still include them, for example:
‘member of a high-performing team which won the regional support award last year’
Highlighting team performance demonstrates not only that you’re a high-achiever, but also that you’re a good team player. However it doesn’t tell a prospective employer how you contributed to the team’s success, so for maximum impact you need to make sure that you include specific details of the role you played. Don’t leave the person reading your CV to guess what your contribution was.
People with little or no previous work experience should still aim to include achievements on their CV. If you’re in this position it’s fine to include accomplishments from other parts of your life as long as they are relevant to the job you are applying for. Areas to look for achievements include volunteering roles, sporting activities and your academic record, for example:
- Raising money for charity – quantify the money raised and what you did to raise it
- Serving on a community or student committee – what role did you play and how did you make a difference?
- Leading a student team on a project – what size was the team and what did it achieve under your leadership?
- Awards won – don’t just list the awards, elaborate on what you did to win them
Accuracy is vital
It’s important to be honest about your achievements. Don’t be tempted to exaggerate as it’s very easy for employers to check on your claims. False information on a CV is very likely to result in your elimination from the application process or even criminal charges or dismissal if you’ve already been hired. Make sure that you can back up your claims with further details and be prepared to elaborate on them in an interview.