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7 Keys To Describe Your Achievements – Pro Style

7 Keys To Describe Your Achievements
This post is part 6 of 13 in the series Building a Powerful Resume

Whether its in a resume or in a job interview, your ability to describe your achievements is a critical factor for success. Here are 7 tips to help you effectively communicate your great work!

So many people underplay their achievements! Question is, do YOU? If so then you’ve got to do something about it, as opportunity could be passing you by – picked up by the people who can.

Are you polishing your resume for that job you really really want, or even need? Or perhaps you’re preparing for an interview? Maybe updating your LinkedIn profile? Then helping people learn how good you really are will be a major advantage. Successful sales people are really good at this. Let’s learn from them about how to sell ourselves:

  1. Clarify Your Involvement in the Achievement: Use powerful words that describe your contribution. For example, ‘created’, ‘reorganized’ or ‘initiated’. Passive statements like ‘did’, ‘performed’ or ‘was involved in’ don’t indicate your level of involvement – they’re worthless, so don’t use them. Words that show that you actually made a difference are what you’re looking for.
  2. Describe a Start, Middle and End: mention the starting conditions, such as ‘poor performance’, ‘high costs’, ‘unpalatable risk’, and follow with a statement on what you made happen (the project, change initiative, etc), and cap it off with the result – was the desired outcome achieved?
  3. Quantify the Achievement: use numbers and hard measures where you can. For example, say ‘saved $50,000′ rather than ‘saved operating costs’. The more specific you are, the greater the value of your statement of achievement. In almost all cases, a percentage value has a higher-impact than an absolute number. In some cases, what might look like a minor achievement, when quantified, it could be a major achievement as perceived by others.
  4. Don’t Forget Over-Achievement!: If you set out to save $50,000, but instead saved $60,000, then make sure this is known. So many people forget to do this.
  5. Indicate Your Personal Award: Some achievements warrant special reward, so mention them. If you were promoted, or awarded a bonus, then add it into your statement of achievement.
  6. Include details of challenging circumstances: If the achievement was tough due to business events or conditions, then make sure you say what they were. It’s important to describe any challenges you faced. For example, if there were many layoffs in your organization whilst you were tasked with improving team morale, then make these conditions clear.
  7. State the Effect of the Achievement, 360-degree style: Describe the achievement not just from your own perspective; also describe what it meant for your colleagues, subordinates, management and customers (where appropriate.) Don’t forget to quantify the effect for each of these groups of people too.

For Example…

I was awarded Employee of the Month in July because of my leadership in helping the customer services department, who were suffering from morale issues and continuously missing targets by 40%. I reorganized them into product teams, placing mentors in each team, which resulted in a complete turnaround – the department exceeded targets by 6% and reduced complaints by 15% within 2 months. My colleagues in this department are now happier than ever and feel on top of their game, and they say that staff attrition has reduced by 18%.

How Do You Describe Your Achievements?

Have you an effective or unusual way of describing your achievements? Then share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development and a registered and approved Growth Coach for GrowthAccelerator providing expert, tailored advice to help ambitious businesses achieve rapid, sustainable growth. Find out more at www.growthaccelerator.com

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34 Comments

  1. Job Openings

    It is hard to highlight one’s achievements without sounding arrogant sometimes- this post provides wonderful tips. thanks

     
  2. simonstapleton

    Thanks Marlito for your compliment. Quite true, I hadn’t mentioned the arrogance point.

     
  3. Asif Shah

    Thanks for these valuable tips Simon. Very useful for my next performance appraisal. I won’t be bragging… just stating facts with your help!

     
  4. simonstapleton

    Hi Asif – sure, bragging doesn’t come into it! Fact is if you don’t sell yourself by articulating your achievements well, then the achievements haven’t really achieved anything, if you get my meaning 😉

     
  5. Michael Cruse

    I think most people completely blow it on #3. Many applicants I have interviewed over the years completely fail in quantifying the results they achieved. At the end of every project I always attempt to quantify my results. If nothing else this gives me a benchmark for my next project and annual review time.

    On a cautionary note, be sure your quantifiable results are reasonable and supportable. While working for a small company it is tough to say that you saved the company $5 million on a change in the spam filtering technology. Always make sure it passes reasonability factor.

    It is kind of funny, I challenged one applicant on a claim in an interview, and he had supporting evidence in his bag. I thought what a truly outstanding idea for supporting a truly extraordinary accomplishment.

     
  6. simonstapleton

    Hi Michael – that is a really great point. To be frank, the number we quantify doesn’t need to be 100% accurate in interviews – a best estimate will do – it’s tough to check. I am not suggesting a lie though – as you say it has to be supported with the ‘how’ and pass the reasonability factor.

    The supporting evidence is a real interview winner, isn’t it?

     
  7. Travis

    Incredible. It’s amazing how just a few simple vocabulary words (as described in #1) can amplify your achievements that much.

     
  8. simonstapleton

    @Travis – thanks for leaving a comment! Is this something you do yourself?

     
  9. Mahmoud Ahmed

    thanks you very much it was helpful to know these steps

     
  10. moh’d hisamuddin

    Thank you so much i think this limited lines are enough to get impact on Ur achievement and thanks to all for Ur best compliments

     
  11. Mohamed Ahmed

    It’s Really Quite great but not enough about Achievement i can say it should have to explain deepen and further this is not enough description really…thanks all..
    By: Mohamed Ahmed Hussein (Garaadka)

     
  12. James Sefarin

    Thanks for these Simon. I was just about to update my resume and your tips give me some great opportunities to make it more impressive. Especially point 3!

     
  13. Simon

    Thanks James – if you learn any more ways then please share them!

     
  14. Sonia

    @simon.. I’m going to apply for internship first time so what do i write in achievements as i have no job experience.

     
  15. Simon

    Hi Sonia. Great question! As long as it’s relevant – it’s usable. So what about experience as a volunteer, in a club or sports club? Did you complete relevant projects at school or college that you can write about? Then there may be assignments and dissertations/papers you might have written? Does that help you?

     
  16. Sonia

    I have done projects in team, can that be my achievement? as every student is doing projects in each semester. still I’m in process of studying so in which activity I enroll myself in, to get any achievement which can be related to internship or help me in writing my cv?

     
  17. Simon

    Hey Sonia – yeah! That is an achievement. What were the outcomes of the projects? What did you prove?

    Projects are very relevant, because you started with a ‘case’ (why do the project), you will have had a plan (even it it wasn’t formally documented), you had resources (you time, skills, tools) and you had an measurable objective. And then you had the achievements – the impact of completing the project in terms of time, money, capability, art or science.

     
  18. Sonia

    Thank you Simon! i had no idea these intangible resources counts too and Project went good. we organized seminar in that project, i was managing catering side(ordered food). I’ll be thankful if you could make sample cv for internship (only for reference) that can help much to go through this internship process.

     
  19. Vinod

    Simon thank you for your valued tips.
    Is it ok if i write my achievement with the ratings and promotion i got, whether they will make positive or negative impact on resume selector

     
  20. Simon

    Hi Vinod – yes definitely. If you can back up your achievements with hard results like ratings and promotions, this will add even more strength and validation to your claim. Additionally, write about what the rating and promotion then enabled you to achieve. Thanks for your comment!

     
  21. John

    I find it hard to define my achievements becasue I just see it all as part of the job – something anyone can and should do.

     
  22. Simon

    Hi John – performing a job to the minimum standard required by a ‘job description’ is the ticket to the game. Actually achieving something beyond this is a real achievement!

     
  23. Bill

    I used this on my CV last month – got offered the job i wanted today ! Thanks for sharing Mr Simon

     
  24. Simon

    Thanks Bill. Glad it worked for you! Hope the new job is everything you expect.

     
  25. Anmay Dhanuka

    Sir, I am applying to a college. could you check my personal statement ?

     
  26. Simon

    @Anmay – who has seen your personal statement so far? Is there a trusted family member who has been to a similar college that you could ask to review it?

     
  27. Keisy

    Hi Simon nice article. i can finally answer this question “Describe your most significant professional achievement to date and why?” I have a techinical interview this cominh Friday and they need an essay about that. Wish me luck!

     
  28. Simon

    Good Luck Keisy!

     
  29. Keisy

    Simon, my problem is answer should not more than five sentences

     
  30. Simon

    @keisy – can you use the highest impact statements to get it to five sentences? Perhaps if you posted what you’re writing here then you might get some help!

     
  31. aditya

    abt gretest achivanemnt in my opnion …in my past orgazation i have compelted my sales target .even achivd over..can be this point noted over.

     
  32. Simon

    Most certainly Aditya! This is the best kind of achievement! Express the over-achievement as a percentage as this can look more impressive. Can you say how you over-achieved it? What was the most significant thing you did that led to this result? Thanks for commenting

     
  33. Nat

    hi simon, i apply to do m.sc and as part of the requirement, i have this question to answer. indicate your most significant professional achievement and give your reasons viewing it as such. how do i start.

     
  34. Simon

    Hi Nat. Thanks for your question. What I would do first is to really understand what your greatest personal achievement in your career or education. Look at this post first. It’s vital you choose something that you can passionately talk about without ‘rehearsing’ an answer. This will come through when you have an interview or phone call with Admissions Officers. Then, use my post about how to describe your achievements to articulate it in the best way. Hope that helps. Simon

     

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