Resumes Need Accomplishments. What’s an Accomplishment?

By Scot Herrick

Resume results, accomplishments, deliverables - pundits tell you that you must have these on your resume in order to get noticed. But what, exactly, IS an accomplishment you can put on a resume anyway? How do you go about constructing it for your resume?

Let’s start with a definition: an accomplishment is a work effort you completed that moved the business forward, shown through numbers. If you look at that definition carefully, there are two parts. The first is something that moved the business forward. The second is that the results are shown through numbers. Let’s take a look at each.

Accomplishments are About Business Results

Every person’s work needs to support moving the business forward. Doing programming, for example, may be your job, but programming is not a business result. In all instances, you must tie what you do to how it impacts the business. Your programming is not only programming, your programming helped the business accept faster payments from customers. Unless you tie your work to a business need, like getting faster payments from customers, your resume won’t have the powerful impact it needs to get noticed.

These business needs usually come from your work goals. Your goals represent the most important work you can be doing on the job. Consequently, they should be the first place you look to tie your work to the business impact. Even if your goals don’t specifically spell out how they impact the business, starting with your goals is the right place to develop the impact to the business.

An easy way to determine if you are getting to the business result is to continue to say "which means" about your work. I"m doing programming for the "Inventory Control Ninja Project" which means my code will help reduce inventory which means the inventory turns increase which means the company will save money on inventory. Ahh…so your business impact is reducing inventory investment through increasing the inventory turns.

Accomplishments Need Numbers for Proof

Simply saying that you helped the company reduce their inventory investment really doesn’t cut it. You have to show it. The way you show it is by providing numbers that demonstrate your accomplishment. You don’t want the hiring manager to make up stuff about what your accomplishment means, so you provide numbers that help you then have a discussion about the importance of your work.

For us, unlike CEO’s or CIO’s, business results you need numbers for center around three areas: revenue, expenses, or productivity. When you are looking to quantify your business results, those are the three areas that have bang for the buck. Now, most of us won’t be able to show revenue increases from our work, but we certainly can show reduced expenses or improved productivity through some element of cycle time.

The key is to find out how your work can be measured so you can use these numbers to show your work progress and, oh-by-the-way, put on your resume. This will, I guarantee, take some effort. Most business reporting systems don’t get to the individual level of work performance. And your technology manager might think you are from Mars or Venus or something when you start asking the business impact of your work. But get there; this is what differentiates you from others to get the next gig.

Tracking Current Results

Have a system for consistently tracking and then storing your accomplishments. I happen to like killer status reports for doing this, but any system will do. Your competition is not doing this. When they get to the point where they have to do this, say after a layoff, they can’t re-create the accomplishments for the resume because all of their corporate resources are gone.

And there you are with accomplishments that relate to the business needs shown with great numbers to back them up on your resume when everyone else didn’t do the extra work you did.

Who do you think will get the interview now?

Scot Herrick is the author of I’ve Landed My Dream Job -Now What? and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. CubeRules.com. provides online career management training for workers who typically work in a corporate cubicle. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.

Comments

  1. BY anonymous says:

    This is ridiculous. Have you ever actually held down a job where you _produced_ something, rather than just slung around corp-speak and had empty suits fawn all over you for it?

    People with actual technical skills should be interviewed by other people with actual technical skills. Not twits with MBAs who got where they did via connections and schmoozing and who can’t be bothered to understand anything that doesn’t have a dollar sign in front of it.

    Yet another reason this country is in severe economic decline.

  2. BY anonymous says:

    This is ridiculous. Have you ever actually held down a job where you _produced_ something, rather than just slung around corp-speak and had empty suits fawn all over you for it?

    People with actual technical skills should be interviewed by other people with actual technical skills. Not twits with MBAs who got where they did via connections and schmoozing and who can’t be bothered to understand anything that doesn’t have a dollar sign in front of it.

    Yet another reason this country is in severe economic decline.

  3. BY Phil says:

    I have to agree that hiring practices are hopelessly biased, judgemental, and shortsighted but it does seem to be a fact that management in this economy has the option of holding out for godlike talent and paying next to nothing when they hire it. This thing with accomplishments is a fad that will pass when hiring managers begin to realize half their brilliant newhires are spending more time quantifying their accomplishments than they spend making their accomplishments.

  4. BY Phil says:

    I have to agree that hiring practices are hopelessly biased, judgemental, and shortsighted but it does seem to be a fact that management in this economy has the option of holding out for godlike talent and paying next to nothing when they hire it. This thing with accomplishments is a fad that will pass when hiring managers begin to realize half their brilliant newhires are spending more time quantifying their accomplishments than they spend making their accomplishments.

  5. BY Phil Helms says:

    Keeping a daily or weekly journal of your work activities can give you insight into what you do with your time. You can review your journal once in a while to gain long-term perspective on your work life, and maybe even on your life in general. You may end up realizing that you’ve accomplished some pretty good stuff. Or maybe that you’re just wasting your time where you are. It doesn’t hurt to have perspective.

  6. BY Phil Helms says:

    Keeping a daily or weekly journal of your work activities can give you insight into what you do with your time. You can review your journal once in a while to gain long-term perspective on your work life, and maybe even on your life in general. You may end up realizing that you’ve accomplished some pretty good stuff. Or maybe that you’re just wasting your time where you are. It doesn’t hurt to have perspective.

  7. BY Scot Herrick says:

    To anonymous,

    Well, yes, I actually have held many jobs that produced something. And I have been a hiring manager and hired many, many people.

    The resume is not about interviewing people, it is about having information on it so that you can get the interview. That requires your job skills, but it is also about what you accomplish — produce — on the job. If your resume does not show that, then the probability of ever getting to the interview stage is pretty low.

    Once you actually get an interview, of course technical people with technical skills should interview the candidate. But you won’t get there if you don’t have the accomplishments on the resume.

  8. BY Scot Herrick says:

    To anonymous,

    Well, yes, I actually have held many jobs that produced something. And I have been a hiring manager and hired many, many people.

    The resume is not about interviewing people, it is about having information on it so that you can get the interview. That requires your job skills, but it is also about what you accomplish — produce — on the job. If your resume does not show that, then the probability of ever getting to the interview stage is pretty low.

    Once you actually get an interview, of course technical people with technical skills should interview the candidate. But you won’t get there if you don’t have the accomplishments on the resume.

  9. BY Scot Herrick says:

    Phil,

    I think people are already doing work to document their accomplishments. Whether it is status reports or updates on projects or preparing for a performance review, there is usually some device for documenting your results from the work you produce. This includes sitting down with your manager and having goals for your work and sharing the results of them.

    What I am suggesting is that you need to translate that from those devices and put your accomplishments on the resume. While your manager may understand you are a rock star on the job, a resume without business accomplishments does not show you are a rock star to another hiring manager and you won’t even get the interview.

    Most people don’t put their accomplishments on the resume. Those that do get the competitive advantage for getting the interview.

    (And, yes, much of the hiring process sucks.)

  10. BY Scot Herrick says:

    Phil,

    I think people are already doing work to document their accomplishments. Whether it is status reports or updates on projects or preparing for a performance review, there is usually some device for documenting your results from the work you produce. This includes sitting down with your manager and having goals for your work and sharing the results of them.

    What I am suggesting is that you need to translate that from those devices and put your accomplishments on the resume. While your manager may understand you are a rock star on the job, a resume without business accomplishments does not show you are a rock star to another hiring manager and you won’t even get the interview.

    Most people don’t put their accomplishments on the resume. Those that do get the competitive advantage for getting the interview.

    (And, yes, much of the hiring process sucks.)

  11. BY anonymous says:

    Having been an IT consultant for 15 years, it’s obvious that if I extolled all the great things I accomplished, showed management, led or fixed, that I wouldn’t ever be hired again. No company wants its dirty laundry “aired” in a resume. Nor have I ever been able to get my work verified with quantifiable results by any company – sometimes it takes more than a year to be gathered, at it’s too “time Intensive” I’ve been told. At one position I held, one of the full-time developers said he would be a reference for me. He did, and said to the first person he spoke with tha,t “S/He didn’t even know the software we used” – meaning the proprietary software that the department was developing but implying it was a standard business software. I was at another job, when the major stakeholder said a company meeting, “thank goodness XXX is here. For the first time in 35 years the company is running the way it should be. I hope XXX stays here a long, long time.” End of job. The full-timers “knew” I was on the hunt to take all their jobs, and they made sure that every part of the project failed until I left. It doesn’t always work as the article describes..

  12. BY anonymous says:

    Having been an IT consultant for 15 years, it’s obvious that if I extolled all the great things I accomplished, showed management, led or fixed, that I wouldn’t ever be hired again. No company wants its dirty laundry “aired” in a resume. Nor have I ever been able to get my work verified with quantifiable results by any company – sometimes it takes more than a year to be gathered, at it’s too “time Intensive” I’ve been told. At one position I held, one of the full-time developers said he would be a reference for me. He did, and said to the first person he spoke with tha,t “S/He didn’t even know the software we used” – meaning the proprietary software that the department was developing but implying it was a standard business software. I was at another job, when the major stakeholder said a company meeting, “thank goodness XXX is here. For the first time in 35 years the company is running the way it should be. I hope XXX stays here a long, long time.” End of job. The full-timers “knew” I was on the hunt to take all their jobs, and they made sure that every part of the project failed until I left. It doesn’t always work as the article describes..

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