Showcasing Accomplishments on Resumes

Over the decade or so that I have worked with clients on creating professional resumes and executive career documents, the presentation of accomplishments is almost always in need of a major overhaul.

What are the most common problems – what’s wrong?

The original resumes that clients sent me often have one or more of the following three problems:

  1. Accomplishments are highlighted in a summary section near the beginning of the resume. The problem here is that these accomplishments are out of context. As a reader, I don’t know how long ago this was (last year or 20 years ago) or the context for the accomplishment (in what job, for what company). As a result, most readers simply skip that section and the client has used a lot of valuable “real estate” on the first page of the resume with information that the reader is not going to pay attention to.
  2. Job responsibilities and accomplishments are listed on the resume in bullet points for a specific job, all intermingled. As a result, the impact of the accomplishments is diminished. The reader must work harder to find them and then to think about them because of the “noise” in the communication. Additionally, it can lead to the client to thinking there are more accomplishments than there are – often showcasing responsibilities and tasks performed than value added contributions.
  3. Real accomplishments are left incomplete and are described as activities without a result. For example, “Led the strategic planning process.” Is that a responsibility of the job, an activity? Or was it really an accomplishment because the process identified new opportunities or perhaps it was the 1st time the company had a disciplined process? This leaves the reader of the resume undervaluing the client’s capabilities and performance.

What is a better approach?

A simple solution is designing a professional resume with accomplishments within the context of a job and presenting a job description separately from the accomplishments. I recommend a brief description of the job placed directly after the job title. Then, using bullets, present the accomplishments – making sure that each one is really an accomplishment and not an activity or task, which now belongs in the job description. This simple change makes a huge difference in the readability and impact of a professional resume.