Compelling Accomplishments for Resumes

Accomplishments on professional resumes are how you engage the reader with your potential to add value to an organization. In fact, the entire field of Behavioral Interviewing is based on the belief that past performance is an excellent way to determine the future performance of a candidate for a job.

Guiding Principle: To be an accomplishment there must be an end to the story

An accomplishment must clearly show the contribution, value, ROI, bottom line impact, organizational impact, or market impact.  

Wording Matters

A couple of tips will increase the power of the accomplishments included in a professional resume

  1. Wherever possible, start with the accomplishment and then follow it with how it was accomplished. Until the reader knows that something was accomplished, the story of the tasks or activities is irrelevant.
  2. Except in some special circumstances, use the word “that” instead of the word “to” in describing accomplishments. For example, if you write “to improve morale”, the reader’s first question will be, “so did you or didn’t you improve morale”. Instead, if you write “that improved morale”, the reader immediately knows that you accomplished it and you are communicating achievement.


There are more choices for accomplishments for including in professional resumes than just making money (increasing revenue) or saving money (reducing costs or expenses). In a matter of a few minutes, you can generate a list of items that are relevant to your role. Here are some examples:

  1. Financial, department or company performance: Revenue increase, cost reduction, profit, market share, stock price, growth %
  2. Sales: % to target, ranking, President’s club
  3. Account management: Customer satisfaction, retention, issue resolution
  4. Operations: Quality, cycle time, productivity, response time, on time, on budget, time to deliver
  5. Accounting: Reduction of reports, days to close, audit results
  6. HR: Employee satisfaction, development, retention, engagement scores
  7. Personal: Ranking, awards, recognitions, selected for…

Measures of Success

Sometimes my clients still get stuck on identifying accomplishments to include on their resumes. If you get stuck, a good way to get your thought process going is to ask yourself, “What did I do that was successful?” Then, “How did you (or anyone else) know that it was successful?”. There must have been some criteria, even if not formal, for you or someone else to come to that conclusion.  Ideally, it would be quantified, although that is not always possible. Regardless, if something was successful, there is some way to prove to a reader that it was.

Who Owns the Accomplishment?

Finally, there are three categories of accomplishments to consider that relate to who owns the accomplish.

  1. It is your accomplishment. You thought it up and/or you made it happen. It was your vision and you executed it.
  2. You led the team that accomplished something.
  3. It was not your accomplishment, but you were “instrumental in”, “championed”, “drove”, “were a key participant in”, or you “partnered with x resulting in y”. These are the cases where you supported or contributed to someone else’s effort and ultimate accomplishment. This is common for consultants (they do not own their clients’ accomplishments) or for people (for example in IT, finance or HR) who serve internal customers as business partners.

Guiding Principle: Successful leaders usually have accomplishments in each of these categories.

One important benefit, beyond the professional resume itself, in clarifying and clearly presenting your accomplishments is that you are forced to remember and write down all the great things that you have done over your career. Most people find that energizing!

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