Brag about your accomplishments in a way that attracts, rather than repels, employers.
In a previous article about writing your professional summary, I mentioned that you should avoid using fluffy marketing words to describe your experience and instead, focus on providing proof of your skills. In other words, always aim to “show, don’t tell” on your resume.
This rule also applies when you’re describing your work history. Use this opportunity to explain how you’ve applied your skills and knowledge to provide value to your previous employers.
To do this, break each job into two sections: a small paragraph that describes your role and responsibilities, and then a list of corresponding bullet points that call attention to your best selling points (i.e. your achievements and major contributions).
I recommend dividing each role into these sections because it makes it easier for the reader to quickly scan and digest your experience. Bullet points are a great method for highlighting important pieces of information on the resume, but if you bullet everything under each job title, this technique loses its effectiveness. A reader’s eyes will glaze over an endless list of bullet points just as easily as they would had you used dense blocks of text.
Role and responsibilities
When describing your experience, think about how each role and its responsibilities relate to your current job goal. This is especially important if you’d like to change careers.
Ask yourself: “How can I quantify my role?” Include details such as the number of people you managed, the territories you covered, the size of the budget you oversaw, the number of clients you support, and so forth. If you worked at the same company for several years, consider how your role grew over time — regardless of if you received a promotion.
If you’re having difficulty finding the words to describe each position you’ve held, take a look at the company’s site (or on other job boards) and search for jobs with similar titles. That’s a great place to start.
In addition, take a look at the job postings you’ve gathered that represent the type of work you’re targeting in your current search. You may be able to use some of the lines from these job listings to describe your previous work.
Accomplishments and results
When it comes to writing your resume, always remember that bullet points equal bragging points. The bullet points under each job should be used to describe the results you’ve achieved and the major contributions you’ve made that benefited the organization. Ask yourself the following questions:
Did I identify ways to make operations run better, faster, cheaper, smoother, more profitably, or safer?
Did I help reduce costs, avoid major problems, eliminate roadblocks, or increase productivity?
Did I meet or exceed any goals that were set for me on a quarterly or annual basis?
Did I complete projects ahead of schedule or under budget?
Did I receive any awards or special recognition for my performance?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then detail these accomplishments in the bulleted section of your work experience. If you don’t have access to specific numbers to support these accolades, try to think in terms of better, faster, and cheaper. What was the tangible benefit of your work?
Where possible, begin each bullet point by highlighting the result of your efforts and then describe the actions you took to achieve such a result. Here are some examples of this “RESULT by ACTION” format:
Reduced turnaround time 23% by streamlining the budgeting process for the organization’s five business units.
Awarded Rookie of the Year for garnering the highest sales commission among all representatives with less than two years’ experience in the field.
Generated $1.3 million in new business for the online subscription business by developing an integrated marketing campaign that included online ads, targeted emails, social media initiatives, and TV commercials.
The number of bullets you have under each role will vary depending on how long you worked there and how relevant that role is to your current job goals. For instance, if you stayed with a company for 10 or more years, you should have at least five solid bullets detailing your work.
If you’re new to the workforce, you’re not expected to have a bunch of accomplishments to brag about. Instead, use the bullets to demonstrate what types of projects you helped with, the skills you gained, what you were exposed to, and call attention to any major responsibilities you held. Here are a couple examples of what these would look like:
Handled over 100 client calls with the account management team, ranging from project check-ins to inbound client inquiries, in a professional and personable manner.
Boosted revenue and increased tip value by successfully building strong connections with repeat customers and upselling orders.
Take time to gather all the necessary information about your work experience, and you’ll be able to craft a compelling document that brags about your contributions without sounding like a jerk.
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