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How to Write an Achievements-Based Resume

by John Nicholson, Resumes That Jump
Originally published: Jun 22, 2009

Most people spend all of their resume talking about everyday job duties - and they fail to stand out because plenty of other resumes are full of those same duties. Yes, resumes need to cover your basic job responsibilities; but the way to make a resume truly stand out is through unique, quantifiable achievements.

Achievements are things you did that had a lasting impact for your company or client. Typically they are things that you created, built, designed, sold or initiated. And they are absolute gold for resumes. Keep your duty summaries concise, and focus instead on unique accomplishments and you'll be miles ahead of your peers.

Here's a two-step process you can go through to identify and write out achievements for your resume:

Step 1: Make a quick list of your accomplishments. To spark ideas, think about times when you have:

  • Re-organized something to make it work better?
  • Identified a problem and solved it?
  • Come up with a new idea that improved things?
  • Developed or implemented new procedures or systems?
  • Worked on special projects?
  • Received awards?
  • Been complimented by your supervisor or co-workers?
  • Increased revenue or sales for the company?
  • Saved money for the company?
  • Saved time for the company?
  • Contributed to good customer service?

Step 2: Use the PAR process to expand each of your accomplishments.

  • Problem – What was the problem or situation or challenge?
  • Action – What did you do to solve the problem or make the situation better?
  • Result – What was the outcome? Where possible, include percentages, dollar figures, and other metrics.

Here’s an example:

  • Problem: Disorganized, inefficient warehouse
  • Action: Redesigned the layout
  • Result: Saved the company $250,000 in recovered stock

Here’s another example:

  • Problem: Slow load times on many pages on corporate website
  • Action: Redesigned database and rewrote SQL queries
  • Result: Sped up load times by 50% and reduced site abandonment by 30%

Take your time and do this step thoroughly, creating as many P-A-R statements as possible.

Once you've completed your P-A-Rs, turn those 3-part statements into single, concise bullets. There is no one best way to do this - it will vary from achievement to achievement - but one effective approach is to phrase the bullet as "action" + "result", with some slight integration of the "problem" and rephrasing of verb tenses where necessary. Using the second example above, here's how this might look: "Redesigned database and rewrote SQL queries, speeding up corporate website load times by 50% and reducing abandonment by 30%".

Do this for all of your P-A-R statements, and you'll have the essential ingredients for an achievements-focused resume that stands out!