Career highlights and accomplishments
How to write about them in your resume

Your career highlights must be included your resume. These highlights are the achievements and contributions that you have made in the various positions you've held so far in your career.

Why is it so important to include these when you create a resume?

It's simple.....to a recruiter or an employer, your past performance is the best indicator of what your future performance is likely to be.

Many people however, when writing their resume, find it really difficult to write about their accomplishments.

Why does this happen? There are a couple of reasons:

  • People often don't know what employers want to know, so they don't know what information to include in their resume.
  • Often people are very unassuming about their abilities - they are reluctant to "big note" themselves.
  • In addition to being unassuming, some people are completely oblivious to the importance of what they have contributed - they don't look at what they have done as being significant. Their attitude often is.... "I'm just doing my job".

Writing about your career highlights

To help you to create a resume where your career highlights truly stand out, we'll look at:

  • How to write about your career accomplishments
  • Using S.T.A.R. or C.A.R. formulas
  • Examples of achievement statements
  • Where on your resume to put your career achievements

Resume Writing Tips

Regularly updating career highlights in your resume, at least annually, is an important career management maintenance task.

Why so often? It's simple really - people quickly forget. It's really common in my experience with clients that people struggle to recall in detail, the important things they have done in their work more than 12 months ago.

Here's a quick test for you - what were the most significant things you have worked on in your employment in the last 2-3 years. If you had to write a compelling description of what these things were, how well can you recall:

  • The major reasons for doing the activity
  • Who were the key stakeholders?
  • What planning did you do? With whom?
  • The finer details - things like processes used, budget, time frames, impact on sales, customer satisfaction, quality, safety etc - in other word the various parameters and metrics surrounding your performance

It is critical that you maintain good records about your career achievements and contributions - this is the proof that employers want that you can do what you say you can do!

My tip therefore is - gather and update information about your achievements at least every 12 months.

Career highlights and achievements
Which ones do you include in your resume?

If you are not sure what is relevant or important about your work in terms of your contributions and achievements, look at the table below. Listed there are some suggestions for evaluating what you have done.

Have you ever had career highlights or achievements in any of these areas?

Automated systems Increased productivity
Conceived new products/ideas Increased inventory turns
Designed new equipment/procedures Increased return on investment
Developed new products Managed operations
Developed plans Raised efficiencies or safety
Devised methods Reduced costs
Eliminated unnecessary procedures Reduced number of rejects
Enhanced profitability Reduced energy requirements
Improved morale or team work Reduced risk
Improved corporate image/reputation Reduced accounts receivable overdue
Improved quality of production, or service Reduced staff turnover
Improved or developed training Reduced capital investment costs
Increased sales or market share Reduced operational downtime
Increased earnings Saved time

Your career highlights
What should you write about?

When building a resume many people totally undersell their achievements because they don't know what sort of detail they should provide about their career accomplishments.

Here area some key questions to ask yourself so that you can write convincingly about your contributions:

  • What did you actually do?
  • Why did you do it?
  • Why was it important that you took this action, or carried out these steps?
  • How did you go about it?
  • What skills did you use? In particular - skills you used that are related to the job you'd like to do
  • What was the result of your actions?
  • Who benefited from what you did?
  • Why and/or how did they benefit?
  • How do you know they benefited?

Make notes as you review the various projects and tasks that you've carried out in each of your job roles.

Resume Writing Tips

How far back into your career should go in doing this review of your career achievements?

It depends a little on the style of resume you have decided to write.

But...generally speaking you should be able to refer to details of major accomplishment for at least the past 5-7 years of your career.

Your career highlights - how to write about them

There are two really simple formulas you can follow that will help you to write well about your accomplishments, and with the right amount of detail.

The S.T.A.R. formula

S.T.A.R. is an acronym which stands for:

Situation - Task - Action - Result

The way the formula works is that it helps you organise your information as follows:

Situation

Describe the situation, or provide some background on your achievement. Why did you do it? Why was it important? What was the problem or opportunity that you were responding to?

For example:

  • Due to a change in client demand
  • In response to a customer complaint
  • As a result of falling market share
  • An an environment of significant cost cutting
  • Working to extremely tight project deadlines and budget constraints

Task

In responding to, or as a result of the above situation, what task, or tasks were you required to do, or decide to carry out?

The task/tasks you carried out would most likely involve you in carrying out certain job functions.

For example - you planned, organised, consulted, communicated, analysed, prepared a report, budget etc

Building on some of the situation described above your statement might begin to look like:

  • Due to a change in client demand I analysed alternative ways of speeding up production.
  • As a result of falling market share I instigated a strategy planning workshop with the sales team.
  • An an environment of significant cost cutting I re-organised the workload of the team in order to achieve greater operational efficiencies.
  • Working to extremely tight project deadlines and budget constraints I developed an alternative approach to completing the project.

Action

In carrying out the task/tasks above, what were some of the specific actions that you took?

In describing your action/s you elaborate on processes, methods, procedures etc that you used or adopted in order to complete the task/s.

For example:

In response to a customer complaint I investigated the company's procedure for returning products. This involved documenting each step in the returns process, and identifying both the people and company systems involved in each step. I also conducted in-depth interviews with the staff involved at each stage of the process to obtain their ideas about improvements to process and systems.

Describing your actions in detail gives your reader invaluable insight into how you operate - your attitude, and how you apply your skills, knowledge in a particular situation.

Result

This is obviously the result or outcome from the task/s you completed, and the actions you took to complete those tasks.

When writing about results it informs the reader about:

  • Who benefits? How did they benefit?
  • The business impact of what you've done.
  • Key deliverables, measurables, KPIs, or standards that you have achieved.
  • Specific contributions that you have made.

Quantify your results wherever possible.

This is one of the best ways to present results that have credibility.

How do you do this? Describe your results in terms of actual quantities, percentages, or other forms of measurement:

  • Time, or time taken
  • Budget
  • Quality
  • Quality
  • Safety
  • Efficiency
  • Growth, or reduction
  • Actual quantities involved
  • Levels of satisfaction
  • Increased standards, or standards maintained
  • Meeting, or exceeding targets

Resume Writing Tips

Another common formula for writing about career accomplishments or career highlights is C.A.R.

The letters stand for:

  • Challenge - describe the situation, provide some background.
  • Action - describe what you did, how you did it.
  • Result - what outcomes did your actions produce. Quantify your results where possible.

Career highlights statements - examples

Here are two simple examples of how to write career highlights statements, using the S.T.A.R. formula.

Example 1
In response to a significant increase in customer complaints (Situation) was required to design and implement a training program (Task) for front line staff. During design phase, analysed complaints in staff focus groups, and with assistance of the staff involved developed an alternative service delivery model (Action). Subsequently trained over 200 staff in the new service delivery model, and as a result achieved a 70% reduction in customer complaints (Result).

Example 2
On my own initiative (Situation) identified an alternative supplier of key manufacturing raw materials (Task). Investigated fully the ability of the supplier to meet materiel requirements according to our manufacturing schedule, and also negotiated a supply guarantee (Action). Prepared a successful written submission to the senior management group recommending a change in supplier (Action), with a resulting annual saving to the company of $1.5 million dollars. (Result)

Career highlights - where in your resume?

Exactly where you include your achievement statements in your resume will depend on the style of resume that you've chosen.

  • Reverse chronological resume - you will usually include your achievement statements as a part of your employment history. For each job you list in your history you will need to include achievement or accomplishment statements.
  • Functional resume - your achievement statements will be listed on the front page of your resume, under a heading like "Relevant Career Achievements", or "Accomplishments", or some similar heading.
  • Combination style resume - you can decide to either have an achievements summary on the front page (as in the functional resume style), or include the details under the relevant job in your Employment History.

More resume writing tips

Looking for other hints and tips related to writing a great resume? Try these:


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