A Guide to Creating Meaningful Accomplishment Statements



By Sharon Graham.

Canadian job seekers who write their own résumés often list job duties and responsibilities. For the typical employer, the candidate’s contact information followed by a simple compilation of job descriptions is meaningless. To find and select the best candidate, the employer needs to understand the differences between applicants. The best way to help an employer select a candidate is to include meaningful accomplishment statements that feature individual strengths.

Use Proven Strategies to Create SMART Accomplishment Statements

Résumé strategists often liken the art of writing accomplishment statements to storytelling. They use many techniques to help clients identify and articulate meaningful accomplishments. Most commonly, they use a SAR/CAR strategy to help clients express achievements. This approach is not new. It is a familiar technique that strategists use to help clients extract and verbalize high-impact stories by identifying a Situation (or Challenge), Action, and Result. Then, to bring meaning and structure to the statement, they apply a SMART formula. This strategy empowers individuals to convert personal accomplishments into high-impact statements that are Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Results-Oriented, and Time-Bound.

Employers prefer SMART statements because they provide a clear idea of what an individual is capable of accomplishing. Compare this task-based statement: “Accountable to oversee an HRIS implementation project.” with a SMART statement: “Led a six-month HR Information System (HRIS) implementation merging legacy systems from three divisions that covered an overall staff complement of 1500; improved data accuracy 10%, enhanced management reporting detail, and reduced payroll processing time by three days.”

Quantify Accomplishments to Amplify Results

When it comes to accomplishments, numbers talk. Validate accomplishments with dollars, percentages, and other values to show measurable results. Recruiters who are scanning résumés typically notice and hone in on those digits.

Numeric accomplishments can amplify the transferable value an individual brings, but there are many other ways to quantify results. When an individual is unsure of an exact number, a good technique is to lead in with “more than” or “less than.” For example, a warranty adjudicator might expand on “processed claims” by indicating “processed more than 100 claims per day.” Adverbs such as “significantly,” “greatly” and “extensively” are helpful when the scope needs to be strengthened. Significantly increased the number of claims processed per day.” Candidates must use these techniques judiciously and ethically to ensure that they never misrepresent their results.

Address the Employer’s Buying Motivators

Employers are like customers with a shopping list. To fill a job opening, they go to market. They scrutinize applicants, searching for the candidate that best fits their shopping list – the job posting. The employer’s job requirements are called “buying motivators.” Ideally, a candidate must pinpoint and fulfill all of the employer’s buying motivators.

Buying motivators usually address an employer’s base needs – making money, saving money, fixing something, or building something. It’s easy to identify a strong buying motivator for a management-level employee: “Streamlined the department and strengthened internal controls, improving profit by 25%.” A junior candidate can do the same: “Answered telephone inquiries courteously, screened calls, and routed clients to the correct department saving managers valuable time by eliminating the need to transfer calls.”

Add a Good Mix of Accomplishment Statements

SMART statements tend to be most effective, but there are many different kinds of accomplishment statements. A strong résumé strategist will understand and select from diverse techniques to bring out the best. Here are some other types of accomplishment statements:

  • Results Statement. This type of accomplishment statement is extremely effective when space is limited or there is a long list of powerful results to share. Results statements are short and to the point. They omit the actions and focus solely on results. “Reduced annual turnover from 45% to 5% saving tens of thousands in recruitment and training costs.”
  • Achievement Statement. Although we sometimes see the words used interchangeably, an achievement is not exactly an accomplishment. It is something that a candidate has earned or been awarded. An honour or special recognition can be a valuable addition to a résumé. Often, an achievement is the acknowledgment that comes after a task or goal that has been reached. “Recipient of Costie Corporation’s Employee of the Month Award for outstanding teamwork and exceptional customer service delivery.”
  • Impact Statement. Usually, the most important (large or broad) accomplishments or achievements need to be specially featured in a résumé. Impact statements work well within a profile or at the top of a list of accomplishments. An impact statement can also be a strong header for a subset of smaller accomplishments within the big statement. “Propelled the organization’s revenue, doubling it each year for four consecutive years.”
  • Generalized Accomplishment Statement. Résumé Strategist Mastermind Blanche Pilkington recommends generalizing some accomplishment statements in order to encourage employers to contact the candidate. A generalized accomplishment is designed to purposely omit some particulars so that the recruiter or employer will reach out to the candidate for the details. “Implemented a range of process improvements, analytical tools, and inventory management techniques to decrease turnaround time by 20%.”

Work In and Around the Employment History

Most résumés include accomplishment statements within the employment history. However, some of the best statements can be found in other areas. Impact is created by focusing on accomplishments throughout the résumé. When using this technique, ensure that the document remains concise. When selecting content, favour accomplishments over responsibilities, tasks, and other duties.

The strongest résumés include accomplishments within all sections:

  • Introduction. A bookkeeper’s profile statement could include a phrase such as “Enhanced reconciliation process, cutting 5 days off month-end reporting time.”
  • Education. A business student might outline a project result – “Developed a business identity, corporate logo, and advertising collateral from scratch as part of a branding assignment.”
  • Community. A fundraising volunteer might say, “Resolved problems with ticket distribution, contributing to a 20% increase in donations.”
  • Hobbies. An aspiring photographer’s hobby can be described this way, “Retouched a wide range of digital photographs and uploaded over 20 online portfolios showcasing special events such as weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries.”

Most people who read through a lengthy list of accomplishment statements will not remember them all. To create consistency within sections, group accomplishment types together. Start each statement in the list with a different past-tense action verb to add interest and distinguish accomplishments. Prioritize the list in order of importance or significance to the employer. The first accomplishment in the list should have the most impact as it is the most likely to be read. Bury weaker accomplishments within a lengthy list and make sure to end the list with a strong statement.

Résumé writing is an art and a science that requires both “flair” and skill. If you are a career development practitioner, employment consultant, or résumé writer, you are invited to take your expertise to the next level through CPC’s Advanced Résumé Development Certificate Program.  As part of the program, you’ll receive a complimentary copy of The Canadian Résumé Strategist, the 150-page Certified Résumé Strategist eGuide.  You will debrief on sample résumés and discuss many of the techniques that professional résumé strategists have featured in the Best Canadian Résumés Paperback Series. Learn the strategies that successful Certified Résumé Strategists use.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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What makes accomplishments better is that they spell out the value for employers. The focus isn’t on what you did. It’s what they got out of it that really matters.