Highlighting Achievements in your CV

If you were hiring for a job and Richard Branson or Lord Sugar were to put themselves forward you probably wouldn’t need to see their CV. Their successes and achievements are in the public eye and most of us would be able to give examples of these. Most of us are in a slightly different situation however. When you don’t have products or a public profile to promote your achievements it’s up to you to do it and your CV is the perfect tool for this.

Achievements are where you can really make your CV stand out. Because they are individual to you they have fantastic potential to differentiate you from other candidates. After all, there may be ten other applicants who have worked for firms like yours, but how many created a client proposal that closed the deal? While Richard Branson and Lord Sugar can let their achievements speak for themselves, you cannot and so you must ensure that an employer knows all about your strengths by the time they’ve finished reading your CV.

There are good ways and bad ways of showing your strengths as a candidate. A bad way is to rely on your job responsibilities to do it for you. For example:

  • Serviced active accounts with weekly appointments
  • Developed new business
  • Assisted with client proposals

All of this is true but it is a little bland and fails to give an employer much of an idea of who you are and what you can do for their organisation. On the other hand:

  • Increased sales volume by 25 percent through existing clients by cross-selling additional client care services such as 24/7 telephone support;
  • Won 12 new tax clients through networking at business forums, resulting in new client fees of £12,000;
  • Created 4 major client proposals via PowerPoint and Web 2.0 applications, utilising OECD and EU data research – won 3 client tenders for six figure contracts.

What sets the second description apart from the first is that it uses the candidate’s achievements to provide much more detail about their experience. And it also personalises the description. It is very much specific to that individual and helps to really set them apart from other candidates. Faced with these two candidates, which do you think an employer would choose?

When considering your achievements, the key is to sit down and think about everything you have done with your employer, describing your activities in terms of achievements. Start by writing down all of the activities you do, including the focus of your job, objectives and targets, reports you write, internal and external relationships etc. Then think about projects in which you have been involved, any notable events such as awards or recognition etc.

Now think about the context of these activities, your contribution and the outcome.

  1. What was the purpose of each activity?
  2. What did you do?
  3. What was the result?

Incorporate any factual data, such as income and expenditure, numbers, locations etc. It is important to include concrete details because it helps to lend weight to your achievements. Try to aim for at least 4 – 5 achievements for recent roles. It may even be preferable to omit responsibilities entirely and just include a section on ‘Key Activities’. Your job duties are unlikely to secure you a new job, but your achievements will.

Once you have done this your CV should act as a selling tool for your achievements, distinguishing you as an applicant of choice.

Good luck!