IT Employment

IT resume: List accomplishments, not responsibilities

You can list your job responsibilities on your resume but that doesn't speak to whether you did them well.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when compiling their resumes are that they list job responsibilities instead of accomplishments. I can, for example, depress keys on a piano in a systematic way but that doesn't mean I can play a song. It's important to make distinctions in your resume.

Take a look at your resume. You should be able to take everything that starts with "responsibilities included" and replace with or add to the actual positive outcome you brought about. Resume experts call this PAR (Problem-Action-Results) but I don't consider every change that can be orchestrated in an organization to result from a problem. The best employees find ways to improve or streamline existing conditions before they become problems.

So here's the difference between a responsibility and an accomplishment:

Responsibility: Overseeing installation of new anti-virus software and critical system updates. Accomplishment: Substantially increased security and performance of systems by implementing new anti-virus software and critical system updates.

There is also the danger of listing an accomplishment without explaining the impact that accomplishment had on the company. For example:

Good: Developed disk-cloning procedure for streamlining OS system implementation and security properties configuration. Better: Reduced workstation set-up time by 50% by developing a disk-cloning procedure for streamlining OS system implementation and security properties configuration.

Employees don't always have exact numbers to back up an achievement. For example, it's hard to figure a percentage of time or money saved if you're not privy to that level of intel. In that case, you can use terms like "Significantly reduced..." or " "Substantially increased..."

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

37 comments
sanath1234
sanath1234

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msmith
msmith

Accomplishments/achievements are really just demonstrated proof that you actually performed your responsibilities. They really wouldn't be separate sections on a resume. Using Toni's example above, I could include a bulleted item under my employer XYZ Company: Responsible for setting up new workstations Or I could used this bulleted item instead: Reduced workstation set-up time by 50% by developing a disk-cloning procedure for streamlining OS system implementation and security properties configuration. Which would be more effective?

ryan_P
ryan_P

Interesting topic. I lost my job recently and went to see a career coach. Their advice on effective resume is list as many achievements as possible which what I have done. However I found after speaking to many people such as friends and employment consultants that unless you were in sales or involved in monetary dealings, many IT recruiters are simply not interested in achievements at all. They only want to see your skills & responsibilities. One recruiter even suggested to remove achievements completely and only show responsibilities.

Wiseguytr
Wiseguytr

Where ever did you come up with such topic ? There are many novice or lost IT people here reading these forums. Are you giving your own emotional opinion or your proffessional experience ? Writing accomplishments instead of your responsibilities will only get those guys waiting for a job for another 6 months and the realize that you are wrong and then back to the basics. As nancy mentioned, first of all you have the get past the HR bots. HR bots are just a bunch of cheap personnel, trained for leeching out the skills and experience as their master taught them. As many of you know, HR people are generally inhumane, unsocial, stuck between binary and doesnt know anything about hexidecimals. So, you writing your accomplishments instead will only make you lose your job. BUT, if you like to value add to your resume, you may create an extra page (near the end of the resume or even a separate document), enlisting your achievements and success, which MAY be read by the real human somewhere down the filter. On the other side, you will just be big thick filter on the HR bots tired eyes and will go directly to recycle bin. So, next time you make an advice on a serious forum, you thing twice before posting it. Dont do it as you have to post something.

ellendilmw
ellendilmw

Great topic, and I think Dinotech's comments are spot on as a litmus test. I'm recruiting right now, and it stuns me when I read a resume that DOESN'T list accomplishments. There's a huge focus on certifications (some people still believe that having one or more CCIE certs gives them the keys to the world) and responsibilities and almost no focus on actual ACCOMPLISHMENTS. If you are looking for a positions as a "Do-er" then listing all the time you've spent as a "manager" or "team leader" actually detracts from the value of your resume. Saying what you worked on (e.g. worked on a successful tender to deliver a full campus converged network environment) is good. Saying what you achieved (e.g. devised a converged network environment strategy that could be delivered 25% under budget) is far, far better. Some comments above seem to disregard the importance of listing one's accomplishments; which I find surprising. Listing accomplishments provides your potential employer with several things: 1 - It gives them an idea of how well you understand the true benefits of the work you deliver 2 - It shows them that you are someone who takes pride in your work and your achievements 3 - It shows them that you are confident in your own abilities That being said, never, EVER, lie on your resume - particularly with respect to your education and accomplishments. Not only with this almost always come back to haunt you (in the form of being fired and effectively "blackballed" in your field), it can also lead to both civil and - in some instances - criminal charges for fraud being brought against you. Anyone looking for a job is a salesman, and what you are selling is yourself. Until you get to meet your customer (i.e. your potential employer), the only sales tool you have is your resume, so if it can't get their attention and make them want to look at your product (i.e. you), then you will never make the sale (i.e. get the job).

sam_ban1908
sam_ban1908

It's been really a nice idea, however in the ongoing / contemporary scenario potential employers are actually seeking one's abilities to perform a kind of role and are seldom interested in one's achivements in their previous otganisations as it's been done and history....Anyways during the interview one certainly faces questions like what was his / her prime achivements and here one gets opportunity to speak up and boast at times, i personally believe speaking about your accomplishments right in front of the interviewer is far more effective that mere mentioning it on a piece of paper which often seldom read. Although this is a nice idea and i have tried it before however i believe couldn't yeild much value addition towards my resume.

s.affias
s.affias

The article is right in stressing the need to say what your successes are. "Responsibilities" is what the bots look for. Why not specify responsibilities and finish up by enumerating the accomplishments achieved when you assumed that specific responsibility.

fred5122
fred5122

This approach more suitable for jobs (IT or not) with projects or different assignments, because it will sound like things in the past. What about the current job someone is still at or someone deals with daily general routines.

dinotech
dinotech

One would think that a true professional would not embellish their resume. However, we live in a society where you can get away with certain fabrications for a while (cf Madoff, Enron). In regards to the resume, the truth will come to light when that employee is face to face in the interview. For example: "Substantially increased security and performance of systems by implementing new anti-virus software and critical system updates." 1. How did you implement the updates during your busy daily schedule? 2. What technologies did you use to help facilitate this implementation? 3. You mentioned "substantially" in reference to critical updates, please elaborate on the situation you had and how did you solve it? By asking these challenging questions to the accomplishments, you can be certain the candidate is telling the truth. Of course, there are people who can manipulate a conversation, but that's where your interviewing skills have to be better than theirs. I agree with mckinnej about keeping a log of my accomplishments - it is important to remember what you brought to a company, even if it is an increase in customer service. Keep all letters of references, and make sure you keep your references updated; it is quite embarrassing to have a potential employer call a reference to find out they are no longer there. Make sure you get qualified email addresses and telephone numbers from the references; don't have an employer call them at their home unless it is okay. To link my point to this article: have references that can support the accomplishments you had at the company.

mckinnej
mckinnej

this is Resume Writing 101. If you aren't doing it this way to begin with then you're doing it wrong. Get some help! When I mentor people I always recommend keeping a log of accomplishments. Besides providing a wealth of material for your resume, it is also invaluable come appraisal time. In regards to parthur's comment, this is pretty much true when people put responsibilities on their resume. However accomplishments are harder to fabricate. When I see a resume with accomplishments it automatically goes in the "further consideration" pile. I at least know they paid attention in the resume writing class. Odds are they are an above average candidate.

parthur169
parthur169

From a management perspective, I don't believe any resume. I look for skills and experience. I have seen b/s turned into fertilizer turned to the greatest invention ever many times. The more b/s, the more likely the resume goes into the shredder.

JLEckert1955
JLEckert1955

I tend to keep my job description as is, tailoring it to the position that is being offered. I add a section titled 'Key contributions' to my most recent job. This shows my accomplishments or positive impact for the company.

amendez52
amendez52

Excellent advise. I have never used it that way, I will make it a point to include this in my CV. Nevertheless, listing of your acommplishments should be made somehow a part of your list of responsibilities. The list of responsibilities is a very important part of the type of experience that you want to convey to the potential hiring manager. Good advice, but needs a little clarification.

imulo
imulo

This real great I have been victim of such circumstances until a colleague tipped me about this. So what I do is list my accomplishment as projects there I precisely explain these details. So I will send resume, project list this has made a great impact such that I get three interviews per weeks

TechLizard
TechLizard

I've seen a few jobs requesting CV's lately. Toni I think your advice may be more practial for that type of document rather than a resume. Are any fellow IT professionals doing CVs?

philde
philde

This is very helpful, thanks for this educational article.

jlawrence50
jlawrence50

Accomplishments are more important than responsibilities, but sometimes just keeping things running smoothly is the biggest accomplishment of all. We are not all fortunate enough to be in jobs where we have the opportunity to make breakthroughs that save the company gobs of time or money. But a competent manager can go a long way towards keeping a company on the right road.

RFATech
RFATech

Our HR forwards directly to the hiring manager. Just an FYI, if your email addy contains "boi" then you're probably not getting an interview.

nancy.broaddus
nancy.broaddus

I believe that your article is good; however, remember that you have to get past the word finders and initial screen by human reource personnel before you actually get an interview. It is very important to read, review and use key words from the job announcement that apply to your experience in order to get to an interview by a human.

mcswan454
mcswan454

Most online applications which parse your resume into their databases, aren't set for your accomplishments as part of your resume. I have done this, and always find myself having to retype in a resume after uploading, as the system(s) require job responsibilities when entering one"s previous employement. Check any on-line or company job website. I imagine that this alone has cost me offers, because the format of my resume would be non-standard. M.

dinotech
dinotech

...there is no lost IT members on Tech Republic. At least 90% of the posters here are very active in the field, in management positions, or are recruiters. While you feel the article has no merit, the converse leads to be true. What those HR "bots" do is weed out the stack of resumes. Sometimes they take the first 20 off the top and the rest get recycled, so it wouldn't matter what resume you sent in. Now, out of those 20, they use their filter that was agreed upon by the hiring committee (*ellend, help me out here, it's been a long day!*). When applied, the stack is further reduced for the hiring manager. The hiring manager looks over the list and prioritizes who he wants to interview. It is at this point that the accomplishments on the resume will determine if you are on the golden list. Once you receive the phone call or e-mail that you are selected, your preparation for the interview will determine if you remain in the race. I wouldn't consider HR people to be devoid of computer topics; it might not be their strongest skill set, but they can tell the difference between Cisco and Microsoft which is all they need to do. As for adding an additional page to a resume, it is not advisable to do so unless you are very skilled. If ellend could read and reply to this post, ellend could tell you that the best resume is one that communicates in two pages or less - preferably on the less side. Fifteen to twenty seconds is the expected reading time for hiring managers. Those people you mention waiting for a job for six months are going to wait another six months as long as they are just "waiting". There isn't a person on this forum that "waits" for anything. Most of the TR community are actively doing something (I'm not saying they are employed, but they are doing something). Some of them have left the IT field in search of other pursuits. In any case, a true IT professional does not wait for a job, they network. In that networking process, they find out more about themselves which will help them translate that information to thier resume. For example, if I met ellend and we started to talk about my career, s(he) might have some advice on how to communicate my deployment skill set on my resume (side note: if you ever meet a recruiter, make sure you have a copy of your resume handy. Either hand it to them or send it electronically. I'd be surprised if a recruiter doesn't ask for it first.). With that information, I would re-write my resume to include the advice from ellend. Will the change get me an interview? It could, but at least I know from one recruiter that my odds have increased in getting that job. To conclude, efe your post is that of a troll. Do you know what a troll is? A troll is someone who posts at forums and doesn't offer any critical content. They make one liner posts that have no value or, in your case, tell the original poster that the content they chose is useless. It would have been better for you had you not posted in the first place, agreeing to disagree agreeably (thank you Stephen Covey!). Now, your comment in the first paragraph: "There are many novice or lost IT people here at this forum..." doesn't match the closing statement: "make advice on a serious forum". First TR isn't all that serious, it is a busy place to post your ideas and comments about technology that relates to a professonal's career. Second, while there are some novice IT people out there, the majority that post are seasoned veterans that have some good advice to offer (HAL 9000, JCitizen, et al). The merits to your post, while few and far between, are the mention of the orignal posters opinion and experience. TR writers are made up of people from the industry that right to start a conversation (or pick a fight: if you have been here long enough you will know there are some hot, hot topics on this forum!). Many egos form, and the conversation lists continues on for at least a few weeks if not months. As I mentioned before, there are very qualified people that post quality replies. I don't know you personally, efe, and you are welcomed to your opinion. However, I would be careful of posting such sentiments as you did about HR personnel; they do frequent this forum, lurking about to see what other people are saying about certain topics. We already know of one recruiter that reads TR conversations! (I won't mention names...oops, already did. Darn it!) You have great passion about what you believe in, but it is misguided thinking that 1)IT professionals who are worth something "wait" around for jobs. 2)HR people are inhumane and unsocial (one HR rep helped me with my resume!) and 3)Being disrespectful of others. It would be better if you would "think twice" before posting.

ellendilmw
ellendilmw

I still think this is a good topic for discussion, but I see your point. Whilst I am still of the opinion that listing accomplishments is extremely important, I also agree that this should not be done at the expense of listing your responsibilities (which both the title and the body of the original post seem to suggest) so your point is well taken. When I read a resume, what I like to see when describing a former position is something like: 1992-1998 - Acme Co. - Chief Widget sorter At Acme Co. I was responsible for: -Being a 3rd level Widget Sorter -Mentoring new Widget Sorters -Analysing and improving Widget Sorting methods During my time at Acme Co. I achieved the following: -Achieved 100% success on my quarterly Widget Sorting review for my last 2 years -Devised a method to improve the speed of Widget Sorting by 25% without decreasing accuracy -Successfully mentored my replacement Chief Widget Sorter ensuring that my departure from the company would not leave them short handed Responsibilities and achievements in line with those responsibilities are what gives me the best sense of a potential employee/team member's worth to our organisation.

gechurch
gechurch

Are you serious? I saw no mention in the article about where to list the achievements. I saw nothing saying you should get rid of responsibilities altogether. I don't understand why you are getting so upset about this article. The advice is good, and may act as a nice catalyst for some to start thinking in terms of what hirers want to see.

gechurch
gechurch

Well said. It amazes me too. In my experience people, and especially people in IT, have very little clue about business needs or higher functions. They just have no idea of the need to sell themselves. They seem to believe interviewers treat resumes like shopping lists. And the one with the most ticks at the end wins. This isn't the case at all. There are so many non-technical factors that go into the decision of whom to hire. Communication and ability to understand business needs tend to be two of the biggest, and are often more important than the technical elements.

gechurch
gechurch

Huh? History is one of the few things interviewers can look at to guage what a potential candidate will be like in the role. There normally just isn't time to do in-depth trials or to watch the person in action. I can assure you interviewers are very interested in past accomplishments! And this info should definitely be on the resume. The point of the resume is to get you to the interview stage. If you don't list key accomplishments, you may never get that interview where you can speak about your achievements. Further, by listing your accomplishments it gives the interviewer a chance to ask relevant questions, and to see how much you BSed your resume. Questions like "I see here you said you implemented a new backup regime within your department... can you tell me a bit more about that?" come out of the detail on your resume.

edwardtisdale
edwardtisdale

The whole "listing accomplishments not responsibilities" thing to me often confuses people to make their resumes look like they did something more than what they did and ends up wasting the time of interviewer and interviewee. Also if you had a long list of responsibilities, depending on your field of work, your resume will end up too long if you list them all including the "substantially.." phrase in the front, and you do indeed need to list all of these skills that you used (depending on your field of work). And employers aren't blind to the fact that resume-advise people/groups are telling all the job-seekers to add this "substantially" to the resume and (employers) will spot this either on the resume or itself or in the interview process. Best thing is to be honest. If you had and used a skill and did it right but nothing "substantial" happened from it but you did it great, then even though you should mention your rewards or accomplishments with it IF you had them, an employer will much more appreciate an honest resume that a mocked-up one, and the job applied for will probably more likely fit you anyway and you will get it.

stevecarmeli
stevecarmeli

This is another example of why you've got to follow your gut after taking in all the advice you can. This mgr says he looks for skills and experience, as many do. But some say they want accomplishments. After all, won't skills and experience produce accomplishments? But he thinks you can make BS yourself into stardom! This is life, not a scientific process. There's no guaranteed formula.

Wiseguytr
Wiseguytr

Well as I have achieved so many different goals and projects over the 15 years, I list my achievements and accomplisments on a separate page. Mind you, its not going anywhere still :) (the hr nazis as still the same)

AugustM
AugustM

@TechLizard: What do you think the difference between a CV and a Resume is? I have seen them used interchangeably. "Resume" means "summary" or "distillation". "Curriculum Vitae" means "list of your life". When targeting a job, they seem pretty much the same to me.

gechurch
gechurch

I don't tend to agree with that sentiment. Keeping things on track and running smoothly rarely means doing everything the same as has always been done. I'm a believer in continual improvement. Good employees will always be on the lookout for better ways of doing things, or proactively protecting against threats that haven't caused an issue yet. I don't believe anyone in an IT role has no opportunity to improve and streamline processes.

Wiseguytr
Wiseguytr

Whatever you do, the bots (hr personnel) are the real problem here. How much ever you make your CV/Resume flashy, those nazis will still look at what you are, rather than who you are. Remember, you are only a specification for them.

AugustM
AugustM

@mcswan454: The bots expect a description to follow the company name and job title. How you word that description is up to you. Toni was not suggesting creating a separate section for Accomplishments. I have done that and run into the problem that you describe. The bot found a company name and assumed the next line was a job title, even though it was a long sentence. Toni is suggesting an approach to how you describe what you did. If the resume bot is looking for the word "Responsibilities" and that only, following each company name, then it's brain-dead software. You can have a description of what you did in each position without having to take up page space saying "Responsibilities" each time. And if you don't call your descriptions "Responsibilities, then you are free to list successes there too.

ellendilmw
ellendilmw

Hi Dino, I think you may want to revise your post a little; on first reading I had you accusing me of being a Troll and other indignities which I found somewhat surprising. It was only upon re-reading it that I realised you had missed a few keep delineators up there. With regards to your request, I can agree that an ideal resume/CV should be no more than 2 or at most 3 pages in length; focussing primarily on the canditates most recent and relevant experience and training. Unless it was something groundbreaking; accomplishments 10-15 years ago are rarely relevant to a current interview. That being said, assuming you are granted an interview, you should be prepared to present a more full history when you sit down - preferably in writing. This can (and should be) as long as necessary to show your full depth of skill and experience. Whilst a potential employer won't want to know your (professional) life's story when they are going through their initial stack of resumes, they will certainly want this information to scan through as they are interviewing so bring copies. An example of this is a recent candidate I interviewed; his initial resume (just under 3 pages) covered about the last 8 years of his professional life whereas what he gave us when he sat down with us had far more depth (and was much longer). While scanning through this information as we talked, I noticed some work he had done nearly 15 years ago that - whilst not explicitly stated within the JD - was something I had in the back of my mind as a skillset I wouldn't mind adding to my team. This went a long way towards enhancing his chances at obtaining the role. Another thing you can do - though you have to be a bit careful here - is to show an example of your work. This is particularly relevant if the role is one that requires a high degree of communications skills. In a recent interview I undertook (I wasn't looking for a job, but I was put forward as the consulting lead on a major tender, and the client required that my credibility be validated so it was somewhat similar), in addition to my professional portfolio, I also presented redacted versions of certain technical documents that I had written that I felt were relevant to the tender. This being said, whilst the approach can be very successful, you have to ensure that you have the rights to the IP of the documents in question before presenting them; and you had better ensure that you mention this at the time so that a prospective employer won't think that you will take THEIR IP and templates for your own use in the future. I see that this has become yet another long-winded post but this is a topic I am somewhat passionate about and I hope some readers find my input to be helpful. On another note, anyone with decent experience that IS struggling to find ICT work should have a look at Australia (where I am); whilst there is no lack of juniors available, it is nearly impossible to find anyone here with decent experience for senior positions; and many employers are willing to sponsor overseas candidates.

ittech77
ittech77

@ AugustM, I agree with you, I don't see any difference between a CV and a Resume. At least, I am not aware of it. I've come across both CV and Resume mentionings in job descriptions like "Please submit your updated Resume/CV...". But I've noticed that US companies tend to call it "a Resume" while European companies prefer to say "a CV". Please correct me if I am wrong.

dinotech
dinotech

...nor any other such comment. It was intended for efe as I replied to his post (see the indentation). It just happened to be after your post so it seemed like it was. I'll edit my post to reflect who I was talking about. I actually commended you in the post - if I need to re-word that I will. This subject is also a passion of mine because I work as a technician where we normally don't have a lot of quanitfying results other than quick responses and resolution to problems. It's imperative that I keep a journal of what I do on a daily basis in my job because I never know when I'll be called upon for completing a special project.

msmith
msmith

Traditionally, the CV is your resume PLUS a listing of any publications, research, special projects, etc.