University of South Carolina :: Darla Moore School of Business   the Competitive Edge

by Ross Macpherson, President, Career Quest

There are 2 key things that you need to know about your resume and LinkedIn profile:

  1. Market your value. Your potential employer needs to know not just what you've done but how well you've done it.
  2. Beat the competition. When a company is looking to hire a new talent, they're really looking for a candidate that offers them the most and best ROI for their investment.
You need to tell your potential employer how well you're doing in your job by providing proof of your accomplishments.

You can provide proof by answering the following questions:
  • how well you did it
  • who benefited, and how?
  • by how much?
  • how did you help the company?

A lot of people are having trouble in building this accomplishment statements because a lot of people think you are bragging when you do this. Remember recognize what you're good at and give examples of when you've actually done it.

This is how accomplishments are structured:
  1. Questions to get you started
  2. The 3 types of accomplishments
  3. Tips on writing your accomplishments

Questions to get you started

For each question, simply jot down your answers to each question and try be as specific as possible.
  1. What shape was the job in when you started?
  2. What did you turn the job into?
  3. What was your perfomance measured against?
  4. What are you most proud of having accomplished?
  5. Did you work on any specific projects or initiatives? Are there any initiatives or projects that are completely outside of your job description that are kind of unique and talk about the kind of value and ROI that you can bring to a company?

Types of accomplishments

There are many ways of looking at the great work that you've done and then articulating those as accomplishments in your resume or in your LinkedIn profile.

To keep it simple, there are 3 simple types of accomplishments:
  1. Result or benefit accomplishments
  2. Scope or complexity accomplishments
  3. Before and after accomplishments
Most common way of looking at accomplishments is as a result. In other words, did you increase something like sales or market share? Did you decrease something? Like throughput or reduced cost? If there's a specific result of the work, and ideally if it's measurable, jot that down and try to be as specific as possible.

Examples of Very Specific Results:
  • Increased revenues 47% over previous year by rationalizing customer base and focusing efforts on tier-1 accounts
  • Within the first year, grew revenues 8% while reducing workforce by 25%
  • Helped secure the single largest outsourcing agreement in the company's history, a multi-year contract valued at over $30M
  • Introduced the quality enhancements that improved first-pass yield by up to 40% for premium brands

Sometimes there is no measurable result like for IT, HR or policy work. The work isn't measurable in the truest sense of the word and the result isn't as measurable. In these cases, consider the benefit of the work. Benefits are not measurable but very powerful because they help the company.

Examples of Benefit Type of Accomplishments (not measurable but very legitimate):
  • Designed and developed a new Excel-based process that improved expense tracking, reduced errors and streamlined month-end reporting
  • Spearheaded critical cultural changes across the organization, decentralizing operations and creating work environments that encourage ownership and reward achievement
  • Introduced new Health and Safety programs that reduced lost-time incidents and lost-time days to below industry average

Another way of looking at accomplishments is the scope or complexity of the work that you did. In other words, was it enterprise wide, national or international?

Managed the delivery of the Jump Start program for a national vendor network. --- You need to give more detail on the scope or complexity of the work or project

Led the team that developed and delivered a $1.2 million sales training program to over 1200 vendors nationally in both English and Spanish. --- BETTER

Examples of Scope and Complexity:
  • Led the training strategy and operations for a national division with over 30,000 employees across 800 chapter sites, both domestic and international
  • Created and implemented new market-specific strategies designed to capitalize on new business opportunities in Germany, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Norway and France
  • Directed all stages of a $20M infrastructure project and coordinated the activities of 5 separate project teams
  • Project managed up to 20 concurrent development projects with full accountability for all project planning, business and technical specifications, budgeting, forecasting, timelines and implementation

The third type of accomplishment, the before and after accomplishment -- looks at what you started with and what you finished or what you turned it into.
  • Turned a struggling territory from #5 to #1 in the region by rationalizing the client base and focusing efforts on tier-1 accounts
  • Rebuilt an underperforming operating infrastructure and positioned it for growth - integrated the new strategy, reorganized staffing models and put new cost controls in place
  • Transformed the company from a stalled $80M energy contractor into a $550M industry leader with Fortune 500 accounts across North America
  • Successfully salvaged a $15M project plagued with major delays and cost overruns - rebuilt the project roadmap, refocused the team and met all subsequent milestones on time and on budget

Learn how to start refining and construct your accomplishments. There's no one right formula on how to write an accomplishment.

Guidelines on how to write an accomplishment:
  1. Be concise - bullet point up to 2 lines
  2. Provide detail - Be specific. Not about adding more but being specific.
    Example: Instead of “You're managing a team” --- say “You're managing a team of 25.”
  3. Start with a past-tense verb - Start with a strong action verb in the past tense. Start your bullet points or accomplishment statements with verbs like: managed, directed, oversaw, coordinated, spearheaded, increased, decreased, reduced, and improved. Action verbs imply benefit or action.
  4. Never start with the phrase Responsible for. It sounds like a job description and job descriptions are boring. We're not interested on what you're supposed to do, as what it tells us. I want to know what you actually did. That's the essence of an accomplishment.

To conclude, here are 3 additional steps to organize your accomplishments and write them in the best way:
  1. Prioritize your accomplishments.
  2. 3-7 bullets is the sweet spot. Maximum no. of accomplishments = 7. Magic number = 5.
  3. Clarify your role in the team. If you're part of the team that achieved something, you can say, “played a key role that did this...” or if you led the team or managed the team, say “managed the team that achieved this.”

Expert BIO
by Ross Macpherson, President, Career Quest

Ross Macpherson is the President of Career Quest, a Certified Personal Branding Strategist, Certified Online Identity Strategist, Certified Interview and Job Search Coach, and is recognized as one of the best resume writers in North America. With over 15 years experience in the career industry, he specializes in advanced strategies that help senior and executive professionals throughout the US, Canada, and internationally. His work has been featured in 18 career publications. Ross routinely speaks to MBA programs across North America, and is known for delivering powerful and entertaining sessions that teach real-world success strategies. He has also spoken at major career events, global industry conferences, professional associations, and executive networking groups across the U.S. and Canada, and his high-energy style has consistently put him at the top of the career management speaking circuit. Contact Ross at