Article, Achievements vs. Duties - Which are more powerful? By Mary Gillespie :

Achievements vs. Duties - Which are more powerful?
Mary Gillespie


Employers see them all too often: resumes listing all the duties people were responsible for in their positions. Things like “Managed a sales team” or “dealt with customer issues”.


It’s not that the information is bad or untrue; it’s just a waste of valuable resume space. Unless your job is particularly unusual, you don’t need to state the obvious. Managers manage. Sales people sell. What makes you stand out to an employer against the competition is how well you did it.


Your resume is the marketing key that opens doors to interviews. You have two pages, and no more than around 1,000 words to sell your unique profile. It’s important to make every word count.


Many career changers have trouble creating an achievement-oriented resume. Some are worried about appearing boastful or overly confident. Others have a hard time identifying what specific accomplishments they have achieved. But the Number One reason is that people forget a critical fact: your resume is not about you.


(Read that aloud to yourself 5 times- it’s that important.)


Your resume is not about you – how great you are, how educated you are, or how experienced you are. Your resume is about what an employer needs and how you can meet that need better than the competition. Focusing on what you have achieved, and laying that information out clearly for an employer, is the most effective way to do this.


As you are thinking about your work experience, ask yourself these questions:


• What were the end results of the actions you performed in your job? For example, if you were in sales, what percentage of targets did you reach? Was it a competitive market? A period of declining sales? Making the context clear helps frame the achievement.


• How did you do your job? What processes or procedures did you use to do your job effectively? For example, if you were tasked with implementing a change at work, what steps did you take to ensure that the change process went smoothly?


• What evidence is there to demonstrate that you were successful in fulfilling your job responsibilities? Think about how you can illustrate, rather than just tell, that you were successful.


Your resume should highlight the things that make you stand apart from other applicants. Minimize the amount of space you use to describe things that employers already know, and maximize the space used to give them information that makes you shine as the ideal candidate.


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Mary Gillespie is's professional writer-in-residence. With a Master’s degree in English, extensive experience teaching at the university level and working internationally, Mary adds valuable insight to our professional services division. She is responsible for editing and content creation and managing our professional resume writers. You can reach Mary at


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