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A good achievement is an action or set of actions that you performed successfully, and the result was successful because you did it in your own particular way. As opposed to a routine responsibility.  For example, if you are responsible for managing and training a team of sales representatives it would be in the scope of your job to use the company’s training materials and conduct training seminars.  This is something any Sales Manager can write on his or her resume. But, maybe:

  • your team was particularly successful due to outstanding motivational speeches you gave.
  • you initiated the habit to meet each member individually on a regular basis and this resulted in greater productivity for your team.
  • you had a knack for successfully grooming a remarkable number of people in your team for a promotion to management positions because of your talent for training people.
  • you have a talent for troubleshooting or putting out fires in a constructive and diplomatic way.

This is interesting reading!  This is the kind of talent that speaks to a potential employer.

So, take some time to think about what you have done in your jobs and write them down.  They don’t have to be earth shattering events, but they do have to be about what you did and how you did it.  An easy way to start is to write out the story.  Here’s an example:

Story: You work in a manufacturing plant and it’s your job to oversee the quality control of a certain product.  You noticed that the packaging could be done in a more efficient way that would save the company money on materials. While this was not within the scope of your job, you took the suggestion to the Director and they thought it was a great idea so they implemented it.  Turns out, they saved tens of thousands of dollars in packaging each year.

Achievement: Suggested a new, lean packaging design for Product X; the company implemented the change and saved over $200K per year in packaging materials.

This demonstrates that: You are perceptive and creative.  You take initiative, and think about ways to make things better.


Dude hurdle left


Write achievements that point out an action that is worth mentioning and/or that support your biggest strengths. Here are some examples:

  • Wrote the company’s first corporate strategic product portfolio plan for over 50 products;
  • Became company go-to authority on new market development and new product strategies, tactics, business planning, underwriting and pricing
  • Electronically filed federal corporate income tax returns over 100 companies, recorded the filings to ensure that nothing was missed;
  • Volunteered to edit and update the extensive notes from the monthly  meetings. This was unusual in that it required special permission by  another department.  Was commended for the speed, accuracy, and efficiency with which it was done.
  • Planned, organized and executed what was referred to as the most successful training seminars to date.
  • Completed weekly reports to monitor individual sales staff performance, team performance and overall store profitability; Used these in performance reviews and to identify areas that need support or training.
  • Built a new sales territory within an entirely new market and established our product as brand of choice in that market;
  • Achieved an all-time record for territory sales for three consecutive years. (over $150M)


Constructing an achievement:

Whenever possible, I like to open an achievement with a powerful verb.  Verbs are action words, and action words bring your document to life.  Remember, the goal is to make your resume an interesting read.  You have to keep the reader’s attention and this may take a little creativity and effort.  Nothing puts me to sleep like repetition and cut and paste sentences.  There is a group of overused verbs in many resumes that work like sedatives.   “Directed”, “Developed”, “Implemented”, and “Organized”, to name a few.

There are so many more interesting verbs that can be used I don’t know why it’s become a habit for a lot of people to use these same old ones over and over again throughout their document. It’s okay to use each one once or twice in a resume, but not repeatedly.  Visit the Verbs page for a comprehensive list.

Follow the verb with a brief description of what you did and then follow that with the action’s result if possible.

For Example:

  • Reorganized the department based on Lean Office Principles and improved efficiency instead of having to hire more people.
  • Featured new travel destination products increasing revenues by 15% per client.
  • Identified potential in a sales director whose talents were overlooked. Successfully coached and mentored him – he is the General Manager of the head office today.
  • Played a key role in drawing up a new policy for overseas relations. This document was extensively used by management to help define policies and is still used to this day.
  • Re-defined objectives and within two years increased revenues by 75% in an industry labeled as mature and impossible to penetrate.
  • Spearheaded business development strategies for each market and achieved the largest percentage of account penetration.
  • Retained every single client over an eight-year period and was ranked among the top 5 account managers for generating over $35M in sales.
  • Identified and catered to particular client needs in a highly competitive, relationship-driven business, taking into consideration: delivery fuel costs, freight issues, and geographical factors.
  • Created new marketing campaigns and increased revenues by targeting a niche market of dental clinics.

Why I prefer achievements to be written in the past tense. Yes, even the ones for your current position.

No matter which tense you choose to write your achievements in, they should all in the same tense throughout the entire resume.  However, when I read a resume, especially if I’m considering this person for a position, I like to think that they performed their achievements (in the past tense) and that they are now available to work for a new employer.  For some reason, if it is written in the present tense, I’m not convinced they are ready to move to a new job, I think of them as working for someone else and that is not what I want to be thinking. It’s a bit of a mind game, I admit, but it has an effect nevertheless. The current position should be in the past tense because whatever achievement you list, it’s already been performed. Therefore, the past tense would be logical.