Outlining what you do in your job role is an important part of being clear about the work you do, but it’s only part of your story.

A common mistake people make on their job applications is to list only WHAT they did and not HOW they did it or what IMPACT it made.

Writing a boring and lifeless list of duties and responsibilities, in effect just reciting your job description, doesn’t mean you were any good at what you did! Focus more on accomplishments and impact to attract the attention of recruiters and managers.

Map out your experiences

Use your CV as your inventory for what you’ve done so far. Take one role or an area at work that you’d like to flesh out a bit more with what you achieved, and use a mind-map to get your ideas down on paper. It can be a great reminder and prompt for listing your experiences so far.  Start with a particular part of your job role or a recent project – write this in the middle of a page, then have lines branching out with prompts about:

  • What did I do?
  • What skills did I use to make this happen?
  • What worked well?
  • What problems did I solve?
  • What feedback did I receive?

Measure your success

As many achievements as possible should be measurable or quantifiable to increase their credibility. They need to specific, clear, tangible to get the attention of recruiters or your manager.

Come up with clear examples, figures, results that have context within the field of work (e.g. comparing it to last year’s figures, or benchmarked against competitors or globally).

Use active verbs to improve the way you get your message across. For example, can you think of any examples or times when you:

  • Made something better
  • Identified and solved problems
  • Implemented a new idea that improved things
  • Developed or improved new procedures or systems
  • Worked on special projects
  • Received awards/recognition
  • Gained qualifications
  • Excelled in your performance within the company/team
  • Increased sales/revenue by %
  • Reduced/saved time and money
  • Contributed to good customer service
  • Achieved promotion
  • Trained others
  • Completed important projects on time and in budget
  • Leader or manager – size of team (quantify)

If you’re struggling to identify specific results or numbers for some aspects of your work, think about how much of it relates to the bottom line of the company you work for.

The ‘So What?’ test

A useful rule of thumb is to read any part of your application and ask ‘So What?’ This can help you decide the value of what you include. For example:

“I was responsible for a team of 10 people.’

  • So what did you achieve with the team?
  • How would the team describe your management style and qualities?
  • How did you improve the way you communicated, supported, delivered…?


Seek out Feedback

If you’re finding it difficult to reflect on what you’ve done, or perhaps you’re curious about how others see you, it can be invaluable to seek out feedback and ideas from colleagues, managers, clients, friends to get their honest and objective insights. You could ask them:

  • How do I add value?
  • What problems do I solve?
  • What are my areas of expertise?

Think about the sort of blogs, articles, websites you regularly follow or keep up to date with. What newsletters do you subscribe to and what type of content keeps you engaged and interested? What are you drawn to and energised by?

Consider what colleagues or friends always ask you about or they know you’re going to deliver on every time. What may seem easy or enjoyable for you but is tricky or boring for someone else may seem obvious, but it’s tuning in to your natural strengths and areas of expertise that you may take for granted.

If you use LinkedIn, ask for recommendations from people who know you well. Return the favour by writing recommendations for others.

I keep a folder in my Outlook entitled ‘Nice Feedback’ and I save a copy of any email I receive that thanks me for the work I did or the support I gave. It gives me that little boost when I need it most!

Keep a record

Keeping a work diary may seem an onerous task on top of everything you have to do already, but it can be really helpful to regularly spend 5-10 minutes noting ‘What did I get done today?’, positives of the day, the wins or progress made. It’s so easy to forget what we did last month, never mind what difference we made in our previous jobs several years ago!

Write brief case studies of projects or clients you’ve worked with, as aide memoirs to the impact you made.

Save all your certificates, awards, key reports, letters of recommendations, copies of performance reviews, articles you’ve written, positive testimonials in an accessible folder (paper or online).

Review your calendar to prompt and remind you of particular milestones achieved, conferences attended… How do you spend your time?

CV Review

How persuasive and powerful are your achievements on your CV? Spend some time reviewing your CV and applications by using the top tips above.

If you would like an experienced recruiter’s perspective on your CV or applications, get in touch with me for a free consultation to see how I can help you sell yourself and your achievements more successfully.

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