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Resume Makeover Tip: Transforming Duties into Accomplishments

If you’ve been trying to learn how to write a resume that leads to interviews, you have no doubt come across advice about listing your accomplishments for each job in your work history, instead of detailing your job duties.  The difference between job duties and accomplishments can be a tough concept because it is a dramatically different way of writing about yourself. So, what exactly is the difference between a duty and an accomplishment?  In a nutshell, a duty describes the tasks you did, whereas an accomplishment illustrates how well you did those tasks and what the benefits were. For example:

  • “Planned a fundraising event” (Duty – something the employer likely already knows about the job you had) 
  • “Raised $2,500 by creating a wellness event, selling out all 45 spots and generating additional donations beyond the ticket price.” (Accomplishment – paints a picture of your abilities) 

As a Career Advisor, I’ve seen over 1,000 resumes and LinkedIn profiles and it is very comon for people to simply list their duties rather than their accomplishments. So why is this important?  A random list of job duties is boring and does nothing to showcase your uniqueness or your strengths or set you apart from other applicants. Consider this:  

  • The average professional job attracts hundreds of resumes; out of these candidates, 4-6 will be interviewed and 1 will get a job offer.  In other words, it is a competitive market. 
  • Recruiters and employers take an average of 6 seconds to scan a resume. As a result, you have an extremely small window of opportunity to demonstrate why you are the best candidate.

Remember that the purpose of creating a resume is to get invited for interviews, and the purpose of an interview is to generate a job offer. Being too modest or missing opportunities to sell yourself makes you easily forgettable, lowering your chances of getting hired.  Employers expect you to speak highly of yourself.  When you showcase your accomplishments, you are showing prospective employers what you can do for them – because stories are a window into who you are.

So, how exactly do you write accomplishment statements?  You can start out by making a list of all your past jobs and volunteer positions, and for each one, ask yourself some questions, like: 

  • What did I do that was above and beyond? 
  • Was I ever recognized by a supervisor for a job well done? When and why? 
  • What problems did I solve? 

Then, for each example, quantify everything you possibly can – the more numbers, the better! This is your chance to show employers how you can be valuable to them. To help, here is a list of results employers look for: 

  • Make money 
  • Save money 
  • Save time 
  • Make work easier 
  • Solve a specific problem 
  • Be more competitive 
  • Build relationships/image 
  • Expand business 
  • Retain existing customers

News flash: When describing your accomplishments, don’t forget to specify the result(s) of your actions!  How did your actions benefit the employer?  This is the punchline!  Here is a simple structure to follow in writing about your accomplishments: 

  • What did you accomplish? (Describe the outcome in one sentence, written as a “headline” of your story, e.g., “I created a wellness fundraising event”). 
  • How did you do it? (Details of all your actions, e.g., “by recruiting volunteer experts to host workshops, soliciting donations of healthy snacks, securing an ocean-view venue, and educating participants about the cause.”) 
  • What were the results? (Be specific, e.g. “I raised $2,500, selling out all 45 spots and generating additional donations beyond the ticket price from participants and other donors.”). 

Putting it All Together 

“I created a wellness fundraising event by recruiting volunteer experts to host workshops, soliciting donations of healthy snacks, securing an ocean-view venue, and educating participants about the cause. This resulted in me raising $2,500, selling out all 45 spots and generating additional donations beyond the ticket price from participants and other donors.” 

Just imagine the impact this statement would have on an employer, contrasted with listing this as a duty: 

  • “Planned and organized a fundraising event” – BORING – right? 


By Linda Folster, Career Advisor, Yorkville University, BC Campus