Is Your Resume Selling Responsibilities Or Achievements?

Is Your Resume Selling Responsibilities Or AchievementsI recently did a resume review for an experienced salesperson interested in a sales position for a major property management company. Right up my alley!

As I was reading through the resume there were two things that immediately stood out. The first was that they are definitely qualified for the position based on their sales experience. The second is that they weren’t showcasing it as effectively as they could using a resume.

And there is one simple reason for that, they were highlighting responsibilities not achievements.

Responsibilities are what is required for the job. In my opinion responsibilities are the bare minimum of any job.

Achievements are what you actually did in the position. Above and beyond your responsibilities.

This is easily the most common mistake I see in resumes of all kinds. No matter the position, no matter the status, Janitor to CEO, differentiating between responsibilities and achievements on resumes seems to be a common misconception.

“Did This, Results Were This” Example

I feel it’s important to not only build awareness of this rookie mistake on resumes but to give you examples of what I mean.

Responsibilities to me are “did this, did that“.

Achievements are “did this, results where this“.

See the difference? For example, as an Account Executive it is my responsibility to attend trade shows. So on my resume I could say something like…

Attended top 5 industry trade shows to promote company products, meet new and existing prospects, and network with like-minded professionals.

Most would consider this an acceptable bullet-point for a sales resume.

But as a sales pro I am NEVER satisfied with “acceptable”. I want to be “exceptional”, “epic”, even “legendary”. Mediocrity is one of my greatest fears.

So my immediate thought to make the above statement exceptional is to change it to a “did this, accomplished that” kind of statement.

For example it is an achievement for sales to have resulted from trade shows. So as an alternative to the above, based on the “did this, results were this” I might change it to be:

Attended top 5 industry trade shows which resulted in ~$90,000 in net new sales & $45,000 in additional sales to existing clients. 36x ROI.

The sales amount is made up but imagine if they were real. Take that number, divide it by the cost to go to those 5 shows (average is $500-$1,000 each) and you get your ROI.

It’s A Resume, Not A Job Post

A good way I’ve found to tell if you you are focusing more on responsibilities rather than results is the “resume vs job post test”.

If you can change 1-3 words and it would fit within the job post, take it out or make a major change.

For example in the resume referenced above I found this statement.

Enacted daily one on one policy to coach and develop team members.

And if I slightly change it to:

Responsible for daily one on one polices to coach and develop team members.

It could very well fit within a job post. This is a no no.

Instead talk about your achievement by doing that action. Again, think “did this, results were this”.

Used daily one on one policy to promote a 15% increase in sales for team members.

Clearly filling your resume with achievement oriented sentences will give you a much better return on your investment.

My challenge to you: Find ONE sentence in your current resume that could benefit from the “did this, results were this” and the “resume vs job post” test and comment below with the old and new version. I’d love to see your changes.

~ Johnny Bravo
Image courtesy of Ambro /

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