Examining Your Resume: Actions vs. Accomplishments

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Your resume speaks volumes about who you are as a person and a professional, so you want to make sure that it adequately reflects your work. It should present you in a positive light, of course, but it should do so truthfully. Part of examining your resume involves checking for how you have portrayed yourself—are you listing actions or accomplishments? 

Let’s dive deeper into these terms to help you examine your resume and demonstrate the appropriate traits to land your dream job. The way you present your information can make a huge difference. Wondering how to approach this presentation? Ask a resume expert for help. 


An action is something performed or done. When listing actions on your resume, you’re simply telling the hiring manager that you stayed busy at your previous jobs, and that’s about it. “I did this . . .” and “I did that . . .” Honestly, they don’t care about what you did during your workday. What matters is how you completed those actions and whether you were any good at them.

You may look at the actions you’ve listed and think they can demonstrate your ability to perform well at your new job, but that’s not necessarily the case.  Any one of the hundreds of candidates can perform tasks, but not all can deliver results that create value for the employer.  If you simply tell the hiring manager what actions you took, it doesn’t help them see your value to the company. For example, you could just say “Researched how to improve sales during the off-season. This is merely an action you performed as part of your job and doesn’t indicate how you added value to the company. What if your research turned up nothing and you never actually improved sales?

You want to stand out from your competition, right? If you simply list what you did during your working hours, you’re not making yourself stand out. Anyone can list what they did while they were at work, but not everyone can prove that they were an asset to their employer.


So, you shouldn’t just list all the actions you carried out at your previous jobs on your resume, but what should you list? Remember: Your goal is to stand out and make the recruiter want to hire you. Therefore, turn those actions into accomplishments. That essentially means explaining what you achieved through your actions and proving that you were valuable to your company. Let’s look at the previous example and turn the action into an accomplishment.

Researched how to improve sales during the off-season. [action]

Improved sales by 12% during the off-season. [accomplishment]

When listing the job details, focus on your accomplishments. Yes, part of your job was to research how to improve sales, but anyone can do that. It takes someone knowledgeable (like you) to actually improve sales. The hiring manager doesn’t care whether you researched how to solve the problem—they want to know that you did solve the problem. You want to show them you were perfect for the job through your accomplishments. Don’t sell yourself short on your resume! Any accomplishment, whether big or small, is noteworthy as long as it’s relevant. 

How to go from action to accomplishment

Now it’s time to put everything you’ve learned into practice. What is considered an accomplishment? Where do you list accomplishments? What accomplishments are worth mentioning? How do you turn your action statements into accomplishments? Let’s answer these questions.

1. What is considered an accomplishment?

Accomplishments are productive or profitable results that you delivered for your company. An accomplishment could be a promotion, a pay raise, or some form of recognition from your employer. It could be a project you completed, a problem you solved, or a useful innovation you implemented. How did you improve your department through your work? How did your work affect the company’s revenue? How did your work influence other people? 

Questions like these can help you determine what you accomplished during your time at that job. Even relatively small things, like settling a disagreement between colleagues, can count as an achievement.

2. Where do you list accomplishments?

You can list your accomplishments in various sections of your resume, starting with your skills section. Deriving skills from your accomplishments is a solid strategy because you can easily prove that you do have those skills. If you accomplished something such as improving sales, your skills section could say, for example, “sales improvement.” 

Keep in mind that the skills section is not the place to expound on your skills. You should do that in the work experience section, another key place to mention accomplishments. In fact, this is the number one place because you can truly demonstrate how you benefited the company through your work. Your skills and work experience sections should work together to showcase your accomplishments.

3. What accomplishments are worth mentioning?

The rule of thumb when it comes to mentioning accomplishments is that if they helped advance the company in any way, they’re worth mentioning. Some accomplishments will be bigger than others, and that’s totally fine: Huge accomplishments don’t happen every day. If you find that your resume is too long because you listed too many, rank them in order of importance and only keep the most important ones. It’s better to have too many than too few, so brainstorm as many relevant accomplishments as you can.

The good thing about a resume is that you get to decide what you say about yourself. It’s like your own little marketing campaign for yourself, and you get to choose the image you project (but you have to be honest). Do you simply want hiring managers to know what you did every day, or do you want them to know how valuable you were? Do you want to merely list your responsibilities or show a prospective employer you know how to add value to a company? If you are having trouble turning your actions into accomplishments, let a resume expert help you.

Improve Your Resume or CV